Longstanding readers will be aware that I have, from time to time, replayed on the pages of this blog mundane and uneventful episodes from what might at a stretch be called my life and times. The following unconnected snippets represent the scenes that presently lie on the cutting-room floor, perhaps one day to be retrieved and turned into their own little short film, perhaps not. I suggest you either take them or leave them.
Playing with my Melbourne cousins at my uncles Jack and Charlie's farm, and going a bit further down the steep, pine-planted embankment above the creek than we had intended. Looking behind us in the direction we had come from, it seemed an impossibly steep climb back up. We convinced ourselves that we were going to die, and one of my cousins kept saying that this must have been what God had planned for us, as if she believed it (or wanted to trick me into saying it). We survived.
Being allowed to go, without adult supervision, with my three older cousins (on my mum's side) to Charlie Brown's Beach (although I have never been quite sure if it is known by that name by anybody other than my immediate family), and my cousins letting me go out with them until the water was over my head. I have never felt any more special in my entire life than I did at that very moment.
Saturday nights at my Melbourne cousins' house, sitting in the central corner of their "modular" lounge suite, watching the VFL footy replay, and a bit later the Tattslotto draw, and observing, slack-jawed, at the way the entire family would compete against each other, at high volume, to guess which numbered ball would roll out next. On rare occasions I would get to stay up to watch some of the Penthouse Club with Mike Williamson and Mary Hardy, which I could never do at home. My mum had a venomous hatred towards Mary Hardy. Venomous hatred was not mum's style. I thought Mary Hardy must have been the most evil person in the world.
Buying my first cassette recorder, at Retravision in Dandenong (at the time, my second-favourite shop in the world, after Tim the Toyman at Chadstone), and discovering that if you recorded something that was in stereo the recording that you made would itself be in stereo. You can believe that this changed my life. It was as if somebody had told me that their mother was the South Gippsland Lego Lady and they could get me any Lego set I wanted. (Actually David Williams did tell me that; and of course I fell for it. Oh the bitter disappointment.)
Having nothing but candle light at home after a storm had (inevitably) put the power out. If the power went out I was in trouble if I tried to read, but playing cards was okay.
Being taken to the beach at Venus Bay by my aunt and uncle, wearing my good school shoes, being warned by my aunt not to get my shoes wet, and then, after a while, finding myself playing in the shallows with my shoes on. My shoes, of course, were sopping wet by then, and my aunt was having a pink fit. Things happen when you are a kid where, no matter how hard you try, the thing you weren't allowed to do, you do. And you get in trouble. And in a way it isn't really fair that you got in trouble, because you didn't do it on purpose, it just kind of happened.
I only have two memories of my time at the old house, where we lived until I was four. The old house had been built by a farmer, during the Depression, with whatever materials were to hand. It had then been moved, twice, before finishing up on top of the hill. It was not in any sense fancy, but as a toddler you don't notice these things. (Well, I might have two other memories, but I can't be sure that they are real memories because, unusually for my family, both of them exist in photographs.) The first of my two actual memories is of having a bad dream, where my stuffed-toy golliwog came to life and started saying bad and threatening things to me. (My rational adult self says this must have been a dream. My small child self would call my rational adult self a liar.) The second is of my Melbourne cousins coming to the house, and the oldest of them getting out a piano accordion, which looked like a fascinating and harmless collection of buttons and other stuff, but which, when she made a sound come out of it, without warning and very loudly, sent me running, crying, to my parents' bedroom. I still have a "thing" about accordions.
Kicking a soccer ball around the yard with my friend Weary. He was Manchester United and I was Leeds United. How the two of us had any idea of who, or what, Manchester United and Leeds United were, I will never know.
Being at my uncles' farm, with a different set of Melbourne cousins, all boys this time, and being the victim of a cruel but harmless prank. They took me for a walk after dark over towards the hayshed out past the old dairy, the hayshed where we often built forts and conducted full-scale wars, oblivious to any risk of the fragile edifice of piled-up bales of hay collapsing in on top of us. They distracted me briefly, and suggested I might like to walk in a particular direction. Like the fool I always was, I did what they asked me, and walked straight into an electrified fence. The humiliating thing was not walking into the fence, and subsequently jumping back in shock, to the tune of their teenage laughter. The humiliating thing was that I knew like the back of my hand the layout of the paddocks and fencing over there, but with the darkness, and the excitement of being asked outside, after dark (and being allowed to go!), with my cousins, I forgot everything I knew.
This next one was related to me many years later by my mother, who didn't usually tell me very much about things that had happened, but must have been carrying this around with her for so long that she couldn't bear to keep the truth from me any longer. What she told me was that the white kitten we brought back from Bateman's Bay when I was five years old didn't just "go away for a long walk", as she had said to me at the time; in fact, being deaf, as many white kittens are, it had been run over by our sharefarmer. I was kind of glad she eventually told me the truth. For what seemed like years after it had happened, I would often find myself gazing forlornly at the hills in the distance, wondering when that little kitten would come back home.