Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Writing Exercise #2 - TAFE 2001 - Illuminations in Cherry



I know where I was. I didn't know where I was going, but I know where I was. Passenger seat of that damned red car, several days, maybe even weeks, before it was smashed by a bread van that zigged when it should have zagged. I know what I would have been doing. The seatbelt would have been tight, it was always tight. Right up around my chin, it clicked into itself with a satisfying clunk, then proceeded to strangle me. Strangle me like my own increasing sense of failure. I would have been drinking Fruitopia, that weird mid 90tys iced tea drink with the inspirational hippy wording on the side - we drank that because no one told us to drink bottled water yet I think. Innovate. Challenge. Dream. That's what it would have said. In swirling letters. Bollocks to it. Not in Burnie we don't mate. Innovation? I've been kicked up the arse by the Toyworld Bear, you tell me who's dreaming hippy. It would have been hot - I can't say if it was hot enough that we got TV from Melbourne via fuzzy satellite imaging, just faint enough you could see Anke Huber in all her glory. Womens tennis players in the mid 90s, we took who we could get. I would have inevitably have some concocted scheme that would blow up in my face, some spun lie about Maths homework designed as if I was some kind of Del Boy of the Algebraic Market. I sold exam answers 1nce, don't tell anyone. I would be staring out the window as we drove into town, down the big hill, past West Park, past kids looking shifty or sometimes sticking their finger up at the car. A teacher did it 1nce, right in my face, standing at the lights, just flipped me the bird. He went missing later, it was on the 7:30 Report. We would only ever go to 2wo places on these trips - Coles or Indoor cricket. Ah, Indoor Cricket, what a failed and miserable chapter ye were. Played with horrible people - awful people, middle managers drunk on the last days of jobs for life, talking about their cars and their sex lives and their sex lives in cars...drunk before they played chinless wonders, how dare they fail to acknowledge my scratchy but valuable 12elve run contribution, all the while attractive Burnie middle climbing women hung around smoking and disparaging the lesbians on pitch 6ix. Maybe that's where I was going - I had a burst of enthusiasm for playing, but that was only because I had discovered that lazy conversational irony was easier to forge than anything meaningful. After all, 1ne simple mention of Neneh Cherry had allowed me to chat 1ne of the wives up for ages, without resorting to my usual nervy mid 90tys stock standard rubbish about the weather or what I would be when I grew up. Challenge. Innovate. Dream. Stuff that. Drop in something from the past, and let the good times roll I say. Shame what eventually happened to her - nasty business that failed perm. Still, all that was before me as I would have let the window roll down, and my mind wander over the football ground and out to sea, far, far away...

No wait, actually, I was going to the pool. Why was I going to the pool? Burnie Pool? Was the grafitti that said "Bad Dues" on there at that time, the 2nd D left off the same way chlorine was usually left off the pool attendants to do list? Why was I going to the pool? It'll come to me. Dad would have been driving. He wasn't to be fobbed off with Neneh Cherry references. He didn't even like Manchild. He was a poker and prodder, determined to know what I wanted to do with my life. Get out of this car and scratch out a quick few laps of the pool. Why was I going to the damned pool? I can't remember, it'll come to me. It was after work, he picked me up outside Maggies Bizarr. Or Bizarre. Or Bizar. Depends on how much paint Maggie had during a refurb. Initially Maggie was represented by an old gypsy lady on TV advertising, but they dropped her 1ne day to focus entirely on selling snowcones, and the shop lost a lot of lustre. He wouldn't have said much when he picked me up. He'd have asked how my day was, I'd have said good, and that would have that. It was an interesting time in our relationship. They felt - perhaps justifiably - that a lazy son lying on the floor doing nothing all day was perhaps a concern. Not much of a concern to me I must admit. I think on this particular day he was in a good mood, engaging in converation about Manchester United or something like that. Probably Mum had made a delicious meal of mince and tatties, and he was feeling good about life. He was a simple and honest man my Dad, a straight shooter, but I could deflect his probing simply by proclaiming Robbie Fowler a genius and watching him sort. Oh I was quite the evasive talker. Picking and choosing, that's all it took. I mostly remember Dad wouldn't mind if you cranked up the radio where as Mum would forbid it, saying it distracted her from driving. I still swear Mum hit a dog 1nce, right round the corner from her friends house. She denies it. I say sometimes she must have had the radio on. I know since Dad was driving the radio would have been turned up to 11even, but I wouldn't have understood that reference. Mum drove slower than Dad, and I had enough time to change into my Pakistani cricket jumper after work. Why Pakistan? Don't know, thought it was rebellious. Dad was swearing at a stray Volvo, he was always doing that swearing at Volvos and cars that were holding him up. 1ne day a guy chased him all the way home because Dad had tapped the horn and made an idiot gesture towards a Prius driver. Dad said he had raced home to get Mum, since Mum would have solved the problem and sorted the angry driver out. I could write a lot of words about Mum and Dads relationship, but somehow, that's all I ever need to say...my relationship with Dad, especially at the time, I sadly can't accurately sum up in such a simple short anecdote...best to talk about Robbie Fowler...

Why was I going to the pool? I really can't remember. Was it a date? Not with the pre bad perm wife? That's implausible even for me to believe. I know I didn't have friends - well I did, but I wasn't interested in talking to them. They were all high achievers, grade getters, sporting champions, nightclub hangers out. Apprehension was my enemy, I couldn't feel comfortable around people with plans. I wonder if I had told them about the Toyw...oh right, I had. I wish I knew then they were just louder than me, their lies more believable. Most of them were off their heads on drugs anyway, living in basements, studying with as much anxiety as any regular Joe. Who was good at conversational spinning after all? Maybe we were doing something for him, maybe we were picking something up. He was a teacher, what were we picking up from the pool? Why was he dropping me off then? Now I remember - I was getting fit for indoor cricket. It was a short lived phase, the sheer ick of public pools eventually got to me, and that's why Dad was in a good mood, he was happy I was doing something. It was our 6ix weeks of Blisstopia. Innovate. Challenge. Dream. Swim 6ix laps in a crappy pool and hope the girls don't laugh at how white you are and by the way mind that suspiciously coloured patch. I was eating an ice cream I think - a big chunky mint Cornetto - in the car so I suspect my commitment to getting fit was already waning. Coles in Burnie - it had such a culture of theft. You were supposed to get this little label put on what you bought so they knew you had purchased it legally, but no one cared. I never stole anything, I suspect they used it to fire you if they didn't like you, and I wasn't really the most popular member of staff. I had just had a blazing row with our Kathryn Harby a like night supervisor, something about tangellos or oranges - oh my woes with orange based fruit, will you ever end - in front of a customer. Had I been a better son, not only would I have offered him a bit of my honestly bought Cornetto, I probably would have articulated some of my fears and concerns to him in our car based travails, but it was too late for all that. We had, I've come to realise, the kind of relationship a cab driver has or had with a passenger. All he needed was a hefty flagfall rate and more right wing views, and that's all our relationship would have amounted to. At least he was proud of my newfound interest in swimming...

We never found out his name. We never found out if he lived or died. He was just sort of lying there, blocking the entrance to the pool. He didn't look well, I know that much. He looked a horrific colour, lying on the ground in a nylon tracksuit, just staring up at the sky while a crowd of ambulance chasers gathered around his wispy bearded face and gawped. There was an old woman in a cardigan, 1ne of those garish Jenny Kee numbers that died off in about 1986ix, she was doing some sort of oh the humanity over the top hand gestures, smacking her head over and over again like the Ayatollah had died. Our car was thus impounded by faux grievers, who had taken it on themselves to surround the collapser, although none of them seemed to be doing CPR or anything useful. Someone rather un-neccesarily tapped on our car and told us to give him some air. I failed to see how we were depriving him of air, while we minded our own business in some sort of hastily convened pool driveway, and certainly if someone has a bad toupee that keeps sliding off their head at every single point of their rant about giving someone some air, you better listen. I'm not sure anyone deserves to die, or certainly collapse, in the midst of a crowd of Burnie pool goers, some of them shrieking like wounded bears, others waving their arms around and trying to keep their syrup from falling in the pool and alarming children. All under a blue painted fence that said Bad Dues on it. We drove home, n swimming was done on that day, the rain fell on the ground, and if it was a date, she's still sitting there on the hill waiting for me. I'm sure I made some sort of attempted glib remark on the way home about kickboards just to try and lighten the mood - I'm absolutely obsessed with kickboards, they formed such a big part of my childhood - while Dad tried to be earnest about making sure each day was precious and to make the most of every opportunity. He would, I'm sure, have hung the keys up on our key rack, a piece of wood shaped like Tasmania his soccer team gave him, and tried to relate the death of a man to me not doing my maths homework. I'm sure I wouldn't have listened. The 2nd those keys hit the map of Tassie - matron - I would have been straight into my room, with nary a reflection on the fickle and temporal nature of life, but instead Anke Huber was probably playing Amanda Coetzer, and popular culture is and definitely was always a more interesting thing for me than big questions and big decisions...

There may have been innovation going on somewhere in Burnie that year, but it definitely wasn't going on in my house...

3 comments:

G said...

Neneh Cherry is an interesting choice for a music video.

I've only heard her sing once, on a duet with her brother, who goes by the name of Eagle Eye Cherry, and her voice was pretty good.

Kath Lockett said...

Oh Miles..... I feel so sad now... must ease it with a mint cornetto...

Miles McClagan said...

I'm doing my best to turn down Cornettos...I'm on a diet...must think only of fruit...must...

Neneh Cherry was good. Dunno what she does with her time now. I love Manchild. It makes me feel so young! She hasn't done anything since 7 Seconds I don't think...comeback due!