As I have a coffee and read the paper on the way to work this morning I stared out at the the huge black limousine of the (local mafia chief ?) whose story will doubtless appear in future “underbelly” TV shows. His faultlessly clean and mirror-like polished car is always parked in the no- standing area right in front of the Paragon Cafe and never gets a ticket.
Carlton was an area settled by many Italian immigrants and they brought their rich cultural heritage to the area, as well as some of it’s vices and colour. Thankfully good coffee and food is in abundance. Ironically, the best coffee in the street is a small unremarkable establishment run by a family from Lebanon. It is full every day, they ask where I have been this year.
As fashionably dressed women with warm scarves mix with post war Greek immigrants who arrived in Melbourne with literally nothing in the 50s and now own multiple terrace houses built after the gold rush over a century ago. But they still dress simply out of habit. The richer they are, the more they seem to dress down.
The atmosphere is rarified in Melbourne as this is September–finals time. 50% of any conversation overheard in cafes, at water fountains and in family gatherings is of the state of the footy — male or female.
Participating in footy tipping (AFL) competitions at the office is mandatory for men and women alike often with big cash prizes for the winner.
To say the Australian game in Melbourne is a religion is gravely understating it’s importance. Its not life and death –its much more important than that.
Any comment to the contrary and you get a strange look like your mad.
The customary Melbourne questions when you meet someone are : where do you live and do you own it if they are rude (real estate snobbery), where you were educated (school-tie snobbery) and most importantly who you “barrack for.” You inherit the real estate and the team normally. If the mother “barracks for” another team she keeps it quiet or at least does not rub it in as a matter of family harmony. It is known in the family but rarely talked about. A “mixed” family does happen though the footy allegiance is much more important than race or religion. Things have loosened up a little now so that some sons and daughters rebel and adopt their own team but old traditions largely rule.
Being away from “civilization” for the whole season and not being soaked in the ins-and-outs of the footy season I have to ask my sister why “our” 3rd generation family team (as far as I know)- the perennially unsuccessful St Kilda only just made the finals this year. She is as passionate and knowledgable (maybe more) about this as she is about her children and her job in a prestigious jewish law firm on Collins St where we meet for lunch. St Kilda has won the big one only once since 1873.
The intricacies of injuries to key players (often hidden by coaches and players) are discussed in length as she brings me up to speed.
But they lost on the weekend but there is always next year.
I must catch up.
If I am put on the sports desk at The Age and not totally on top of the waxing and waning of form, players, injuries etc they will think I am from outer-space.
This morning I am handed a story about a guy who has a Collingwood flag on his house and he has been told during the finals he has to take it down. It was discussed in the editors afternoon meeting. It is fun and is quite a good story in Melbourne during finals week. It will be in the Age tomorrow I am told.