Saturday, November 29, 2008

Short Story

It Was a Dangerous Time

It was a dangerous time to live. It was a time of hurdy-gurdies, pogo sticks, sling-shots and billy carts without brakes. Added to the death defying aura was the fact that there were no such things as kneepads, elbowpads or any kind of protective gear. If you were lucky your dad tied a pillow around you as you headed to certain death down the nearest gravel slope. After all, we didn't need protective gear--our mums had Dettol and they weren't afraid to use it. The memory of gravel rash and the subsequent howling sting of antiseptic would have kept us awake at night if we hadn't been so darn tired after a day of roaming the countryside.

It was the sixties. Cycling was called push-bike riding. We didn't ride our bikes home quickly before nightfall for fear of cars even though we had no lights on our push-bikes. No, we rode like white lightning for fear of our parents' wrath. When mum called the clan to tea, her weary voice parting the chill of the late afternoon air, we had better run through the back door; or else. Not for us the eyestrain of the Playstation or the muscle twitches of the recumbent. Were we bored? Perhaps, but we would never have said so, because parents seemed to interpret boredom as the express desire to be put to work on household chores. Televisions were like stars; they only came out at night.

The days were ours, we ruled the streets. Once our wobbling first efforts at push-bike riding became the steady speed of success we were off and away. Those truly spectacular riders held the honour of being able to cross the local swing bridge without stopping. There was the added peril that our 'friends' might shake the narrow bridge as we traversed its swaying course, even though they had "crossed their fingers and hoped to die" that they wouldn't. Dangerous times indeed. Many were the tears shed by young enthusiastic lungs as the front wheel jammed between the struts leaving chafed limbs dangling over the creek below. However, the accolades and applause from the other children were worth the trouble. After all, there was no bragging about getting to the next level of the latest computer game. Our glories were simpler.

It was also the time of outside dunnies. The outside dunny prepared you for life in ways that an inside toilet could never achieve. The mere act of venturing outside in the middle of the black night was enough to give courage to the faintest heart. We were disturbed by the 'dunny man' stomping through yards in the wee hours of the night disrupting the well earned rest of working men and dogs alike.

Our house was similar to many others of the time, in that rooms had been added in a completely random fashion. Many home additions of the time were constructed without any council approval. So inch by inch the law had been flouted. Some houses had so many rooms tacked on that the original house was completely swallowed up. The usual practice was to add a verandah, put a roof over it and then wall it in. The same was done to carports. It was before the time when rooms were added for parents' retreats and ensuites. If you needed the loo while someone else was there you were told to cross your legs, shut up and buzz off.

I remember an Indian summer day where soft breezes blew. My mother was lamenting to my father the indisputable fact that she did everything for 'those children'. It was late afternoon when she warmed to her latest lament, "I have to do everything for those children, bath them, feed them, dress them and put them to bed." This particular day she pronounced that 'those children' were too dirty to even come inside. I can't remember why, but the tap outside our outdoor laundry had hot and cold running water. My father was a mechanical genius and was always inventing new ways of doing things.

The tap fitted our garden hose which meant that we were the only kids in the street who had a hot water garden hose. And this is what my father used to hose us down, along with a thick yellow bar of laundry soap. He stood back with the supreme air of one who has solved a difficult problem. My mother's face from the kitchen window said otherwise. There is nothing quite like a bit of nervous rebellion to get a fit of the giggles going and my brother and I laughed so hard it hurt. When my mother came outside to give my father "a piece of her mind" (a rather large piece apparently) she also became a target of the warm water from the hose.

We children fell about with the kind of hysteria only experienced by those who see something supremely funny but know that terrible consequences or death might only be seconds away. Our joy was complete. It was a moment of exquisite happiness.

As I said, it was a dangerous time!

Excerpt from 'Don't Be Stupid, Mum!'


Godfrey Clan said...

Hi Lin - so nice to have you blogging. Good to read your bits and bobs, hope a nice editor finds your stuff online and thinks it's good too!! You have such a way with words. Hope you and J are well, have a great week.

Anonymous said...


Bruce J said...

Interesting read, well done! (from the otherside of Australia) BjD