Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sleeping alone in a field

If Moonah through circumstance remains, poetically perhaps, the winter of my discontent, it's probably un-surprising that my happy memories are all pretty much tied to my years living in Penguin, shopping at Cut Price Sams for Bubble O Bills and having really long summers out the back trying not to hit a cricket ball into the pampas grass. I'm aware as I get older that it wasn't Penguin that was so wonderful so much as my youth, and my ability to run around and around in a circle until I fell down if I so wanted. It's probably one of the reasons I don't go back - the family Xmas of 2000 nearly broke the spell and allure and I don't want to do that. Everything I ever learned in life pretty much started in Penguin, fashion, how not to ask for a Golden Gaytime, that when the siren sounds at a football ground you really should come off. To explain that, at 1/4 time in Australian Rules Football you used to be able to walk onto the ground to hear the coaches address to the team. It's where I learned all of my swear words and where I saw the classic 80tys moment of women with paddle pop sticks scraping mud off the players boots. It's also where I heard the Penguin equivalent of I Have a Dream, a coaches speech about netballers and skirts which is still being recited in pubs to this day. We were playing Latrobe, and at 3/4 time, as the crowd dispersed, I probably saw something in the shape of the clouds that I had to study, and as I stood staring up at the sky, the game was held up for about 3hree minutes while I wandered around quite oblivious to the drama, until an announcement had to be made over the PA can that kid get the hell off the ground. That's why I was so happy in Penguin, I could just wander around thinking and playing, without a care in the world. It surprises me sometimes when my Mum sometimes says I was a whinger when I was younger, because I don't remember ever whinging about anything other than the time Joe Brown turned the hose on me or the time they took off Wide World Of Sports and put on some nonsense called Live Aid...I mean who's going to remember that, Peter Gilligan reading the sports, that's what the people will remember...no wonder I went to my room all day, huffing and puffing...

One thing I realise I've lost as I've got older is summer - summer in Penguin was always a fantastic treat. As soon as the last of the board games was packed away and the last school chair was on the last desk, summer began. Even though by modern standards, those summers weren't exactly technologically exciting, since the most exciting advance we had was when it was really warm we could tune in Melbourne TV, it was still fun. There was a little general store around the corner with a KISS make up set in the window - still there in 1992 - which seemed like Willy Wonka to a youngster, given the amount of chocolate that was available, even though in hindsight my description of the owner of the store simply sounded like wonka. By the time I moved back to Penguin after 4our years of living in Scotland, everything seemed incredibly small, including my mind, after a large dose of what you might call the real world - drug dealers at school, that sort of thing - and flint hard Ayrshire cynicism. To my discredit I was horribly snooty about the place even as everyone around me worked overtime to keep my face straight. I was a little bit like Mums friends sisters who picked up the local paper, the Mercury, and bemoaned the lack of news about Scotland when they were here on holiday, and I'm sure that the fact I couldn't find the right kind of bread to toast caused a few troubles, little pains masking life changing despair. The little kid who stood at the bottom of South Road and said Penguin was a beautiful county was long gone, and I think it took a while to rediscover my love of the place. It was the little things that made me rediscover why I liked the place - particular ice creams, friendliness in the newsagents, and probably the tranquility of Hiscutt Park. Once I found my spot - the spot in which I could compose my thoughts - I felt a great deal better about everything. That when I listened to my thoughts, they were poisonous and bitterly homesick, I find that natural, logical and it certainly wasn't Penguins fault...apart from the people who laughed every time you asked for a Golden Gaytime at Alannah Hills Dads Milk Bar...that was entirely Penguins fault...

I admit though that I love people who spend all their time thinking about the old days. Moods are so interchangable that thinking about a glorious past is to cut out all the negative feelings, and focus on how wonderful it was to live in the pre 87 economic bust. There's a pub in North Hobart called The Black Buffalo, where only the barmaids stay young. A man pulling up a bar stool at 40ty can very quickly find himself waking up at 60ty with David Byrne handing him a big white suit and posing some questions. Time stands eternally still, a parade of blonde uni students left to fend for themselves amidst a stream of innuendo and routine from the patrons. To them, to the patrons, it's a mecca, an old fashioned pub, but there's a dining bit attached to it, a big glass room full of wooden furniture and good new fashioned family fun as kids tuck into fish fingers in a basket. Even though only scampi should come in a basket. It's a strange meeting of old school thinking and new school thinking, as manly old men in flannel shirts bemoan a world that they don't understand before heading over to the football to do the whole thing in an entirely new setting. Never breaking from a long established pattern of nostalgic yearning and fast drinking, they must have had a day when the plans for the adjoining family restaurant were unveiled and grumbled about it as more modern thinking. The trouble with nostalgia is it clouds every moment of the present. I had to cut myself short, and still do, when I start muttering about how football was a lot better in my day. An old boy meanwhile is in the corner of the pub, hitting physically one of the computerised betting machines. Disgustedly, he curses in the general direction of the ceiling fan all kinds of curses at modernity as the blonde behind the bar contemplates just how long it will take to finish her degree and get out of there, and a bespectacled barkeep fills in his football tipping and pretends nothing has happened. Our eyes are all drawn towards the simple fact that the betting machine isn't plugged in, but we figure from the craggy drawn lines on his face and the Maurie Fields style way he keeps saying the phrase mongrel that the old boy deserves to let off some steam, and besides, I know tomorrow I'll be stuck in traffic muttering similar curses about how, in my day, we didn't have so many gas guzzling 4WDs, and when I curse, I'm sure I'll miss a gap by which I can accelerate through the traffic...Black Buffalo, warm me up a barstool, I don't get todays modern world, I need the horse and cart to make a comeback...

My Mum used to say when I asked her that the best day of her life hadn't happened yet, a typically Glaswegian response. My best day - concession being so far - was probably some time in the golden summer of 1986. It was the year my trampoline flew down the street in a hurricane and we had to chase it down the road. That trampoline, even with it's ability to electric shock me in a variety of ways, was my crowning achievement in my first 8ight years. A real realisation of a goal, in that I had spent most of my year nagging, cajouling and seeking a trampoline, and then when I got it, I felt like I needed a cigarette, such was the satisfaction I felt at my achievement. That would be a candy cigarette of course straight from that little packet with the drawn on cowboy before a tedious family group got them banned. I had planned an entire summer of doing nothing but bouncing, lying, and then bouncing some more. Before then, one of the nuns organised an end of day softball game, which to me just got in the way of lying on a desk with Sarah playing Operation. Such tedious nunnery was an early example of the nunny state, making people do things like play sport when there were perfectly good board games to play. As it happened, I hit the winning run, off the last pitch of the last action of the school year of the best year I had had to then off the school jock in fading sunlight to general approbation and appreciation before heading off to a blistering summer of excitement. Even though this scene plays out in my head like the dying scenes of Major League, some things don't add up. Was it really a big home run or did I just bunt it and someone else scored? Was it fading twilight or just lunch time? Was it the school jock or the school nerdy girl with hair in a bow and an inhaler who pitched the ball? Do I just remember it all wrong and have elevated it to some magic moment? The last time I was in Burnie, I began to doubt myself, lay down in the middle of my old school field, and decided that whatever the truth, the past didn't have this obsessive desire to video tape every single moment, which made me happy that I could tell my own story how I wanted, and let it stand as a perfect moment. As I said, it's why I don't go back to Burnie or Penguin all that often. As I lay in that field, a janitor began mowing the lawn around me, but I didn't care, I was happy, content, as I always was, and not even Groundskeeper Willie on a Victa was going to disturb a long stream of happy, fantastic memories...

Then I come back to Hobart, and create new memories that for the most part are equally good...I guess you could say things aren't too bad...

10 comments:

G said...

Nostalgia.

It's amazing how we take the moments of our youth (especially the bad moments) and turn them into something magical.

sparsely kate said...

I had my childhood (until I was 9 anyway) in Brisbane and so I remember a lot of the same things. How NOT to ask for a 'golden gaytime' at the milkbar...buying those little FAGS lollies (until yes, some nitwits Fred Nile groupies) had them banned...I remember summer holidays feeling like they would last forever and the electric shocks off the damn trampoline. They hurt!

Yeah, it's not so bad getting older I suppose because we're able to write posts like this one remembering every single thing about being a little kid and finding it fills us up with the warm glow of nostalgia. I like nostalgia.

Miles McClagan said...

I know - and there's no doubt in my mind mid 80s Penguin had it's faults, I just can't remember them...

You know I completely forgot they were called Fags...between that and Golden Gaytimes, good times! My trampoline used to send out suckers...agony...and yeah, I couldn't have done this blog at 18teen. The overuse of LOL would have been depressing!

the projectivist said...

hey
have you seen how often they play that Golden Gaytime commercial lately? it's the original version with that geeky guy in the glasses. Golden Gaytimes, for geeks only it would appear.

seems we're in the middle of a Golden Gaytime revival. funny how they haven't revamped it. my children asked me to explain why it's called Gaytime. that was a funny conversation.

Mrs Slocombe said...

LOL hasn't been around that long, has it Miles?
I think that you are like Penelope, unweaving your post every night and then somehow spinning the same wool into a new and even more diaphanous nightie: except that your suitors are checkout chicks with blue eye shadow, and Odysseus isn't coming home.......

Miles McClagan said...

Have you ever seen Sean Micallefs Halls Lemonade advert? That's the definition of 80tys geekdom. Big glasses! I say bring back The Big M ad with the subliminal use of milk...

I distinctly remember getting e-mails in 97 that contained ZOMG, so I presume LOL was around...obviously :) was...I think I'm more like Penelope Pitstop - in a race I can't ever win as long as Dick Dastardly is chasing me. Awesome to see the word diaphanous is the blog though...

Christina Bledsoe said...

What wonderful memories. I am sad to say that I did not have a good childhood, in fact, it was terrible, but I was able to get a sense of what a great childhood must have been like reading this post. Good story-telling, I loved it.

Miles McClagan said...

Thanks mate. I'm sorry you had a crappy childhood - mines was good up until age 9ine, it was all downhill once I made double figures! The memories of Penguin though are really strong, and really fantastic...

Baino said...

Ok I've had enough sexual tension with Blue Eyeshadow Girl and it's time you asked her out. As for Good Friday being boring . .you should have come with us to the Easter Show or Bogun Bash as I prefer to call it and watched "Utes on Parade".I'd have bought you a pink candy floss wig and given you a pair of inflatable blue boxing gloves and you could have listened to John Williamson singing True Blue! Hoot mon!It was a truly cultural experience

Miles McClagan said...

John Williamson has never really topped Rip Rip Woodchip for mine...a classic tale about woodchips and, er, ripping! All I did on Friday was watch the Goodies and step outside for 2wo minutes to get the paper. No movement at all!