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It's that time of the year... if you bend the definition of purple a bit, and bending things a bit, like perception and the space time continuum is where it's at, folks. The jacarandas are in bloom... little splashes of purple are all over the shop like a gentle reminder of something we care about.


Jacarandas have meant a bit to me since I was  a nipper and my grandmother, Myrtle Mary Smiley, took off from the Smiley abode and travelled over to northern NSW to attend some family event with her eldest son, my uncle Ken. Ken had married a farmer's daughter from that neck of the woods and set up on a farm just outside of Bellingen.. Myrtle Mary spent a few weeks cavorting, as Myrtles do on their holidays, in the northern corner of NSW to return full of stories about corn threshers, fire breaks and the Grafton Jacaranda festival. As a young member of a family devoted to growing things, these were highly impressive tales and the jacaranda has occupied a special place in the Smiley heart (yes, there is one) ever since. I like the precocious manner in which these innocuous trees burst into prominence just when the footy is at a low ebb... a portent of Things to Come, new growth, the hopes of spring, splashes of colour and all that.

I've heard all manner of folklore about the things, too. An old hippy lady was sure that they'd flower more vigorously if you whacked the bejaysus out of the trunks in late winter... the theory being it would stimulate sap movement and growth, apparently. Ever since, I've been religiously sneaking about under cover of darkness and whacking the odd jacaranda with something that used to be called zeal but is now more likely to be called f***ing madness.

Myrtle was old school... part Scots, part German. Born on a farm, lived on a farm, widowed early and hard as nails. Unforgiving and tight as a fish's ... her philosophy was if you couldn't afford it you did without and if you could afford it, you didn't need it anyway. After she passed away, my mother and an aunt discovered abut 30 years worth of carefully folded brown paper shopping bags stored carefully all over the house, just in case a call up came from Carlton, probably. You can never be too prepared.

I was reminded of all that the other day while driving through a part of town blessed with a fair old smattering of the afore mentioned jacarandas... my lady of the moment professed a moment of tenderness and affection and Smiley pounced like a hungry piranha... when you've grown up under the stern eye of a part Scottish, part German widower with a penchant for casually squashing all manner of spiders, snails and emotions with devestating efficiency under one gnarly old thumb, you grab a tender moment and you don't let it go, folks. We held hands and marvelled at the purple haze diluting the sunlight, while I tried to figure out a way to get from hands to pants as fast as possible without losing too much dignity on the way. Naturally, I leaned towards regaling m'lady with tales of heroism on the footy field and the romance of the mighty game which, considering her English non sporting background, may have been a mistake... but the noble exploits of the Men in Purple combined with the mildly flattering effect of jacaranda glow carried the day and I managed to get my hands tangled in a fair stretch of lacy elastic which nearly had me passing out with tension and excitement until I realised it wasn't hers, but mine. It's bloody hard to maintain dignity and grace under pressure at times, eh?

Getting back to Ken and Bellingen... he was unlucky enough to get his hand caught in a corn thresher and mangled it so badly he had to give up playing the bagpipes. To this day, he still shakes hands left handed. Bloody tragedy for him, he was a champion piper who used to lead the band... but if you're one of the very few who can't stand the sound of a thousand cats being strangled at once under a man's arm, it may not come as a great loss. He kept farming for years though, only selling up and moving off the land when close to 80. Tough stock, my lot. I was over that way for a family bash a few months back... too early for the jacarandas, unfortunately although I did see a Freo t shirt on someone in Bundaberg. No polar bears, though.

 There's even a few jacarandas up in the godforsaken little mining town I spend too much time in. Spindly, wispy little buggers, but purple nonetheless. You don't see any such natural reminders of  other teams sprouting forth at this time of year, though.  I might have blinkers on, it has to be admitted, but we seem to have the franchise for quirky reminders, romantic or otherwise. Speaking of romance, I did manage to untangle myself before everything went purple and it could be that her ladyship simply took pity on me in the purple glow but I did my bit for the team folks, and that's all anyone with pretensions of good manners should say.


I suggest you do the same. Get out there and whack some sap around. 


Bloody hard to find a song with any relevance to that, too...