Monday, August 22, 2011

Becoming a Fan

I don't do being a fan. I don't go weak at the knees at celebrities. I don't follow a football team. My patriotism is predicated on my being a member of the human race, and a resident of planet earth. I don't even know how to read rank on military or police uniforms.

So I surprised myself, this past weekend. I became a fan.

I am currently sharing my house with someone who doesn't inconvenience me in any way. He does his stuff, I do mine. In between times, we watch Time Team and Minuscule together whenever our schedules allow, and have a meal at home together once a fortnight or so, with neither of us particularly expecting to be fed by the other, or expecting to have to do the cooking. Housework is very ad hoc - but no more so than when I lived alone.

So I was slightly taken aback when I was asked if I'd like to go to a dragon boat regatta as a spectator. What, me? I asked. Watch something you do for fun? Okay, I can do that. It involved a four o'clock start to my day, but I'm okay with odd hours, and I spent many years of my life routinely waking up early enough to be well away from home before dawn. So I thought I'd do it again just this once to watch dragon boats.

I'm not a sea person. I don't do water. Well - I do, I've been known to drink it with great pleasure, boil it to drink it with greater pleasure, get rained on without undue horror, and even take showers. But the sea?

For me, the sea is the place that fishermen pull a portion of my diet from - I like fish. It borders my country on all sides. When I had a large dog, until he got too old, our early morning walk would involve about a kilometre's walk down to the beach before dawn, an amble along the beach for a while, then a walk home, with a happy, relaxed, salty and slightly less smelly dog trotting happily by my side in the early morning light.

But normally I feel more like a wombat than a dolphin - I am a red earth person. The happiest times of my life were spent in a little bush town in Western Australia without so much as a supermarket, seventy kilometres inland as the crow flies, much more by car. I went months without seeing a ripple, so much as an ocean. My idea of a good view is an unimpeded horizon created by the distant curvature of the Earth, red earth, rocky outcrops, saltbush, bleached animal bones, dried-out river-beds, caves, even hilly ridges sometimes. What, water? Nah - perhaps a muddy trickle in the wetter years. And worse, getting onto it in something that doesn't even stay steady on the ground, like a boat? Never. Not happening.

So I stepped out of my usual self when invited, and took about a second and a half to relax and say yes. We were to leave before dawn the following Sunday. I set my alarm, fell out of bed when it rang, unglued my eyes under a hot shower and looked forward to the day with anticipation. A day out of my usual routine for that time of week - what could be better? I'd had a late night the previous evening - our meditation group met up, something which I very much treasure and try never to miss if I can help it - but hot water externally as a shower and internally as tea set me up to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on three and a half hours' sleep.

Before long we were on the road. The car radio stayed off, the GPS kept criticising the driving, and Paul Kelly's song "Love Never Comes On Time" got stuck in my head. I don't know - perhaps it's because it's one of the very few totally successful road-trip songs despite the multitudes that have been written over time.

Eventually we found our way there, and found our particular team amongst all of them setting up shelters and having their pre-regatta pep-talks. Then periods of talking, sitting around and consulting race-lists alternated with periods of wild activity - for the crews. Me, I had an easy day. I wandered around, chatted to people mostly on "our" teams but others as well, babysat a dog when all the members of her team happened to be off racing, and once when I was by myself, picked up litter and threw it away.

Being a current resident of the Central Coast and there because of a member of their team, I found myself feeling as if I was under some obligation to support their team. So whenever a dragonboat went past with its crew wearing blue tops and white caps, I cheered my lungs out. And they quite frequently won, or crossed the line in second place! I must be a good luck charm.

Cheering felt odd. I threw myself into it, thinking "I may as well", but I had the sensation that my cheering and team-worship was all very tongue-in-cheek. Did they know I was faking it? After one race in particular, I went back to the marshalling area and spoke to the team in general and my friend in particular, praising him to the skies and telling him it was obvious he was solely responsible for the victory. I think there might have been some suspicions then!

There came a time when I had had enough, but being dependent on others for transport I had to hang around. At last the award ceremony happened, and at the same time, the sky, which had until then been half-hearted about raining, let everything down. Our team collected six cups, including four firsts. As soon as we were decently able, we all bolted for the shelter of our cars.

Much of the team re-assembled at the Mooney-Mooney club for a meal, a drink and a speech or two, then we headed off home for real. We came home to a cold, dark house, as happy as larks. As I said before, I don't follow sports. I might do this again - it was enjoyable.

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