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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Picnic racing at Woolamai

Woolamai racetrack, Bass highway on a lazy Saturday afternoon may not be Dubai, Ascot or even Flemington but there is undoubtedly an exciting laid-back appeal to picnic racing in regional Australia.

The particular race day I attended in middle January had everything a metropolitan meeting possesses - except for the TAB and a whole heap of snobbery. Picnic race days have a lot of endearing qualities beyond metropolitan races’ capabilities. Boozy brawls, streakers running the straight after the last race and a sixteen year old race-caller who was as glib and race savvy as any experienced caller in his field. Fast food and flies, sausages in batter, beer chilled in toddler’s blow-up pools filled with glacial amounts of ice, and thoroughbreds jumping out of their skins. Every bachelor and bride-to-be in the district was celebrating their hens and bucks functions and every slow horse in the state was racing.

A few jockeys were bucked off, kicked and head-butted. One poor silk earnt herself a ride in an ambulance to the local hospital. A brave (or very stupid) local rider had three attempts at mounting a mare that was full of shit and rage. He finally flung his leg over her while running at the pace of the mare’s canter. She was halfway up the straight on the way to the barriers by the time he was officially on board. That cranky equine totally missed the start by at least four or five lengths (I think on purpose) and she lost the race by more of a margin than her failed start. Once past the post she gave the silk a buck-off so beautifully executed I’m sure she planned the whole event early in the morning before her bran mash. 

There was a real competitive feel to the day and as I was pinballing from the mounting yard to the bookies I felt I was in horsey heaven. And that is what it’s all about- the horses. Well for me anyway. A flutter is always a bit of fun and watching the parading horses is a feast for equine eyes. If you ever attend the ‘picnics’ you must back the 11-year-old flea bitten grey gelding for a win in the fourth race. (There is always a flea bitten grey.) He should have been in the paddock six years ago or bucking a pony-club kid off his sore back, but instead of an easy retired life he’s running a 1500 metre race and giving all the older lady punters a chance to lose money on their sentimental wager.

And yes, in case you’re wondering the old grey lost. And yes, if you get the opportunity to attend a race day at a country picnic meeting- get there.

Saturday, 12 January 2013


It is a proven fact that six out of every seven dwarves say they are not happy.

Humanitarianism or what?

There is nothing more relaxing than sleeping in on a Sunday, falling out of bed when you decide to and reading the morning newspaper. This weekend was a perfect example of ‘chillaxing’ for me and I lazily browsed the Herald-Sun. Of course it is heavy on the Australian Open at the moment and there was a large bio about Roger Federer. Now he is the penultimate babe. Loving family man, champion sport star, and he is girdled with a body that can only be described as mmmm. The problem I face is I just don’t care what his opinion is about life, fashion, and fine dining. I grow tired very quickly with the article and I can’t even finish it. Sports stars are just that. Sports stars. What can they possibly teach me about life? They are awesome at what they do but as far as anything that contains substance I doubt they are qualified.

Do I use athletes as role models for my children? No. Never. Only if it’s in the context of their sporting skill. Is being the best at sport worth anything other than money? It should. It should be about fun, health, participation, confidence building skills, teamwork, etc. Disappointingly that’s not what it’s promoted as. Athletes are made almost God-like by certain media campaigns. Consider the marketing of a lead-up to a sporting event. With unrealistic expectations athletes are doomed to fall off their pedestals. The standards are too high and sporting legends are not infallible. Like idiots we wonder at why their lives go wrong. Reports of young football players drinking too much or driving recklessly appear to cause shock in our community. I wonder why we expect them to be any different to any other young man? Is it because they play sport at a high level? Why are we surprised? If a 'yesterdays hero' loses his temper and throws a tanti because he’s not as good as he once was- why is it so sensationalised? What has he ever done other than champion his chosen sport?

There is not one sporting legend I use as an example to my kids as a moral or ethical gage. If Tiger wins the Masters that is what I would expect him to achieve. I might advise my kids to, "hit the ball like him but don’t live your life as a lie or betray those who love you." Do we really need to care about Tiger's infidelity anyway? Why do we expect people who make copious amounts of money to be any different to anyone else in the marriage/life stakes? What does Tiger really offer to society? Lance Armstrong is the drug cheat of the year and he may have caused competitive cycling irreparable damage. The list goes on and on. Sport walks hand in hand with cheating on every level because it is played by people and some people cheat.

I recently attended a public speaking event at a local primary school. (Of course it was a competition because we always have to have a winner. We have to instill success at everyone else’s expense in our children.) The topic was, ‘who inspires us and why.’  Not only were most speeches about athletes and celebrities who have never put anyone or anything above their sporting success and thirst for dominance. One child spoke about a humanitarian. His speech highlighted acts of kindness and he made a touching tribute about a man who devoted his life to helping others. He gave true examples of human adversity and he delivered an inspirational talk by someone so young. He spoke of the courage and lifelong role of alleviating suffering to the poor demonstrated by one individual. His speech was never rated a mention.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Parents beware

Sometimes it’s really tough being a parent. I mean really tough. It’s not a whine because the whole deal of parenting is too rewarding to whine about, but it’s hard to watch your kids grow without getting affected by their situations. Sometimes the best legacy you can give your child is the skills to overcome the problems they face.

As your kids are challenged and you stand beside them advising and assuring them, it’s hard not to live their life for them and even harder to let them battle situations with their own skills. It’s difficult to allow your child to experience the hurt and adversity they need to face to learn how to overcome life.

Relationship issues are tricky at every stage of their lives and as we all know, well into adulthood. Friendships are formed and lost. Cat Stevens informed us through song, “The first cut is the deepest” and how right he was. When you’re the parent of the gutted it can be extremely difficult to support your child without attempting to shield all forms of pain from their daily lives. It’s easier to avoid and hide rather than to face and fight. If they’ve been frozen out of a friendship it’s easy to blame others. When they face their first break-up or get ditched for someone else they have to learn how to stay happy regardless of how they are treated by those who crush their feelings.

Some tips on handling tough calls in parenting:

* The freeze out. For some unknown reason your child has every kid in the school wanting to either beat them up or never speak to them again.
Solution – Sleep on it because tomorrow will come and some other poor sucker will be in the bad books with everyone for no apparent reason.

* My boy/girlfriend ditched me for someone else. Lots of tears, melancholy music and chatting on Facebook.
Solution – Never do the “plenty of fish in the sea” talk- really poor taste and extremely annoying for any age group. Plenty of chocolate, hugs and positive social media chatting.

* The more confusing from the previous- my boy/girlfriend ditched me for NO reason.
Solution - There probably is a reason and everyone else in their social circle has the details.

* I’m bored.
Solution - Blah. Only boring people get bored.

* I want to leave school.
Solution - That’s O.K as long as you finish your PHD first.

* I want a tatt and body piercing.
Solution - You get a tongue piercing and I’ll rip it out. You get a tatt I’ll rip it off. This method only works if you yourself are embellishment free.

* Mrs… we have your child at the police station.
Solution - If it’s 2.00 am roll over and go back to sleep. You are probably dreaming. If not, consider their time away from you as a well-earned rest.