So there’s a few radio interviews inked in for Day 1 of what shall hereafter be called ‘The Other Campaign’ so as not to confuse the six or seven people locked in on the cheesy sideshow alley that is Queensland state political pre-electoral message-jamming. (WATCH IN AWE as Anna Bligh rides a Quad bike on a farm and convinces you of her earthy humour and general go-get-’em zip! SEE the magical mystery of the unelected leader Campbell Newman as he hypnotises you with daring talk of ‘can do’ deliverability!).
Good lord what have we let happen…
Anyhow, I digress.
I’m running a smidge late.
The Pajero is straining a touch as I fly with so many others up the godforsaken stretch of speedway otherwise known as the M1 Motorway. I’m en route to Brissie to speak Sunsly bookliness with Tim Cox on his 612 ABC Drive program.
The phone rings. Today I get a little thrill whenever it does. Maybe this time it’s Mike Sheahan or Caro Wilson or one of the other footy journo big wigs. Or better still it’s Jennifer Byrnes. She’s calling up to see if I’m good for a gallop on ABC TV’s The Tuesday Book Club. As it happened her co-host Marieke Hardy had momentarily lifted her gaze from defamation writs and spotted the glorious red of my book’s cover in among a whole stack of complimentaries from publishers everywhere. Mine stood out. Her slender fingers slowly turned the opening pages. Before she knew it she was ten chapters in and laughing in all the right spots. ‘This, at least for a sports book, is actually pretty good,” she’d said. “I’m gonna call Byrnsey.”
Christ, how could I NOT answer?
So I did.
But it’s not Jen. Nor Marieke for that matter.
Instead it’s Bernadette Young, host of Drive at 91.7 ABC Gold Coast. I’m speaking with her later this arvo. She’s calling to make sure everything was set and ready. We speak for less than thirty seconds before a blue and white checked bonnet and accompanying swirly light looms large beside me.
Officer Mirror Shades’n’ Moustache points to the kerb from behind his tinted window.
“Shit, Bern,” I say. “I’m SO knicked.”
I drop the phone to the floor and pull over.
“Shitting pissing fuck fuck!” I yell as the Paj squeaks to a halt.
I really did yell exactly that. Seriously.
Mirror Shades’n’Moustache leaves the dirty work to female Officer Short Hair In All Likelihood Lower Octaves who I now see approaching in my rear view mirror. She yanks her wraparounds from her hard, angular features and leans on my ve-hi-cle.
“Was there an emergency that necessitated your use of a mobile telecommunications device whilst driving northbound high speed ?” she asks.
I gag on her word meal for a moment before sorting my retort. It comes out a shambles.
“I’m being interviewed,” I blurt. “I have a new book. My first. it’s out today. I’m going to be on the ABC. I’m late. I haven’t done this sort of thing before. Be interviewed that is. Not talk and drive. It’s really important. I’m distracted. I’m really sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I know I was wrong.”
I hand her a copy thinking it might somehow soften things. “Here! See?”
She reads the back cover.
“Great! Love the AFL. Played a bit in the womens’ league back in Melbourne. Tigers member since whenever. A book, huh. That’s great.”
I’m thinking warning.
She’s thinking fuck that.
$300 on the spot.
After the advance is repaid, that’s thirty sold books.
Shitting pissing fuck fuck.
“Good luck with it all,” she says cheerily. “I’ll buy a copy for sure.”
Twenty nine books then.
Sigh. Onwards. Upwards.
Auntie’s new whizbang studios are in South Brissie.
Whereis.com doesn’t seem to agree.
It instead takes me up Coronation Drive to bloody Toowong. I pull an exasperated and highly illegal u-turn and follow my nose back to where I’m meant to be in Grey Street, and – as the clock clicks ever closer to on-air time with Coxy – I’m feeling a bit late night pervish as I cruise the general precinct for even the vaguest clue as to my destination.
But nup. Nuthin’.
Suitably chastened from my earlier ordeal this time I pull over to call someone who will know.
“Corner of Russell and Grey,” says the ABC receptionist. “Opposite QPAC. You can’t miss it. Car park’s underneath.”
I try again. There’s no bloody street signs. 3.00 ticks by. I’m all but due there. In vain hope I try a random laneway. Trucks and construction workers line it. The new ABC studio is still something of a work in progress, I seem to recall. This could be the right place.
But it’s not right in the slightest.
Before I can blink I’m on some kind of riverfront esplanade dodging pedestrians and steering circles around street art. There’s a big bloody ferris wheel. People eating sandwiches. Tough kids floating by on skateboards. One shoots me a snarl of death. Another flips the bird and tells me I’m a dumb fucker. In as much as one can with a hand gesture, I kind of agree.
Back on Grey Street I eventually catch a glimpse of the ABC logo through some construction hording. I swing a left into a half finished driveway. I strike luck for the first time today. This is it. I’m home. I hit a button. Security lets me in. They tell me where to park. I don’t want to be late for interviews twice on Day 1 of The Other Campaign so anticipating the need for a quick getaway afterwards, I reverse into my allotted spot. In the rear view mirror I see one of those yellow concrete buffer stopper thingos on the ground. I inch back until I feel a bump. I yank on the handbrake, grab my things and go. When I do I see that a rather large sheet of glass behind the Paj has a whopping great crack in it. I quickly line things up (surely not?), consider the nature of the bump I’d felt (kinda standard), check the tow bar for tell-tale debris (there is none that I can see), nut out some quick geometrical calculations and finally deduce ‘nup, musta already been there’ and off I head.
Even if Clive Palmer’s latest act of mindless footballing barbarism tends to overshadow things, the interview with Coxy goes well. Money frigging with sport is one of the key themes in my book. The tie is neat enough. It’ll do nicely.
I’m signing out of the building when security ushers me over.
“Regrettably, there’s been an incident with your car, Mr Webber.”
For whatever reason – most likely some post-interview-about-my-book-stroked-ego funk – I blank out on the prior damaged window situation. Instead I immediately think theft. Band practice tonight. I’d pre-loaded some equipment earlier on. Not the amp. Please don’t be the amp. I love that amp. Shit! Did I pack the telecaster? Not the tele. NOOOO! It was a bloody engagement present! You idiot! Why did you bring it? Please no…
The elevator door slides open. Straight away, everything taken in from a new angle, it’s only too apparent that one of two scenarios has played out. Either the concrete buffers hadn’t really been measured to accommodate a ’97 Pajero with a tow bar fitted OR said buffers weren’t designed to cope with tyres designed to climb mountains. All said and done I’ve probably touched the pane just hard enough to shatter the bastard. The Paj is a heavy old clunker. It wouldn’t take much.
So, so spewin’.
I hand my details over to the security lady and as I head southwards in bumper to bumper clutter I ponder the exchange of blame-shifting letters likely to follow. Security lady didn’t know what would come of it all. Cost unknown at this point. Glass is exy, I’m thinking. I remember the quote for the new shower screen back home gave me a godawful shock. So too the bill when the mower flicked a stone through the Paj’s back windscreen. At a guess maybe fifty books? Sixty?
I try not to think about it. I can’t. Interview #2 for The Other Campaign awaits 70 clicks south. Fire up. Get going.
There’s four traffic sedating accidents on the way home and SO not the two the way-too-chirpy Brad from the Australian Traffic Network keeps telling me about. So many viciously spat swear words later, I arrive at 91.7 ABC Coast FM. I have two minutes to spare.
Bern Young’s apologetic for my mobile-yak fine. She needn’t be. I’m just a freakin’ dunce who ought to have known better. The important thing is that she’s read the book and she enjoyed it. She asks me questions that remind me of the absolute joy it was writing the bloody thing, how proud of it I am, and how cool it is that after too many years of crap jobs I’m smack bang in the middle of something that gives me a genuine thrill. And, of course, I can’t help but be reminded of how footy, just like the day I’d just had, can absolutely relentlessly and ruthlessly ruin you until one little glimmer at the end of it all gives you reason enough to smile.
In sport, as in life, there’s always tomorrow when things go to shit.
All you can do is the only thing possible: dust yourself off and get on with it.
So I shall.