Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Shepherd's Sling And Five Stones In Our Hands.

So, the Austral is this weekend. It's a race I have ambiguous feelings about, even though - or probably because - I've never raced it before. Still, in these serious wheelraces with serious money attached, the outcome has usually been determined before the race has begun, and due to the distance the Austral is run over - two kilometres - there is even less chance for the middle-and-limitmarker punks to come crashing in and spoil the party. The best thing about racing handicaps is that anyone has a chance to take them out (something WW seems to instinctively understand), but all of CSV's efforts over the past month or so have focussed on the 'stars' appearing. I'm starting to feel like pack fill and I haven't even strapped on my shoes yet.

So I'm down to race, but don't expect much. I'll probably get B grade, will probably ride off somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 metres in the big race, probably have odds of around 25 to 1, and probably do fuck all. The saving grace, for me, is that the Bendigo Madison weekend isn't far away, and that this year I'll be there with bells on. Hopefully in some decent form to boot.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Steering Wheel.

Last Wednesday my Grandma died, so I didn't go to the gym that night. The next day I went out to my coach's place and did a mock-time trial on this compu-trainer thing, which meant about an hour at 92% of my maximum possible effort. The next day was a day off, so I had no real idea how much either event had taken out of me. The answer was, apparently, a lot.

The Victorian Madison Championships were in Ballarat on Sunday, so The Man and I stacked our gear in the car and headed out on Highway 8. We were, as per usual, late. I managed a win in B grade and Sean didn't disgrace himself in D. But come the Madison we were both spent. Before racing we'd both agreed - without hesitation - that once we went three laps down we'd pull out. With former World Cup Madison winners racing that occurred in the first fifty laps. After about eighty had gone by I told Sean I was done. After about eighty five he was too, so we pulled out. Other teams went ten laps down, eight laps down, ridiculous numbers down, but we were the only ones to call it quits. When asked why we had pulled out, Sean simply explained that, "We just didn't want to get it pregnant."

On Monday I went back to the gym and totally destroyed myself. Tuesday I packed the bike and Casey into the car and drove up to my parents' house, heading out towards the Grampians for an hour and a half of tempo. Wednesday I crawled out of bed early and did a session on the trainer, then slid into a borrowed suit (thanks McKenny!), packed up Casey and hit the road for another couple of hours, heading into the depths of the Mallee. We reacquainted ourselves with my lost cousins, shook hands, kissed cheeks, reminisced and tried not to cry. We rustled up some hommus and rice crackers for lunch, ignoring the multitude of temptations offered by the CWA ladies of Woomelang. We convinced my sister to feed us dinner at her house in Bendigo on our way home and my youngest brother to drive the rest of the way from there. We pulled back into the house, finally, at eleven, so I missed the gym again that night.

Then today I went back to work.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Down And Out, Losing Ground.

As we grow older,
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living -

TS Eliot.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I'm A Big Talker.

I grew up in a country town called Stawell, on the final southern fingernail of the Great Dividing Range. Three corners of the compass were surrounded by lifts in the landscape, from the sandstone cliffs of the Grampians in the west to the ambitiously named Pyrenees in the north. Between the northern and western points, however, was a great sweep of flat Wimmera plains, leading onto an even greater expanse of flat Mallee plains. One could continue walking in that direction and encounter only undulations in the landscape for nearly a thousand kilometres, finally reaching the red dirt jags of the Flinders Ranges over in South Australia. Looking west over the town from Big Hill, in the centre of it all, then turning your back on civilization and respite to take in the nothing emptiness to the north. Things came rushing in through that vacant space when the wind swung around, like tastes of dust on the tongue, or bushfires in the summer.

My Dad’s family are from out there, concentrated in a small town called Woomelang in the heart of the Mallee. I was up there over Christmas a while back. A lot of the extended family were there, and presents were being handed out. My Uncle Alan and Auntie Mandy were presented with a huge, square gift that turned out to be suitcases. Mandy looked excited, Alan looked away.

“Now this means, dad,” my cousin Kirsten proclaimed, “that you have to actually use them.” I didn’t really know what she was talking about. Later on, in the car on the way home, I asked my own dad about it. “Your Uncle Alan,” he began, “hasn’t left the farm for more than a weekend, ever.”

Their family – and I guess mine too – have been in Woomelang for four generations. The farm that my Uncle Alan and his kids live on is where he and his brothers – including my dad – grew up. The house where they were raised still stands; weatherboard and corrugated iron overcome by weeds, rot and rust. The new house – clean brick veneer encircled by deep verandas – stands a short walk away. There Uncle Alan raised his own family, who, while doing the dishes, would glance up for a moment and find their family history staring at them through the window.

As a kid I’d always liked him – he was always loud and funny, which is nearly always enough when you’re young – but now, as an adult, something else was emerging. Beneath the bluster, beneath the dusty Mallee dryness, he was so attached to that plot of land, those red dirt paddocks and empty dams and stunted Mallee Gums, that he couldn’t be away from it for more than two nights.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I Think I'm Going To Cry.

Sorry for the lack of posts, folks. I've had no internet other than phone internet (which is only marginally better than no internet) since before Australia Day, when some jackass with a jackhammer jacked his way through our connection. More coming soon. You have my word.