Open Letter from Ken Fife

Hi Mates,

As I told many of you, my wife and I have been dealing with a tsunami of events associated with our move to the U.S. that engulfed us starting around late April. It is now mid-August and I finally have some time to jot down thoughts reflecting on my experiences in Australia during the last three years, especially the chance to participate in Masters Squash. (I often equate Australia with Paradise in comparison to other places we could have been assigned, by the way.)

Even our first day in Australia was memorable. We flew from the US to Sydney in what I call cattle car class (otherwise known as Economy), suffered through customs, took the rubber band flight to Canberra, and then got whisked away to our three bedroom house in O’Malley by some good-hearted diplomats. We were suffering serious jet-lag. Lunch did not help. Afraid of disrupting our time zone adjustment by taking the nap that our bodies’ desperately wanted, we took a walk. We stumbled on to a dirt path that led to the Isaacs Ridge trail that runs most of the way from Hindmarsh to Long Gully Drive. It was not long before we spotted a mob of kangaroos. We considered it a welcoming committee! Seeing them on our first day is an experience we will never forget. The trail became our frequent and favorite walking path.

As I often said, squash turned out to be the most memorable and pleasant experience of my time in Australia, but I fought it at first. Racquetball was my sport of choice for almost 30 years (not that I was all that good at it), so I was determined to find a regulation racquetball court in Australia. I spent hours on Google from the US before we arrived. Not totally realizing the scale of your country, my net was cast from Perth, to Hobart, to Darwin. You can call me stubborn, but tenacious is preferred. One false lead was a racquetball organization that apparently fizzled out, and they had played in a squash court. I resigned myself to looking again once we arrived. After the fog of jet-lag lifted, I then looked with a passion. My poor wife, as usual, put up with me, thank God. I’m a lucky guy. More searching Google and now phone books! Nothing! Nada! Zilch!

We decided to find an American style health club instead. Maybe they would have a racquetball court hidden away in a back room. OK, I am a foreigner. We never found “American” style. It looked like Weston Creek would be close and they had something that made us think health club. We got lost trying to find it so we parked the car and started studying maps. Then my heart leapt several meters high! I heard the familiar sound of balls hitting walls. We jumped out of the car to investigate the building where the sound came from. As I timidly opened the main door and peered in, my heart sank to my feet. We had found a Cricket batting practice facility. Bummer!

Giving up on finding a regulation racquetball court, we went to check out Woden Squash. I was still thinking “American” style health club at the time. After quickly surveying the facility, the assessment was not good. No swimming pool, no free weights, no exercise machines, and they have an hourly charge for using the squash courts. Must be Australian! Then we met the loveliest woman named Vicki. She set me straight. You do not join and pay a monthly fee like in the US, she told me, but you can join ACT Masters Squash. Only problem is that the comp was currently in midsession. I could reserve. Vicki had to put up with my 1,000 questions like the saint like she is. You know, what is a comp, what is a reserve? Basic things a foreigner like me could have trouble understanding. With the start of the next comp, squash became a part of my life.  My wife and I also joined something close to “an American” style health club, the Active Leisure Centre in Wanniassa.

My life as a squash player started on rocky ground. I was a bit cocky as a fairly good racquetball player put in line 4 might be. I was determined to become a line 1 player. OK, we all do strive to improve, but I had no idea until one of my first games popped my bubble. She was a short grandmotherly type that looked like an easy win to me. To my shock, I was thrashed. Betty Summerfield has been playing squash for quite a while and I had a snow ball’s chance in hell of winning. We became mates instead (as I also consider all of you).  Of course I learned more than squash.  Waine took it upon himself to teach me Aussie slang, as many of you did too. I failed to remember every nuance of the vernacular, but will never forget your friendliness.

I will miss not only all the free coaching, advise, great exercise, competition and friendships of Masters Squash, but also the after squash dinners. What a great time I had enjoying your company and Australian delicacies like Jenny Moylan’s sausage rolls. Aussie meat pies were also up there and Rhonda Fry’s cooking was tops. Oh, and a beer or two of course.

ACT Masters Squash, thank you for being there for me. You are truly on the top of my list of all things Australian. The best experience ever. Please do contact me if you ever travel in the direction of Washington DC. We have a spare room and I would be happy to be your tour guide.

 

Cheers mates,

 

Ken Fife

E-Mail: ken@fifehome.net

Web Page: www.stylishshutter.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KenFife