September 30, 2010 by jessperriam
The scene was spectacular.
Green monogramed carpet, fold out tables and moulded plastic chairs.
The interior decoration was astounding.
Framed photographs of local football legends beaming, staring, frowning down on us, all with a mullet haircut or dodgy mo’ to boot.
There was another picture frame with 6×4 portraits of average looking girls dating from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. Miss Football.
And above the green tinged bar shouted, “The Northampton Country Club” in gold paint.
We were at Rodney’s 50th.
Who the hell is Rodney and why were we at his 50th?
To cut a long, inbred West Australian story short. Rodney is my friend Keryn’s husband’s mum’s partner’s brother.
Oh, you want that in a flow chart?:
Keryn —> Wade —> Wade’s Mum —> Wade’s Mum’s partner (Gaz) —> His brother Rodney
All good? It’s not really essential to the story anyway.
Keryn and I decided to road trip. The typical Perth road trip takes you south to Margaret River or Dunsborough or Albany or other delightfully cold yet viticulture filled regions.
We took the path that European tourists and grey nomads go. We went north.
The north is full of wide open spaces, punctuated by roadhouses, the odd town and signs advertising the fuel price at the rapidly nearing petrol station.
There are also beach shacks dotted up and down the coastline for about 600 kilometres north of Perth.
They’re nothing flash but they’re a great escape from the city, the bed and breakfasts, the hotels, motels and hostels that can tend to be a little too sterile or anal about kitchen cleanliness.
And it turns out that Gaz’s family has one of these majestic fibro walled, concrete floored castles at Horrocks. “Woot,” as Keryn would say like a fancy pants l33t speaker.
So we drove up the coast, Crowded House and Ben Folds as our soundtrack.
The later into the afternoon we drove, the quieter the Brand Highway became.
“Oh! Nobody’s on the road because they’re all at the pub watching the Grand Final.”
We flicked on the radio commentary to listen to the last quarter of the AFL match.
Collingwood and St Kilda see-sawed the lead. Five points. One point. Five points. One point. Draw.
They bloody well drew the match.
So everyone will come back to the MCG next week, probably to a lot less adulation and excitement to see who can take out the Premiership fair and square.
I’d blame Prime Minister Julia Gillard for making a gag at the Grand Final Breakfast about nobody wanting a draw a la the Great Hung Parliament of 2010. Someone should check that lady out for prophecy or something. Maybe she can tell me what numbers I need in next week’s Powerball draw.
We arrived in Geraldton with enough time to grab supplies. But first we had to pander to Keryn’s urge to step onto every beach her little eye could spy. Spot the girl who grew up inland.
Another 40 kilometres on the road saw us arrive at Gaz’s mum’s place in Northampton, where he’d drawn us a mud map (love a good mud map!) of how to find the shack at Horrocks.
“Geez, you took the long way,” said Gaz.
“Yeah, Jess told me to turn onto the Brand Highway just after Jurien Bay.”
“Stupid. You could have saved 45 minutes if you kept going straight ahead on the new road. I thought you told me she knew the terrain up here!”
“So… What did you think of The Game?” I asked.
“Aww… bloody good game,” said Gaz’s youngest brother in reverential response to The Game.
“You comin’ to Rodney’s 50th?” asked Gaz expectantly.
“Yeah, if it’s ok for us to come along,” said Keryn.
“Of course it is, I’ll show you how to get to the Country Club.
After a quick drive out the footy oval on the outskirts of town and back to Gaz’s mum’s place to drop him off, we set out for Horrocks.
“The keys should be in the door, find a public telephone if you have any problems.”
The level of trust in the town was astounding.
After settling in we drank red wine, had snacks and watched yet another amazing Indian Ocean sunset. Western Australia can be forgiven its sins of boredom and banality when it puts on a show like that every evening.
But when we got back to the camp (as locals like to call the shacks), we couldn’t get inside.
Yes, reminiscent of the great key debacle of Florence, this key wouldn’t work no matter how we tried.
But thankfully we left some windows open. Country girl Keryn took her pick of the windows to chuck a leg over into. She met me on the other side of the door to let me in.
We then had to hotfoot it back to Northampton to celebrate the mysterious Rodney’s 50th.
Even though Keryn’s a country girl at heart, she still doesn’t quite know how to react when animals run in front of her car. We stopped for cats, mice and frogs when anyone will tell you to plough on through the kangaroo.
So we made it to the Northampton Country Club, full of club members from Gaz’s clan.
A vast spread of roast beef, potato bake, garlic bread and more salad than you could poke a stick at was served for dinner. No one would go hungry when the owner of the local supermarket happened to be the sister of the birthday boy.
We met countless members of the clan, Gaz has squillions of brothers and sisters so we were constantly being introduced and welcomed. And that was the main thing: we never felt unwelcome. They were more than happy to have us join them for the evening. When explaining the family tree Gaz yelled out to his youngest brother that he shouldn’t be here, a nod to the fact that his brother was of the accidental nature.
We met Gaz’s mum, a sprightly happy woman of 84 who explained the days of looking after her eight children while painstakingly handwashing the clothes and nappies; and still finding the time to bake a cake every day. She held a fondness in her face that indicated that she thought that they were halcyon days.
A creamy, strawberry double decker sponge cake topped with candles was offered up from the Country Club kitchen and the crowd erupted into a rowdy rendition of Happy Birthday complete with the beginnings of “Why was he born so beautiful? Why was he born at all?…” from members of the peanut gallery.
There were obligatory speeches that were sentimental in that country kind of way of saying good things about someone but not getting overly emotional. It was hard to get emotional when there was the odd random heckling about Gaz’s efforts with the pumpkin bake.
Later we stared at the old footy photos with the Northampton Rams showing a large spot of prowess in the late 1970s when those dodgy mos and shaggy mullets were all the rage. Rodney came over and pointed himself out in the team of 1978.
“There I am, I had a bit more hair then.”
“Hey, what’s the deal with this guy in the team on ’77?” asked Keryn, “Third row, third from the right?”
“Yeah,” I interrupted. “Is he an ape or something?”
Rodney almost pissed himself laughing.
“Nar! He’s sitting over there!” pointing out a guy on a bar stool in his mid fifties.
Turns out there was a strange shadow cast on in the photo, rather than being a simian, football playing creature.
Gaz’s sister – the one who runs the supermarket – was relieved to finally be sitting down. Her son is a recently retired AFL player. She described driving down to Perth every second weekend during footy season to see him play. His career spanned eleven seasons and her and her husband only missed five of his games.
“You’re a good mum,” I enthused.
“Nar, it’s just what you do for them,” she shrugged it off as if it was nothing.
We went outside to get some fresh air and hang out with the smokers. Gaz noticed my hand was empty.
“You need another beer!”
What is it with old men trying to get a little lady like me drunk? (Only one has truly succeeded – he is 86 years old).
It got cold, so we hotfooted it back inside.
Keryn was tired, she drove all day and the party was beginning to die down.
We announced our departure and I verbalised a thought that I’d had all night.
“That guy from the ’80s, in that footy picture!” pointing to a portrait of a gruff looking mustachioed local footy player, “We should name a band after him – The Terry Smith Trio!”
Rodney pissed himself laughing yet again and pointed out that Terry was at the party.
“Ay Terry! They wanna name a band after you! Terry Smith Trio!”
Rule No. 1 of small town parties – always assume that the people in photographs are people at the party.
This is the third installment of Travel Tales Thursday.