Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Upper Video Burnie Shop

I've mentioned before that my primary school was one of the first to really move away from belts around the head - although there was a mythical cane in the principals office we suspected that was as mythologized as the Green Bubble O Bill Rebecca said she saw on holiday - and embrace the more hippy ethos of teaching. In fact in my own mind I remember entire afternoons of cloud shape selection and music sessions that never ended, mostly because the music teacher would bugger off and we'd be left a capelling Peter Coombe until the bell rang. I'm not sure that I learned a lot, except how to watch Never Ending Story so many times in an assembly hall that it really began to lose all meaning. As the schools resident intellectual I was given a fair amount of freedom in my afternoons to wander around eating Golden Gaytimes and pondering the nature of existence. Although a lot of my thoughts were how can I get my jacket on and is the big yellow caterpillar free and what is the true reasoning behind catch and kiss, my proficiency in doing my times tables meant that the teachers presumed whatever I was thinking about must have been pretty deep and I was given free run of the school, where as some other kids were treated like back up members of The Pussycat Dolls and more strictly supervised. By that, I mean they actually had to paint and sing and be accounted for, where as I could wander off on a 1ne hour errand to find the paint. It's fair to say that my thoughtful nature meant I couldn't truly appreciate the wonderful gift of a mid 80s Penguin childhood - my collection of stamps and football cards couldn't just be owned objects, they had to represent facets of my personality and be valued and catalogued for instance - but in most of my childhood memories I'm smiling like the woman in the KMart ad who's trying on clothes for her family. Only I wasn't as cute as her. I've searched my brain for any kind of childhood angst, and it must be there, but it really wasn't. Sometimes they didn't have a copy of British Soccer Weekly at the newsagent, and sometimes Upper Burnie Video Store was closed for renovations, but really I had a wonderful first 9ine years of my life. I wish I could get that time back, just milling around drinking lime spiders in Upper Burnie with 50c in 2c coins in my hand, but I don't want to go back to typing stories on the BBC Micro...the lag time would, like the proverbial steering wheel down the pants, drive me nuts...

Grade 3hree was a testing time though - as much as our hippy ethos that filtered down from lazy nuns and Miss Lennon in her sundress tried to eliminate competition, there was no real way they could stifle the growing sense of boys trying to be boys to impress girls but pretend they weren't, or stop the growing sense of loyalty we felt to our school sports colours. Even though our coloured skivvies were randomly assigned, it was probably somehow defining to us when one of us got green and one got red from the big clothes hamper. I tried to be above all of this - I figured races had a corinthian spirit, that we were all at one school, so why don't we get along? I had seen the destructive nature of competitiveness every time a kid called Scott went out to bat, and threw his bad into Mrs McGlumphers back garden when he was clean bowled trying to hit the ball into Mrs McGlumphers back garden, and I didn't want to go down that path. I had also taken extra precautions to make sure I didn't replicate lobster Sunday, where a bad case of sunburn had left me stuck in a cold bath for 24our hours one Sunday while life went on without me, and I smelled like a coconut so running wasn't on my mind that particular day. That was until Pippa, who I had a vague attraction to in the days before I knew what a vague attraction was supposed to be, told me that she wanted me to win as she shimmered around the monkey bars - she was always shimmering around those monkey bars, I'm sure in winter she caught a death - one hazy summers afternoon. Without entirely knowing why, I really wanted to win my race all of a sudden, and when I did win, for once winning a race that didn't involve neither egg nor spoon, she said I had run well. In hindsight, she spoke about as much as Yoda Pippa did, but what she said seems somehow more profound even in retrospect than the combined works of my bookshelf. Yes, Grade 3hree was a great time, the sun was shining, the bread was somehow thicker, I had Pippas congratulations, free run of the school, and a pass to sit up and watch WWF Superstars on Tas TV...who, as they would say, could ask for anything more...

The only fly in the ointment in any of these recollections from Grade 3hree, apart from the horrible time I experimented with a spike, was my twice yearly visit to the school dental van. I'm sure that like the last few pages of Fungus The Bogeyman that my fear of the dentist has been exaggerated over time, but I didn't like going to the dentist at all, and became convinced that she didn't like me. She was youngish, and had a bogan attitude with a pout that threatened to crack at it any moment, and who could blame her, as she had to plough through an entire schools worth of mouths just to get enough money to head out to a grim concrete mid 80s nightclub to be chatted up by yuppies in thin leather ties. I think she found me a bit too much to deal with, as in my intellectual role, I questioned everything, especially when it came to gnashers, so our chances of bonding weren't great, and we had no relationship at all by Grade 4our. This was based entirely on 2wo specific incidents. The first involved an argument that we had about exactly why I had to wear sunglasses when I was staring at the light when I had my head tilted back. In what was to become a foretaste of most of my relationships with women, we didn't progress much beyond the I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I level of arguing, and I was willing to put up with being blinded just to prove a point. After our argument, I was given a stamp on the hand like all the other kids, but I swear to this day my turtle was imprinted on my hand with a vicious strike. I still claim to this day my turtle was frowning from being stamped so hard. I emerged blinking into the light like Ulrike Meinhoff after her solitary confinement, and vowed that I would never have my teeth checked in those cramped conditions again. I'm sure all of this is exaggerated, I'm sure that the argument was one sentence long, I'm sure the stamp was actually a cat not a turtle, and I'm sure those leather ties were thicker than I imagine, but by the time the seconds on my chunky 80s stopwatch had rolled around to lunchtime, I had sworn vengeance on the dentist lady, just as sure as soon as I figured out how, and that was just as soon as I worked out how to win the biggest marble in Keiths bag, a shimmering blue one the size of a gold nugget...somehow lifes complications just seemed easier in Grade 3hree, but they were no less vexing...

My revenge, and this is a sentence I can't say very often, came in the lunch order bag queue about 6ix weeks later. We had a school fat kid, and I can't remember his name, but I know he was fat. Part of our hippy ethos school creed was a big commitment to sport - I think if I could have nailed a 3hree pointer from down town they'd have moved me up 2wo grades - so it was the wrong place and era to be the school fat kid. Poor guy couldn't even chow down on a Violet Crumble bar he was Kato attacked from behind the beanbag and told to jog around the playground. It was no surprise when they virtually had an intervention for the poor guy, and by modern standards he wasn't that fat, a little chunky around the legs, bit of a gut, no worse than the average suburban dad. Hell these days he could call it a lifestyle choice and demand respect. He took it reasonably well, and he and I had gotten on OK in the past, we'd discussed sports and cricket cards and so on, so I should have known that when I was walking past with my head full of thoughts, I'd be roped into the intervention. He was sitting quite quietly in a beanbag looking a bit perplexed as 2wo teachers and the school dentist were gently poking him, encouraging him to put down the mallows and swim in the shallows, and I walked past at a difficult moment in the conversation when it seemed all was lost. They shouldn't have pushed the dentist forward as the spokewoman, because she was promoting the benefits of cheese or vegetables or something, and with a plaintive smile and an attempt at the kind of debonair devil may care wit she used to chat up the thin leather tie brigade at Siroccos, she looked at me and asked if I liked cheese. No doubt meant to endorse the healthy lifestyle and provide a simple back up to their attempts, I instead looked at my bruised hand, said nup it's horrible, and has a racially offensive brand name, and walked off. I swear to this day the fat kid produced a Kit Kat from behind the beanbag, and chomped away happily while the dentist lady eyed me coolly but knew that we were somehow even...and I got to wander away to the monkey bars to hang around Pippa in the hope that she'd let her blonde hair billow in the wind and say something so profound that I'd only understand what it really meant 20ty years later...

Then again, maybe the whole thing never happened, but why do I have a large blue marble in my wardrobe....why indeed...

9 comments:

Samantha said...

I went to one of those dentist vans once.

I was going numb quick enough for her. She ended up giving me four needles. Told me to stop being a cry baby after I started crying when she hit a nerve drilling for a filling.

Never went back again.

Kath Lockett said...

"Put down the mallows and swim in the shallows" - you MUST get this printed on a t-shirt, Sir Brilliance!

Kris said...

I got the cane at Upper Burnie Primary School in 1988 for taking a lovely speccie on another kid's back during lunchtime kick to kick. I still bristle at the inequity of it all!

It was a good clean mark, didn't even get him dirty, but it mattered not to the principle, who obviously wanted to make a martyr out of me...

A Gust of Wind said...

this is...

a lot of writing...

too much to digest

sparsely kate said...

You're so lovable, Miles. And you make me remember so much about my own year 3 class.

Oh and this:

encouraging him to put down the mallows and swim in the shallows


made me laugh out loud. Cheers!

sparsely kate said...

A gust of wind: You have to be in the right mood to sit and concentrate on everything Mile's writes and then, it's a slice of heaven. Like Dave Dobbin he is.

Miles McClagan said...

Those things are scary...you are trapped in a horrible cramped space, and it really puts you off caravans...that's terrible, she mucked up and you are a cry baby? Bad...

Well it was either that or put down the Gaytime and get into Playtime...which isn't as innocent as it was in 86...

What? What manner of madness was that? If you take a speckie, you have to cop it? At our school, you'd have had a photo taken for the wall my Mr Nelson...

Sorry, that comment was too hard to digest, so I've moved on...

Ah, Dave Dobbyn...where would Syrup be without it! Locked up that's where! Best compliment ever!

Kris said...

The principal was new, and I believe endeavouring to "stamp his authority".

Personally, I believe that he was trying to make up for a time when I mistakenly - genuinely a mistake, not a "deliberate" mistake - hit a teacher in the back of the head with a Vegemite sandwich. So in a sense it was a square up for the perceived wrong.

Really, it was an APPALLING abuse of power.

Miles McClagan said...

I'm both shocked and apalled...

Principals, no good at all. They think they are so high and mighty...someone ought to take them down a peg!