I RECKON they were good signs. Literally. I’m out in the Queensland countryside on a man hunt. Well, I’m actually meant to be doing a story on polo. But I know bloody bugger all about horses, contrary to what I told the editor of a new horse magazine whose title sounds suspiciously like the tome for which Hugh Grant pretended to write in the film Notting Hill. And so I do what Hugh did. First rule of journalism: fake it till you make it. Second rule: hope like hell you figure it out somewhere along the way. (For the record, I’ve been doing this for 25 years now and suspect any day now I shall get caught).
But I wasn’t entirely lying. We did have a pony when we were children which one of my sisters ridiculously called Fairy Twinkle. I’d never call a pony Fairy Twinkle. Particularly a male pony such as ours. Unless it was gay. But no one was gay in 1970s Queensland. Not even my two uncles who wore tight white shorts, as many rings on their fingers as Liberace and lived with other men. They were the only men back then who crossed their legs when they sat down. Which in my opinion gave the game away. Mum insists to this day it was because they lived in New Zealand.
But I digress. My sister most prone to nostalgia believes it was she who gave the horse such a stupid name. Fairy Twinkle died on the eve of one of our sports carnivals, and our parents didn’t tell us, because they feared it would “upset our performance”. Just for the record, there was no “performance” to upset – the girls in my family more apt in scholastic than sporting abilities, only just beating the fat kid to last place. The day after the sports carnival Mum sat us all down and simply said: “Fairy Twinkle has gone to the glue factory”. And then she went all Senate Estimates Committee on us and refused to take further questions.
So here I am, on a sunny September reminiscent of my sports days, out in the country about to write about a polo game. I’m told there will be men. Plenty of stallions. I’m driving to country Canungra and the first sign is a good one. It simply says: “Boyland”. I drive a bit faster and sing along to Katy Perry. Five minutes later, I past through another town: “Wonglepong”. If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. Canungra’s Café Metz is full of men in army fatigues when I arrive, but men in uniform scare the anti-authoritarian in me. Instead, I grab a coffee and sit under a sign which simply states: “Today Is My Lucky Day.” Another sign.
I’m here to interview Australia’s top polo player and my photographer friend Cathy is here to shoot him (not literally, as my accountant Shaun thought recently when he saw that I was claiming my phone on my annual tax return for “shooting” jobs). Cathy and I both like a bit of eye candy and the prospect of spending the warm afternoon with a bunch of hot men and getting paid to do so is all rather attractive. If only we could get to the men. You see, there’s the issue of the horses, who seem to have taken a liking to both Cathy and me. At one point I feel some rather rapturous breathing down the back of my neck, followed by a slow, sticky, unmistakable slobber. It seems Mr Ed has gone all horny and has found the back of my head a rather attractive prospect. Meanwhile, Cathy isn’t faring any better, and with each click of her camera, the mob moves in and she’s flat out photographing the subject.
But professionals that we are, we spend six hours on this job, Cathy shooting it till it’s dead (again Shaun, if you are reading this I don’t mean murder) and me, tiptoeing through the tulips of manure and interviewing every human I can find. Which is where I stumble across 72-year-old Jim MacGinley. Jim’s been playing polo for 52 years and he’s my go-to man about how to find a fella on these fields.
“Well, it would be best to be a player…you can take that whatever way you want,” he chuckles outrageously as his naughty joke.
“The Aussie boys are there for the games and want to play polo. Go to England or the US if you are looking for a fella with money and Argentina if you are looking for a playboy.”
And hence we two fine fillies leave the polo field. Hot, a bit bothered, with no fellas but a nice story, some great pics and a good tip on how to find a polo player. Don’t be surprised if next time you read me, I’m off to South America. Chasing a story about a horse, of course. Just don’t tell my accountant.