In the early 80s, my family lived in a fine old house in Wooloowin in inner northern Brisbane. We hopped around a bit from place to place in those days, and we only lived there for about four years until moving to Canberra when I was eight. But this is the place I distinctly feel was the formative place of my childhood. It had a great backyard for cricket, a tree house in a mulberry tree full of mulberries perfect for smooshing on your older sister, and a gaggle of neighbourhood kids to play cops and robbers with, pick fights with, make up with, and ride BMX bikes with pell-mell through Kedron High School across the street. I went to preschool and started school here, incessantly worried out a whole lot of my baby teeth, saw my first stripper get all her gear off, that kind of thing.
I remember the curiosity I had as we headed out on the sunny Saturday of March 5th 1983 because the folks added this odd thing called "voting" into the roster of much more essential events of that Saturday, which in particular involved buying my long anticipated Lego Police Station birthday present. Voting must have been pretty important to get in the way of the annual festival of Cynan.
Adding to this festival further, on this day I tied the knot with an abiding love that has spanned the intervening years unbroken. A couple of days before I had brought home from school a pamphlet from the nearby Teacher's North's Rugby Club looking to re-build their junior ranks, and giving rugger a belt seemed like a pretty tops idea. I was turning seven after all and had to make sure life didn’t just pass me by, strippers notwithstanding.
So in amongst the Lego Police Station and the voting and all kinds of usual Saturday morning running around, a trip to Shaw Park was made and I registered and became perhaps the tiniest ever Under 7's player in the state of Queensland to pull on a club jersey. Thriving in the barefoot 10-a-side style of QRU play, I put my success in my first season at hooker down to one particular night spent at Nana and Pop's place in Redcliffe where I had to share a bed with my younger-but-bigger cousin down from Rockhampton. Billeted with heads at opposite ends of the bed we proceeded to kick the living snot out of each other all night and the techniques discovered there worked a treat in the scrums of other wee tackers like myself. The following seasons on up through under 13s at flanker and then halfback were never quite the same, but the game was in the blood by this stage and to this day I find rugby loooiige to be as boring as puppy dung and the entire code worthy only for stealing useful players from.
So anyway, as far as I could tell the actual mechanics of "voting" involved the parents leaving us kids in the car to play with the indicator lever and scrabble piteously at the window as the temperature rose, and go into someone else’s primary school and into a little booth to do a crossword puzzle or maybe a number game, and when the tests were marked the person who got it the most right got to pick the Prime Minister. Or something. It didn’t seem really fair that only adults got to vote, though at this tender age I had already learned after badgering my Pop for a whole stubby one day that it wasn't the only thing that dastardly adults kept from us. No doubt I had my very own keen appreciation of the dynamics of class struggle and bourgeois paternalism, but of course had to keep a lid on it if that Lego Police Station was going to trickle down before sun down.
Of course March 5 1983 didn’t turn out to be just any old federal election, but a bloody beaut affair that brought world record holder (for sculling 2 ½ pints of beer in 11 seconds that is) Robert James Lee Hawke into office. It didn’t matter that he had become a teetotaller in the years since setting the belchmark, I think the respect was there regardless from the boofhead community and no doubt it’s a similar vein that armbreaker Marky Mark taps with little difficulty. It’s like once in a generation the ALP party machine seizes up and a leader with genuine populist charisma climbs over a few busted gears to the top of the machine, Metropolis-style.
This Labor government then went on to stay in power right up until I got the chance vote in my first federal election in 1996, and wouldn’t you know it I've been bloody trying to get the buggers back in ever since. Maybe there's something I'm doing wrong in the polling booth, since although obtaining a polsci degree I never became any good at crosswords.
Still it makes me wonder whether every time I vote for Labor (or these days, preference them at least) there's a small part of me trying to recreate the halcyon muddy mornings of childhood ushered into my world by the reign of RJL Hawke, or perhaps it is nostalgia for the occasional peaceful afternoon after school spent in the company of tiny smiling policemen who were never ever without a smile, even when you ran over their heads with the lego train.
Either way... go Mark. Get over the line mate. Inspire a new generation of slightly confused young tackers and put an end to this rocky Howard horror show for the rest of us.