T H E  

W I S D O M L I N E

A V A I L A B L E   N O W

"Gorgeous washes of melancholy electronics; minimal piano and percussion accompaniment; thoughtful understated lyrics and a clear understanding of the compelling ambience that can be created by the interplay of lyrics, music and images. ****1/2"

- The Age/Sydney Morning Herald

"A multimedia exploration of Bridie’s poetic meditations on home, asylum and the transience of relationships….intensely moving. ****1/2"

- The Australian

' T H E   O L D   B A R '  -  a   s t o r y   b y   A n d r e w  S t a f f o r d

When David Bridie approached me to write something to help with promotion for his new album – ostensibly, an updated press bio – we both agreed almost instantly that we wanted to do something a bit different. David didn’t want a stock-standard checklist of his discography and achievements, and wasn’t a fan of the form. Neither was I.

 

We threw around a few loose ideas over some dinner in Brisbane at the beginning of 2018. Both of us were keen on the idea of telling some kind of story, but we weren’t sure what. Musically, David’s album was one of the sparest of his career, but it was the lyrical subtext that pulled it together, in all the empty space between.

 

It took until almost the end of the year to come up with a short piece which I hope speaks to some of the themes of the album, and also serves as a kind of extension of the two spoken-word pieces on the album, Hemdyn Town and She’s Upped and Gone. Essentially, it’s a piece of short, observational fiction, something I’ve never tried my hand at before.

 

Of course, there’s bits of David in there, a passionate fan of the Melbourne Football Club. Sending a version of David off to the footy on Queen’s Birthday, after a made-up middle-aged relationship breakup, was kind of an answer to the female voice in She’s Upped and Gone, while the location and occasion was an extension of David’s song Melbourne, his home town.

 

It was also a way to bring out one of the central points of The Wisdom Line: that in a world where everything seems to be broken or falling apart, there are some small things we still hold fast to: some things that still give us a sense of hope, and home, and even stability: when everything is in flux, “All we can do is try to follow our hearts.”

 

– Andrew Stafford, December 2018

 

 

The 86 tram is jammed with punters on their way to the Queen’s Birthday game. The flocks of magpie hordes in their black-and-white beanies stand together with Melbourne fans in red and blue. There’s a bit of good-humoured banter but mostly people have their noses in their phones and their chins sunk deeply into their scarves.

 

She left at the beginning of December. Things had been shaky for a while and then it was done. The town baked dry in a series of heatwaves over the summer, like a furnace that powdered our personal history to dust. It was predictable in the repetition of it all. Human beings are experts in making the same mistakes.

 

Situation normal, really. It was a long summer, though. Footy feels like the one of the few constants that’s left. It’s what makes this town tick. For six months, the ritual of it – even during the lean times when wins are hard to come by – is part of the rhythm of life here. The thump of leather, the umpire’s whistle, the roars of protest and approval around the MCG.

 

The tram crosses Merri Creek and rattles into Fitzroy. Past the baths that Helen Garner immortalised in the opening pages of Monkey Grip, and Courtney Barnett in her song Aqua Profunda. It’s about half-drowning while you’re trying to impress someone you’re perving on in their bathing suit. Her songs often aren’t what they seem but that one’s pretty obvious.

 

Fitzroy is a suburb full of artists and dreamers, with its own team that folded up broke in the nineties. Some of the players got sent north to Brisbane in a dodgy merger. You can still find old Lions fans in pubs like the Standard; swathed in red or maroon, blue and gold, trying to maintain a connection with the local remains of the pride.

 

More footy fans are jumping in at each stop and the tram is getting close to capacity. By the time it rolls into Collins Street it’s full to bursting. They’re expecting 80,000 today, maybe more. Two finals aspirants peaking; a possible preview of what’s in store come September. The tram disgorges its passengers and exhales the tension of an eight-point game with them.

 

Shit. We can’t afford to drop this one.

 

Down at Flinders Street Station, there’s rough sleepers rubbing up alongside banners of the newspaper which has been campaigning to move them on to God knows where. It talks of them like they’re footy players, staging for free kicks. Well, you can get suspended for a few weeks for that sort of thing now.

 

But the guys at the station aren’t elite athletes on several hundred thousand dollars a year or more. Everyone averts their eyes and steps over or around them and ignores their embarrassed murmurs for a dollar. That’s if their eyes aren’t stuck in their phones. Making sure they’re always in the loop. That nothing passes them, while they pass everyone by.

 

The thought of her flashes past with the train to Craigieburn on the platform, leaving a rush of wind that gathers up the chip wrappers and lifts the gulls milling with them. It’s hard not to wonder whether the longing has stopped for her yet. Whether the predictability of the end of it made it worth the years of persistence; of trying; sometimes of pretending.

 

The train heaves with passengers, even more packed than the tram. Only a few stops to Richmond, though. There’s more chatter now, more excitement. A bit of niggle and the odd angry shout. But it settles the nerves and breaks the cold discomfort and momentary alienation on the platform. Our trains had been heading in different directions anyway.

 

The G is like a giant waterhole; a place where droughts are broken. It’s where the tribalism of modern life is exposed for the hollow sham it is, ironically, by tribes of opposing teams. People who wouldn’t normally talk to each other in their social media bubbles come together in a display of common humanity in all its rawness. It’s serious but still a game. 

 

This giant bowl that holds a hundred thousand souls is Melbourne in all its polyglot glory. The Italians of Carlton and Greeks of Footscray who came here in the middle of the last century and long since wove themselves into the city’s fabric cram alongside more recent arrivals from North Africa and the Middle East who adopted a team on arrival. That’s what you do here.

 

Yeah, it’s not perfect. There’s always some idiot that takes it too far, someone that starts a fight in or outside the ground, or takes the abuse beyond the white line of sporting combat into the red. But mostly it’s just a place where joy meets sorrow, where the deepest bonds of friendship, sometimes, are forged in defeat.

 

I miss her in the seat beside mine this year, though. Towards the end it felt like the last bit of glue holding us together. No wonder she split in December, after another failed finals campaign and the inevitable mini-depression of October, even as the weather began to turn. But the siren banishes the thought. The umpire holds the ball aloft. Bounce. Game on.

 

Maybe this will be the year. The one where Petracca pulls his finger out and becomes the player he’s promised to be for five years. Where big Maxy Gawn writes himself into the kind of legend that will demand his seven-foot likeness on the concourse, if they don’t bronze Jimmy Stynes or Robbie Flower first. It’s past fucking time they did.

 

Go Dees. Ah, it’s a grand old flag. It’s the best place, this. But that’s a low bar, isn’t it?

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