It's becoming increasingly clear to me why I am fascinated by the Order of the Garter; it's really another way to think about institutions and rituals of belonging, topics that have always intrigued me. Over the last three days I've done three very different things with three different clubs, though I belong to none of them. Theoretically, I could join all three...
On Friday night we were guests of a friend at the Lyceum Club in Melbourne. The Club was founded in 1912 to link with the Lyceum club in London and others, and as resistance to the (still) exclusively masculine Melbourne Club. "Membership is restricted to women graduates and other women who had distinguished themselves in art, music, literature, philanthropy or public service." The building is hidden down a dark laneway behind the back of the Melbourne Club's secret garden, and from our charming private upstairs room we looked into the leaves of the enormous plane trees and down into its courtyard. I had passed the grand facade of the Melbourne Club in Collins St a thousand times and had no idea of this beautiful space hidden away in the heart of the city. There is a discreet doorway from the Club into the laneway, and rumour has it that this provided a quick route to a brothel that used to occupy the spot where the Lyceum now stands (there may still be one not too far away). The Lyceum is rather more modest as a building, but has a wonderful art collection, and changing exhibitions of photographs and artworks. We had a lovely meal (a "Lebanese grazing banquet", far from the roast beef and three vegies I was half expecting), and the twelve of us sat around a circular table with Vicki’s family and friends and talked in groups of two or three, or occasionally someone would tell a story to the whole group. What a luxury, to be able to eat and talk without the clatter of other tables, or "restaurant" music.
On Saturday night, we went with 63,000 other folk to the “dreamtime” clash between Richmond and Essendon at the MCG. Once a year these two AFL clubs, who’ve both been actively supportive of Indigenous players, meet to commemorate the brilliant talents of Aboriginal footballers. In particular, my team, the mighty Bombers, under the coaching of Kevin Sheedy, have pushed for this event to become a regular fixture, and so we joined the small crowd that followed Michael Long (being interviewed here by Michael Voss),
from Federation Square to the beautiful MCG.
I went down to the barrier at the edge of the ground and took a few photos as Richmond were warming up; for some reason, I also seem to have caught mostly Richmond supporters in my snaps.
The MCG wasn’t full, but by the time the pre-match ceremonies began it was about two-thirds full. A didgeridoo player, wrapped in a beautiful possum skin cloak, stood above the electronic scoreboard, right at the very top of the ground, and then we heard Archie Roach, Shane Howard, Ivor Davies and others sing the immortal words, “It’s the colour of your jumper; it’s not the colour of your skin.” I do not think it likely that this is going to become one of the all-time great football anthems. Then Peter Garrett (ex-rock star, now politician) joined a bunch of others to sing along with Shane Howard’s “Solid Rock (standing on sacred ground)”, Auntie Joy Murphy welcomed everyone to country as the Wurundjeri elder, presenting manna leaves to the captain and coach of each club; and the game began. It was not a great game (not that I go very often), and by three-quarter time it looked as if the Tigers were going to score their first win of the season. We left, weak-spiritedly, to avoid the crush on the train, but when we got home and got in the car to drive Joel’s friend Nick home, scores were level at the end of the match, and then Essendon sneaked home by 8 points. Go Bombers!
The third club, much more modestly, was the suburban tennis club where Larry coaches on Sundays. It’s the only sport I play, and I don’t really play, yet, as I’m still learning, but it’s always fun to get out on the court and have a turn. It’s possibly almost time for me to join a club, though, and to see about playing a game. Today, though, we were practising volleying up close to the net (and sitting on a chair, to make us focus on our raquet work, not our footwork), and I got hit by a ball right between nose and upper lip. Ouch. I’m expecting a big bruise tomorrow, and have felt headachey all day, as if my poor brain got a knock, too. So much so that I had to lie on the couch most of the afternoon and read a novel. Oh well. There’s always tomorrow, for working.