Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How the Locals Like It [Part 3]

Continued from Parts One and Two...

Every locality needs an oval.

The oval is where people meet on the weekends to watch barbaric forms of Australian Rules Football.  Or twelve year old boys playing cricket (all dressed in white, you can see them from miles away).

While I recognise that an oval is an important part of a community, I've never personally set a toe on this one. The only thing I would do on an oval is lie in the grass and stare at the clouds.  But I can imagine that this sort of behaviour tends to infuriate the sports people, especially when they are trying to use the oval for its intended purpose.

I've come here to drop off my brother at cricket training, or attend a 'function' at the cricket club.  Outsiders might see a squat, ugly brick building, all concrete and wooden benches.  Well, a bare building gives a sporting club a place to meet, and when a sports team meets, so do local families.  Trivia nights, barbecues, awards ceremonies, planning meetings.

The cricket club by the oval has established itself as a permanent part of the community.  I think this is why the bare clubhouse was even used for a memorial service, in memory of two teenage boys who died in the Black Saturday bush fires.  One of the boys had used that very clubhouse when he was on the cricket team.  Little things like that force you to stop and appreciate your own home town - a place where people actually stick together.

Speaking of of the most important parts of our little neighbourhood is the CFA.   Country Fire Authority.

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They have their local HQ on the main road, and sometimes when we drive past we see the two huge, red trucks parked out the front.  Usually they're being washed down with great big hoses (obviously the same hoses they use to put out those nasty fires), creating rivers of water which creep right across the road. 

The CFA kind of passed underneath my radar until a couple of years ago, when the fires came closer to home than usual. 
When I realised that the CFA themselves were mostly volunteers... the guy from the post office, my old school mates, our next door neighbours.... it was then that I began to fully appreciate the sacrifices that were being made.  It boggles my mind to think that people give up their time, and even willingly go into risky situations, purely to help out their fellow neighbours.

Image from

The CFA don't just fight fires or turn up at car accidents.  They pop up all over the place, at markets and fairs, local concerts, schools...

Every Christmas season, usually a couple of nights before Christmas Eve, a firetruck drives around our suburb (exclusively our suburb) blasting our short bursts of the siren (giving people heart attacks).  Inside the big red truck sits a big red man, along with his honour guard of firefighters.  Santa Clause in a fire truck.  What, that isn't completely normal?

When my brother and I were younger we would race up the driveway when we heard the siren. As the truck drove slowly down the street, lights flashing, we would wave and they would stop and Santa would hop down with a suspiciously bulging sack.

It's important to note here that my brother and I have never been convinced that Santa Clause is a real person who delivers presents under Christmas trees (our parents told us otherwise).  We were those children who would walk past Santa in the shopping center, knowing for sure that those other children were posing with a man dressed in a red suit.

But it's fun to talk to the man dressed as Santa.  Plus, he had sweets in his sack.

To be continued...

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