Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Middle Of Nowhere

I'm really really proud to have lived in Penguin on the North West Coast of Tasmania when I was younger. I lived across the road from the football ground, the hub of the community back in the days before AFL ruined everything that was once good about local football. I loved the jumper the Penguin team wore, since it was dark blue and light blue vertical stripes, a design no one else in Australia had. I loved Hiscutt Park, although I liked it better before it had a name and got a bit poncy. I loved how incredibly fierce and violent the girls basketball competition was (which has lead to my lifelong love of womens wrestling I think). I loved the Penguin shaped rubbish bins. I loved the local milk bar, I loved that on one day we got a new Soapbox and a new Sock Shop, and I loved the long sandy beach that seemingly went on forever, only to come to a crashing halt on a big pile of stones and rocks. It really was a lovely place to spend a childhood, and I really have a lot of local pride (hey, theme!) for the area.

Of course, when I was a bit older, I hated the place as well. Nothing happened. Ever. It was like someone hit the pause button in 1984. It really was the kind of place where Sunday seemed to last a month, and the month seemed to last a year. It was pretty predictable as well. You could tell what day of the week it was after a while by the cakes in the window or by who was collecting their mail. When we moved back there, it was like the entire world had stopped moving for me. Stupid things would bother me - if I saw the same girl two days in a row, I would think life was really boring and want to see different people. We didn't have proper TV, and I couldn't get Irn Bru. Stupid little things that add up to a million little things that add up to massive despair. I would lie in my room immensely frustrated that nothing was happening. Secretly, I would sneak out of the house late at night away from my parents and just walk around. That's why I know what was on sale late at night in the park - I think I ended up selling some tapes myself there one night, although this may be a trick of my imagination (like thinking Chris Tarrant was ever a good player).

A lot of people in conversation ask me if I've ever been truly happy or truly sad, and to be honest, I was both in one night. Now, I don't have any real regrets in my life apart from the usual - I've never left a girl stranded at the altar, I've never shot a man just to watch him die, my regrets are probably to do with time wasted (and never meeting Vilimaina Davu). I could have worked harder, I could have done more with my life, but I don't regret it. It is what it is. But I wonder what my life would have been like if I had really run away the night that I planned to. I couldn't see any good at all in Penguin, and absolutely no way out of my lonely boring life, and so, one night, I went to run away, took some meagre possessions, two hundred dollars and set off out the house really quietly, determined to have a new life away from this town that I couldn't stand.

Now, everyone has done this I'm sure, but I really wasn't doing it for attention, I was genuine about somehow getting back to the UK. Problem was, I decided to sleep in the Penguin football club grandstand. This wouldn't have been a bad thing, especially considering someone (oh the trust of the early 90s) had left two doors unlocked, and I could get easy access to food (all the Orange Jaffa Big Ms and Cherry Ripes a boy could want) but as I was just about to go to sleep (my memory might be off here, I might have been sleeping in the middle of the ground, to be hardcore) I saw the most beautiful star I've ever seen in my entire life. It wasn't just twinkling, it was glowing so brightly, it was illuminating the whole town, lighting up the sky, making it impossible to sleep, but also lighting up the houses dotting the skyline, almost to the point I could see people individually, fighting, arguing, loving, living. Everyone with their own problems, everyone with their own lives, but all of them facing up to them as best they could. It really remains an important part of my life, the night I realised that I could never run away from myself, and while from time to time I've tried, I always really remember that clearly - and how beautiful Penguin looked on that cold October night.

And that's why I always try and have as much local pride as I can - the people in Tasmania are just good people, making the best of what they have. Even with a terrible radio station...

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