Thursday, October 8, 2009

When old flames sputter and go all waxy...

More years ago than I want to count, because it's scary and I don't feel my age, I was a teenager with a crush on a guy who was a professional in a sports industry. Well, frankly, he was a jockey. I was into horses, and into pretty boys with long flowing hair. These jockeys, small men on big horses, brave and dressed in glistening polyester, were my heroes. I had crushes on a couple of apprentice jockeys, but one crush lasted ages (principally because I had a very sheltered life and didn't meet any real life fellas to take my mind off him).This particular lad - I'll call him Glue 'cos I stuck to his career like glue at the time - was a shining example of my crushdom. Big dark brown eyes, the most gorgeous smile with straight white teeth (obviously had never been hit in the face with a horse's nose) and flowing locks, well down over the collar. This was the 1970s, do remember. Most of the apprentice jockeys had long hair.

Gosh I used to fantasise over him! I had imaginary conversations every day with Glue. In my dreamworld he was intelligent and well-spoken (most jockeys aren't well-spoken, I can assure you), and read books. Dream Glue was interested in the same things I was, in other words.

I read every newspaper and racing magazine I could for news of him, and clipped photos which I sighed over. Yes, sighed over. Can you say 'tragic', children? :-)

He lived and rode interstate, but being one of the topline apprentices at the time ventured to Sydney a couple of times a year. I met him a few times at the races, exchanged a few words (in my case a nervous stammer), and I lived for those conversations and relived them over and over. When I was over the age of consent - erm, about 18, 19 and way too old for crushes - I met him at the races and he told me his marriage was on the rocks. He'd got married very young, about 19 or 20 I think. It was a vague attempt to chat me up but I'd noticed even then he'd arrived with a blonde and the stars were fading a bit from the old crush. Clearly he was a cocksman well out of my league - I was so wet behind the ears you could wring me. The vague attempt got no further; I suspect he figured innocents like me were more trouble than they were worth as rumour had it that's how he ended up married initially.

Over the years I've wondered what he's been up to. Even after my interest in horse racing itself waned, and I was into showing and jumping with my own horses, I kept an eye on the racing guide to see he was still riding. He retired from race riding about ten years ago I guess and I gather from the internet, as he popped into my mind the other day and I researched him, he's been riding work overseas and then in various parts of Australia. A track jockey these days, up at a cruel hour of the morning all year round (as jockeys are over here), riding horses in chilly winter winds before dawn, and in summer before the heat sets in. A track jockey finishes work by about 7.30am in the summer... a little later in winter - after all he starts in the dark, when the horse's breath is the biggest thing you see in front of your nose.

Part of my research took me onto Facebook and there I found him well and truly. The long flowing hair has gone. In every sense of the word - the laddie is very thin on top these days and what is left has been cropped almost to extinction. The eyes are still the same but in a face drawn and tight over the years with the need to keep weight to a cruel minimum. Somewhere along the line a horse made contact with the teeth after all; they're all there but one is brown. It was quite a shock to see that physically he'd altered so much from the fresh-faced lad I'd sighed over. You expect people to age gracefully... most of my friends have.

So. There's Teen Crush. On Facebook. What do I do? A wisp of nostalgia floated past my nose; those silly girlhood days poring over the racing guide. I wrote him a message saying I'd followed his career way back when, if that indeed was him. To my surprise and delight, he wrote back almost straight away acknowledging it was indeed himself and I got a potted life story - married twice, engaged three times and engaged to a girl half his age at the moment. A couple more messages went back between us: he sounded me out about my interests, which I gather were a bit too cerebral by then as he didn't reply and didn't offer to be my friend (sob!) *grin*. Looking at his friends, the majority are female, a good 15-20 years younger than himself. Whatever sparkle was in those brown eyes all those years ago is clearly still working. Even reading the comments from his friends, he's turned 50 and he's still Jack the Lad. Horny little devil!

But not for me. I'm glad I wrote to him. I'm glad he's alive and well and still riding horses. But the few notes we exchanged told me we have absolutely nothing in common. He's a party boy, almost illiterate, and I have a life filled with books and writing. Even if I'd succumbed to his charms it would have ended in boredom and most assuredly tears of disappointment on my part. It's a good thing to make sure that old flames that have died stay well and truly out. Happy riding, Glue, whatever and whoever you're on top of!


  1. I don't know if Garth Brooks was as great a sensation there in Oz as he was here (back in the '80s) but he had a song that sounds like what you say.


  2. Garth Brooks was popular over here, but not as huge as in North America. Love the lyrics... so appropriate! I got the giggles as I was typing this blog entry as I remembered the old torch song, My Old Flame. Sung straight by someone like Linda Ronstadt, as she did in the early 80s, it's a beautiful song that is pretty appropriate here too. But it was the version of Spike Jones and his City Slickers, which my Mum has, which stuck in my mind. Lots of hoots, bells and whistles, and the sound of fire engines. :-D