Fountain

The Club Hotel was the hub of Clunes. At seventeen I worked in the kitchen. It was busy. Real fucking busy. A huge colander of frozen shrimp sat in an even bigger bowl, full of water thawing. I scratched and pulled at the shrimp flesh with my rubber gloves, trying to free them. The heat in there was oppressive. Sweat trickled drown my brow. The chef hollered from behind me that he needed his shrimp for the cocktails. The fresh water running over them was mesmerizing. I was dazed. I needed a beer.

Dirty plates stacked high in the buckets. Dirty knives and forks by the hundreds. Half eaten rare steak, scalloped potato cream and peas crammed between plates. The industrial washer pounded its way through them, tray after tray. Steam billowed from its walls and out into the blistering kitchen. Summer of 1992 was here already.

I wiped down the last of the benches. The kitchen had grown quiet and had cooled. The hum of the walk in fridge whirred behind me. I stood still, I was spent. A typical Saturday night. I threw the tea towel into the wash and knocked off. At seventeen, there were better things to be doing than working until 11 pm on a Saturday night. I was meeting the guys in the park before we headed to a party.

The trio sat on the picnic seats in the Collins Place Park. Footy shorts and tees or a singlet. It was a warm night. Crickets were chirping. Moths flicked around the street lights. None of us were eighteen yet. I heaved the carton of Carlton Cold onto the bench. I had my ways. The beer was cold and gassy. One of the guys grabbed the carton and we headed to somewhere out of sight. Although it was dark, the street lights reached the back of Collins Place, from the main street.

We laughed and joked about something or someone. One of them bounced a footy. I was comfortable and at ease around the guys. We grew up together, we were mates. One of them flirted. I ignored. I wasn’t particularly keen on any of them. Our feet scratched through the gravel. It was still and quiet apart from our laughing. Someone suggested Queens Park, so we made our way there. Crossing the bridge and looking over the rail, the creek was almost dry, just dribbling. The moon hit some ripples and bounced back at me.

It was dark in the park, just enough of the street lights and moon filtered through the conifer trees. The ground was dry and dusty. Worn and weathered from years of neglect. The trees had stopped any grass from growing. The creek trickled in the back ground down below. The air was cooler in here under the trees. We settled on the fountain edge and drank our cool beers. The old concrete fountain was empty, it hadn’t flowed my entire life in Clunes. It’s base was cracked and worn. Pieces of it were missing. Broken glass littered the bottom with dried nettle leaves from the trees. It was a pity its three tiers didn’t flow with water.

We weren’t sitting for long when a quietness sat down with us. It wasn’t often we sat quiet. Laughing, friendly banter and jokes flowed easily all the time. Perhaps the beer had lulled the hyper and our senses. Some locals passed by the park not noticing us. In the build back to the chat a dare was made. Kiss Ben, Nom! No way, as I recoiled, giggling. I had never even considered kissing Ben up until that point.

He was a mate. A really, fit… and HOT mate. His blonde hair cut to a flat top covered by his black CCC cap. Freshly shaven he smelled of something, nice. His bare broad shoulders heaved as he sat down beside me. He straddled the edge of the fountain. My head spun. My guts churned, or was it butterflies? The other two had wandered away leaving us alone, giggling among themselves. My hormones raced through my blood. My head pounded. I swung to him. His face was at mine. Holding for a time we just sat. Should I move closer? Was he as nervous? Did he even want to kiss me? Did I want to kiss him? The awkward lingered, resting between us. Our eyes darted back and forth, making contact and pushing away.

He lent forward, resting his hands beside me. Urging forward our lips met. Hunger comes to mind, when I think of that moment. We kissed.

The rest is a lot of history and I am happy to say I married that mate. Twenty two and a half years later he still rocks my little world. I still get butterflies when his car pulls up in the drive, and the excitement of when he smells great makes my head spin. That kiss on that one night might have been a dare, but if it didn’t happen we might have never happened at all. We might never have had two beautiful boys and my life might have been some other dare. I’m glad it isn’t. It’s not always love at first sight. Ben might tell you different. Mine was a tiny seed planted by a dare, that over the years grew into a beautiful love. Our love.

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That same fountain now flows in Queens Park, in Clunes. It’s refurbishment a few years ago was a delight to hear. I wonder often how many others had their first kiss there? How many were dared and how many weren’t. We went back there for photos on our wedding day. I could think of no better place than where it first started. Can you?

fountain

Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!

Nom

Pumpkin Patch & Popcorn

Horses aren’t one of my favorite things. They were for a period, however over the years a couple of experiences have steered me away from them. I can ride, that’s for certain. Well I could! Not sure about now though, getting on one might be a task with me being older, less flexible and somewhat heavier than in my youth. Not to mention the issue of breasts. Horse riding and an ample bust are really not friends, unless of course you’re wearing a sports bra, crop top or two, and a straight jacket over the top. This story isn’t about riding though. Nor is it about breasts.

Clunes lies next to an old volcanic mountain, Mt Beckworth. Back when it was formed it threw volcanic rock all over the area. Gnarly, pitted volcanic rocks, some the size of your palm, others the size of a small car and every size in between. The block of land we lived on was cleared of these. On the edge of the big paddock, rocks were piled high into small mountain not far from our fenced off corner in the paddock. My sisters and I would often play on the rocks. They were sharp and dangerous. Scotch Thistles grew in between them, creating a wall of thistles around the base of the rock mountain. A volcanic rock castle.

This castle was guarded by the two resident horses owned by our ‘block’ landlords. A black and white Paint called Pumpkin Patch and a brown woolly Shetland Pony called Popcorn. Over the years on the block we had grown fond of the horse and pony. We sometimes fed them carrots and apples. A mucus and froff feeding frenzy at the ring-wire fence. You had to be careful of Popcorn. Shetlands are notoriously unpredictable and without any warning will charge at you, kick you or bite you. Popcorn had his nasty streak, you could sometimes see it, looking in his eyes. Big brown shiny eyes, glaring at you… stay the fuck away they would beam. So we did. Most of the time…

We were playing around the rock castle. Nothing remarkable, just a normal, windy as fuck, overcast day on the block. At some point through the day I decided it would be cool to lead the horse and pony around. We had done this before, it was all good. Popcorn followed me through the knee-high grass on the lead. Scotch Thistles prickled through my track suit, leaving an itchy tingle. Trot, trot, trot. Round and round in a figure eight. My sisters watched from the rocks. Pumpkin Patch the Paint watched from the other side of the castle.

Unleashing Popcorn I approached Pumpkin Patch. He stood still, ears pricked, one twisted around. His flank twitched, flies flicked around his eyes. His eyes. His eyes. I remember seeing this look before. I slowed my pace as I neared him and held my hand out as an offer. Right then is when I shit myself.

His heavy body lunged forward, black eyes glaring at me. His ears pushed back against his head and his lips gnarled back. He flicked his hairy head towards me, lips exposing his brown horsey teeth and in a flash he had a hold of my ear. I squealed. Fuck I squealed as he knocked me to the ground. Grabbing at my left ear, I rolled into a fetal position. My sisters were yelling at me to get up. Get up Nom, get up! I could hear his hooves pounding around me. Launching onto my hands and knees I scrambled to the castle. It seemed so far away. Thistles biting at my hands, and legs. He pounded behind me. Looking to the rocks I scampered towards them, towards my sisters who were yelling at me. Hurry they yelled, he’s coming. My knees slammed into the ground, flailing towards the rocks I scrambled like a raving lunatic.

Clutching at my ear and clambering up the rocks I was greeted by my sisters who were laughing their fucking heads off. I was in shock. Crying, clutching at my ear. That fucking horse has bitten off my ear. He paced around the rocks. Hunting us. Whinnying and shaking his head. His beady eyes watching our every move as we sat on those rocks for a while and assessing my ear. Blood was everywhere and my ears and head pounded. Making a run for it to the fence we clambered through it, onto our bikes. Pumpkin Patch trotted at us, stopping short of the fence and followed us all the way to our corner.

Thankfully, my ear wasn’t bitten off, it was merely snipped through the cartilage at the top, only requiring a few butterfly tapes to hold it in place. Ears bleed a lot, did you know? Pumpkin Patch surprised me that day. Horses have an unpredictable streak about them, and I hadn’t seen it in him until that day. Of course we all got in trouble. Me for being silly enough to lead the horses around, and my sisters just for being there. We were told to stay away from them after that. My lesson was learned. They got no more apples and carrots off me from then on and I was happy to stay away.

Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!

Nom

Fork

LIke most kids, I grew up watching my parents canoodle. The odd pinch on the ass here or a quick grab of a tit there. There was never a real sexual buzz about it, it just, ‘was’. Dad was a real Romeo. The Don Yuan of farts, ass slaps and dry humps. The kitchen sink was often a place for him to pounce, while mum had her hands distracted in the sink. He would tower over her, arms roaming, hips grinding and the canoodle would begin. She would giggle, pushing him away, flicking suds every where. It was normal. Dad is the eldest of eight children, and was the shortest of the five boys, standing at six feet two inches. The term “built like a brick shit-house” was used widely to describe my Dad and his brothers. Mum was much shorter in height, but what she lacked in height, she made up for in wit. She was a firecracker with short, jet black hair and a tongue like a whip. More often than not, the canoodling would end in a “Piss off”, Dad would oblige and the dishes would get finished.

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Christmas was generally when all the family would be home together. The odd occasion for big birthdays, footy finals or weddings brought them home too. Brothers and sisters, with their wives and all their children, crammed into the kitchen, the lounge and anywhere else we could fit. It was a hive of activity at Gran and Pop’s when we were all home.

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Meal times were especially full on and fun. Keeping meals simple and making plenty to feed all the mouths wasn’t always easy. Roasts were common, so too was Toad in the Hole, but curried snags was my favorite. Hiding under the green laminate kitchen table was sometimes the safest place to be, and the most interesting. Overhearing gossiping whispers, and listening to dirty jokes. My ears should have been bleeding by the age of eight.

The sweet, rich aroma of a roast lamb lingered in the house this one night. My parents and another aunt and uncle were clearing up, doing the dishes and scraping the scraps for the dogs in the kitchen. The telly was buzzing in the background in the lounge, while everyone chatted and laughed. The old aluminium kettle hissed as it heated up for the cuppas. Kids lay over the threadbare carpet in the lounge, while others played out the front on the grass. It was relaxed and warm.

From the kitchen we hear commotion. Laughing, bellowing laughter, pans clanging and the kitchen floor boards creaking. Dads booming voice laughs “ya bloody bitch!” We all race to the kitchen to find Dad standing in front of Mum at the sink. He was wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. “You stabbed me ya bitch!” Now to most kids, hearing your Dad calling your Mum a bitch would have been concerning… not in our house, not in our family. Mum was known as the ‘Black Bitch’. Her jet black hair and sharp tongue earned her that title and she LOVED it. She lived by it. You never crossed Maisie. Dad turned to us and hanging from his leg was a roasting fork, bouncing up and down, prongs half way in his jeans. We all stood there with mouths open wide, staring at the fork.

In between all the laughing and snorting we finally learned how it come to land in his leg. Being the usual Romeo he had taken advantage of mums vulnerability at the full sink. Hands roaming, he was warned as usual with the Piss Off. He continued and she threatened him with, I’m holding a roasting fork. Clearly he thought mum was joking. Clearly she wasn’t. That fork landed in his thigh, through his denim jeans and deep into his flesh. That story is one of the funniest our family witnessed. The night the Black Bitch stabbed Rod with a roasting fork.

He never learnt his lesson. They kept on canoodling at the kitchen sink and each time the fork would be mentioned. It’s how they rolled, it’s who they were. They were happiest when they canoodled and I was happiest when I was watching them.

Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!

Nom

Val

Yesterday I cut the hair of clients daughter. Not a huge deal I know. It was the conversation I had with this little girl who took me back to a day I’d rather forget, but never have. My five-year old client was doing an exceptional job of sitting so very still and straight, while I cut her hair. A dramatic change from hair halfway down her back, to a long bob just long enough to tie up. She was very excited about her change but as the cut went along she grew a case of the wiggles. Sitting for a period of time for an adult can be hard, let alone a five-year old. So I thought I’d distract her with my story, to encourage her to sit still for a little while longer. And, she did. The version I told her was less graphic, yet got the point across. She’s a smart little cookie.

I wasn’t much older than my client. It was the days of Gene Wilder in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, and hoola hoops. Late in the day we had finished our baths, jimmy jams on and ready to watch Charlie on the G Marts TV. Mum sat me down in front of her, and ripped a brush through my tangled and wet, fine hair. I could almost sit on my hair back then. It was a huge amount of work. One hundred strokes with a brush every day. I detested it as much as I loved it. A love hate relationship with my flyaway mousey brown hair. I’m sure Mum felt the same. As I sat in front of mum, she asked if I would like rollers in my hair to give it a curl. She had bought them earlier that day. “No way!” I screeched. That was totally not cool. What if somebody saw me? Yup, not likely in Rainbow, but regardless, I was adamant it was not happening. I didn’t want my hair curled. I just wanted to watch Charlie. Mum pondered for a bit continuing to drag the brush through my wet hair. “Right!” She says. “It’s getting cut off then.” I didn’t register the seriousness in her voice. I thought she was kidding, so I replied with an “okay, cut it off!”

Mum stood up, walked to the phone, dialled eight digits, waited… “Hello Val, it’s Maise, Nom needs her cut”. My world spun. I was giddy. “No way” under my breath, “she won’t cut it”. I sat on the couch and lost myself in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. WIlly Wonka and the Oompaloompas mesmerised me. I just wanted to watch Charlie, not get my hair put in stupid rollers. I’d almost forgotten about it when the glass sliding door skidded open. VAL!!!! The tears started. I sat, so quiet in the corner of the couch hoping I wasn’t noticed. I was invisible.

Sobbing, I was dragged to the kitchen bench. No point in fighting it, it’ll happen anyway. Mum sat me on a high stool and Val cloaked me up. Her Dame Edna glasses flashing at me. Her bright red lippy on her pursed lips. The smell of her last ciggie wafting across me, mixed with the smell of her salon. A scarf held her rollers in place, and she had one around her neck. I was terrified. I was scared. Completely confused and bewildered. Val hacked at my hair. Snip, snip after snip. Stained fingers moving the scissors, and flicking her black comb. She chopped that shit off. All of it… OFF. Completely fucking gone. I was transformed to a boy. A boy with a long skinny neck and a stupid straight fringe that my cowlick took control of. I hated it. I hated Mum. I hated Val and the G Mart for letting it happen and I sobbed. Standing up on the edge of the bath, looking into the bathroom mirror I was devastated. Mortified and embarrassed. How was I going to go back to school like this?

The irony now is that I have short hair. I’ve recently had it shorter than it was cut back then. I love it short can you believe? It took me thirty odd years to go back to that place. That dark place of boy short hair. When I think about how traumatic that one haircut was it changes everything I do while cutting hair of children. The resentment I held for Val endured for a very long time. I cringed when mum made me go to her salon in the main street for a trim. I never trusted her again, and that’s sad. Val had skill, so many skills that were not used that day. I’m sure she wouldn’t have wanted to do it, and I’m certain she would have tried to sway Mums decision. Any good hairdresser would have.

Val was the G-Marts best friend, for many, many decades. All of my childhood, Val cut my hair. None as traumatic as that one cut thankfully. She cut me my first bob, which I loved. I remember the smell of her salon, perming chemicals, so pungent and offensive back in those days, and cigarette smoke. Her little salon was red, with floral wallpaper and little salon mirrors with a scalloped edge in front of chairs. Val was a good woman, better than most. A fine example of how we all should be. One of her sons was intellectually disabled. Val refused to have him sent away after he was born, like most would have, in that generation. It was the done thing. This boy was lucky to be Val’s son. She kept him home with her, where he belonged, against all the advice to do otherwise. He had his own area in the shop-front and if I’m honest he scared the beegeezus out of me. He was strong as an ox, as tall as a man and loud. He lived a happy life with Val and she only sent him away when she got too old to care for him. I admire her strength and fortitude in times of adversity. That adversity and hardship brought out a fucking wicked sense of humour. She was a cracker! The town prankster, singer, crossdresser, hairdresser, mother and friend. Val was one top chick, a testiment to her era and I miss her. The whole town of Rainbow misses her.

Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!

Nom

Bike

I was twelve years old when I got my first bike. My sisters then aged 10 and 7 did too. Up until then we would try to ride Dads bike. We tried our darndest to ride that old cracking and faded, rusting, red-painted postal delivery bike, with the huge metal bracket for its box full of mail stuck to its handlebar. Dad thought she was a ripper, but I never actually saw him on it… Ever. So our first bikes weren’t what I was expecting. We got matching grey Mountain Bikes. All three identical and in my eyes butt fuck ugly! My Tom Boy sister thought hers was great. I thought mine was a bike, a bloody BOYS bike. This one thing that I’d always wanted, something I didn’t have and it had to turn out to be something I didn’t love. Why not a pink, girls one, with the coloured streamers on the handlebars, and multi-coloured clacking ring things on the wheel spokes? Perhaps a white basket on front and glitter handle bar grips. Like what all my friends had. Nope, not us. We get the matching boys Mountain Bikes. Delightful.

Although I didn’t love my Mountain Bike, I would still ride it. It had a screwed up gear thing on it with three levels. Level 1 : can’t fucking pedal it, it’s too hard. Level 2 : not too bad but still tough and exhausting and then there was level 3 : the pedal like fuck gear! You only had to knock that little lever that was always in the way and you would whack it out of second into gear snap your ankle. I got used to it. I had to. All three of us spent a bit of time on our bikes out on the block. Going on day trips down the hill to the little creek for a picnic, or racing up and down our dirt road. A particular favourite was tying them together. One behind the other. A piece of rope tied from under the seat of the first bike, to under the seat of the second bike and so forth for the third. A gap of about a meter separating us. We would communicate to each other by yelling. A practical solution yes? Who ever was leading had to direct the other two. Going right, slowing down, doing a U-turn, get faster… while using the universal sign language too. Right hand out for right, hand straight up for stop. You get my drift? We were experts until the day that one of my sisters, for the life of me I don’t know which one, forgot to tell the two behind her that she was stopping. HARD! We were flying down that dirt road. Going way too fast to stop suddenly. The whir of our tready tires scratching over the dirt. She slammed those brakes on creating a Mountain Bikes domino effect. I was the last one on the rope that day. I rammed straight into, up and over the other two bikes and bodies. It was the biggest tangle of rope, metal, handle bars, pedals, legs and arms your likely to ever see, unless your watching the cycling at the Olympics! Now, that would have been fine and dandy if we were on girls bikes wouldn’t it, but NOOOOO we are riding boys MOUNTAIN-FUCKING-BIKES. The triangle-shaped brace that held the handlebar onto the frame hit me fair and square in the vagina! Smashing into my pubic bone. Now I’m no prude, so turn away now if you are, but my fanny was black for a month! Good reason to hate a bike yes?

All the kids I hung around with, particularly the boys, loved my bike. I can understand why I guess, it’s a boys Mountain Bike. That thing hated me as much as I detested it and it bucked me off more than a few times. Most of the time they weren’t too serious except the time I was racing down to the local pool on it. No helmet of course back in the day. Burnin over the paths and gutters, and into some longer grass across and toward another path… WHACK. I flew over the handle bars doing a forward somersault in a pike position. I landed on my arse, every ounce of air was heaved from my body as my knee hit my chin, forcing my tooth straight through my lip and splitting my face under my chin. My front wheel had hit the lid of a telecom pit in the dirt. It was raised about 15cm up off the ground, hidden by the grass. Fuck my life! It’s stinkin hot, I’m winded like buggery and now I’ve gotta go home instead of the pool, walking this motherfucking bike beside me because the fucking wheel is bent!

Safe to say, I no longer own that bike. It was given to one of my cousins. I like the idea of a bike and I’ve owned one since, but it rusted… I hate them. They hurt your arse and they really fucking suck when you have a head wind. Exercising on them I compare to childbirth; labour-some, painful and similar to an episiotomy. They’re my nemesis. Nothing good comes from them in my world and probably even in my youngest sisters world, but that story I’ll leave for another day.

Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!

Nom

Sister In Arms

A couple of days ago, one of my five God Children broke their arm. Thankfully he’s okay and on the mend but it took me back to an event that is pretty well etched in my mind. I could completely empathise with him. That one day I am reminded how strong relationships can be, and forever stay.

So, we go back to about 1982 maybe? It was a hot summer, the weather was warm. We lived in a commission house, a three bedroom brick veneer, which I thought was pretty cool! The toilet had a double entry, sliding doors either side of it, one led to the bathroom, and the other to the laundry, it was shit hot! I laugh now, because that shit hot sliding door, twin entry was stock standard in a commission homes. Back then I had no clue it was commission and now, it matters not. We moved around a fair amount in my early years and this was our home for a short but steady length of time, I was happy! I shared a bedroom with my eldest little sister, a feisty, red-head when necessary or a beautiful strawberry blonde when she was putting “it on”. Either way, we were room buddies! Her and I got up to a bit of mischief back then. A few instances come to mind so let me start with probably the worst. Actually, it’s the worst thing I have ever done and I think about it more than I should. The type of kids that we were, moving around, it was easy to get chummy with our next door neighbours. Beside us lived a family with a girl, and a boy, I think. The eldest was about my age and she was pretty pushy. You know, that one friend that can manipulate you, and make you do just about anything? She was it. She was a blonde girl, skinny with lots of forehead and a squeaky voice. That’s how I remember her. It was a constant competition between us, who had the best clothes, who wore the coolest shoes. Toys, don’t get me started! We didn’t have much, and what we did have generally came as a hand me down from our cousins. Pushy Girl was an expert of rubbing shit in ones face. For her birthday she was given a really cool bike. I envied her. It had gears and she was kind enough to let me learn to ride on it, but I always knew it was HERS. I donned her very cool white stack hat and I picked up riding quickly. We didn’t have bikes of our own, so we would share. My sister learnt to ride too, although she was a bit younger than me, she still learned. She was a bit of a tom boy back then. Loved anything blue so she learned on the boys bike. Everything was cool. We always asked first and got off when we were asked to. Anyways, this one day they had friends over. We were all riding and playing together nicely, then a game of dare, double dare. Before we even knew it we were in a stand-off. I was cradling a rock, double the size of my hand. I held it with two hands it was so big. Pitted surface, and covered in dirt. My sister stood right beside me. Pushy Girl had taken me to my limit, and I’m a very patient person. “I dare you!” she said, “no, I DOUBLE dare you to throw it at me!” in her  squeaky voice from Hell. I can still hear my little brain ticking over, weighing up this decision, it’s wrong, completely wrong but FUCK me, she’s NOT winning this one. She always fucking won. I threw that rock. I really fucking threw it. Straight at her head. It smashed into her forehead. A blood draining thud as it crashed into her head and dropped to the ground. I was in shock, more so that I had thrown that bloody rock, than it actually hitting her head. My sister swore out loud “bloody hell Nom!” and Pushy Girl dropped to her knees. I fucking RAN! I was in BIG SHIT! I knew it was wrong, everything in my guts, head and body told me it was wrong, but I still did it. My sister ran behind me, giggling, straight to our room and up on my bed. For what seemed like an eternity we sat together, knees to our chest, arms linked together, backs to the wall. I was petrified. Mum never came. After a while I could hear yelling out the front. Our bedroom window faced the street. We both peered through the window to see Pushy Girl standing there, hands on hips, yelling at me from the nature strip. She had a big bandage on her forehead, she’d been to the hospital and back already. We had been sitting in my bedroom the whole time she’d been gone. We sat back down as Dad rolled into the driveway, staring at Pushy Girl with a confused look on his face. Next thing, Dad was in front of me and I was getting the BIGGEST hiding of my life. All I heard him yelling was, “you know better! 10 bloody stitches,” My poor sister copped one too, just for being there. She was always there. We moved not long after.

My sister and I were pretty thick, like glue. We did everything together. Mum even dressed us the same. She loved to push a boundary or two. We spent most of our days outside, rain hail or shine. Our backyard had a totally cool swing set that Dad made himself and we lived on it. For Christmas we even got an Olympic sized tramp, just so Dad could get on it too! Like most yards back then we also had a Hills Hoist clothes line. We spent quite a few afternoons on that too. Swinging around and around and around. It was way better than the swings or tramp. Mum’s brother and his wife, a couple who had no children of their own were babysitting us this day, while Mum and Dad were at a wedding. We were just “hanging around” in the back yard. Literally. It was my turn, so I jumped up, clasping my hands around one of the grey poles on the clothes line. Completely suspended, my feet hung about four-foot off the ground. The line had to be high enough so that you weren’t pushing or pulling, just sort of running underneath the hanger-on-er. The further out from the center you held, the faster you would fly. Hanging on tight, my hands sweaty and stiff from the half-dozen goes before. My sister grabbed my heels and began to pull me along. She was running fast, really fast, clutching my ankles tight. I was laughing my head off, Aunt and Uncle completely oblivious to what’s going on out back. Laughing, laughing, barely able to breathe, “wait, let go!” I laboured. “I’m gunna drop.” … “Nah, you’ll be right!” She replied pulling faster. The yard whizzing past a great rate of knots, “STOP!”… By the time she had let go, I had dropped, straight to the hard ground like a sack of shit. At first I didn’t feel it, and then the pain grabbed me by the wrist. Oh it throbbed. The dull ache was unbearable. My left forearm was caning. Needless to say, Mum and Dad were called, which back then was a bit of a task with no mobiles. Dragged off to the Doctor, a plaster cast was applied. Right before Christmas. I spent 6 weeks in that cast, and I couldn’t swim. We spent that Christmas with the same Uncle and Aunt and they had a pool… I watched my sisters swimming. The cruelty of it. It was the hottest of hot summers. The Mallee was in a drought and we were in the thick of it all summer. The itching, the sweat, the weight of it drove me crazy.

There wasn’t always the heat. Ballarat was cold. Sleet, hail, rain. As a kid everything is bigger, colder and hotter. But this one night was cold. Our nightly bath was done and bed was next. We sat, crossed legged on the carpet, watching the news in the lounge. Our baby sister asleep. Dad was working away, and if we were quiet enough, Mum would let us stay up. Eyes getting heavier, Mum put us to bed. “It’s supposed snow tonight she whispered” tucking us in. We had never seen the snow. My sister and I had drifted off to sleep, clearly only just. Mum shook us excitedly, “it’s snowing!” We chased her down the passage, to the back door. Flicking on the light switch, the snow flakes lit up. “Wow” we both gasped. Chucking our gumboots on and a dressing gown, mum let us frolic in it. A light film of snow-covered the grass. Not for long though, it was so cold. She took us back to bed. Laying there awake, we waited for mum to get settled in front of the telly. We laid on our bellies, in our dressing gowns and slippers, peering down the passage in the dark. It didn’t take long. Perhaps we couldn’t wait. Slowly, silently we crawled on our hands and knees, down the passage, through the entry past the glow of the telly and into the kitchen. Standing slowly I twisted the snib and we snuck onto the porch. In that moment we were transfixed by the sight. The moon was peeking through the clouds and the snow drifted down. Holding her hand, we crawled under the picnic table and sat together in silence, just watching the snow. We shivered. Teeth chattering, we giggled it away. So pretty, falling, dancing in the moonlight. So cold. The concrete we sat on was freezing and my bum was numb. That night was a profound moment, a time I shall treasure. It’s not often you sit quietly with a sister, my sister. Mum found us not long after. She couldn’t hide her amusement in her scolding. How could we not be excited. Straight back to bed.

My sister has always been there. Among the rock throwing, snow watching, the spud peeling and everything in between. She has stood and sat beside me through it all. We’ve giggled, cried and mourned over the same things. We copped more than our share of hidings together, those well deserved and even ones that weren’t. I love her for her  red-head feistiness, her brutal honesty and the way she executes a “Swan Dive” perfectly at the local pool. She’s the first to put an arsehole back in his place in defence of her sisters, and she loves to stir the pot with her smart witty tongue. I’m glad I’m me and that she’s my sister. But, she still thinks it my fault I broke my arm, and I should have held on!

Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!

Nom

Pineapple

Every summer, and maybe a winter, I occasionally engage in what I call the “fresh pineapple binge”. Meandering through Coles yesterday, cause that’s what I do now, I considered it. Fresh pineapple. Yum. I walked past eyeing them off. I could smell them!

“I see you pineapple, shaking that ass, lookin’ at me!”

Doing a full lap of the fruit trestles, I rolled my cock-eyed trolley back past and stopped. I picked one up, flipped it bum side up and sniffed all the glory of it in. Like baby ballerinas tiptoeing up my nose, the scent tickled my spot. The sweet smell of summer. (Just not here in Melbourne!) Inhaling it again, I cradled the prickly pineapple to my nose like a crazy pineapple lady. Nope, not today! Slowly, hesitantly the pineapple went back on the trestle with all her mates. Why you ask? I’ll tell you why.

Apart from being a Bitch to peel, with all her prickled eyes and her tiny black eyelashes she leaves behind, you then have to slice her and de-eye the edges. Being a Bitch to prepare is a huge cross against the pineapple, BUT the taste makes that all worth while. If you don’t own a really fucking sharp knife, then don’t even bother. I cringe at how much gets wasted while skinning and de-eyeing. The poor bloody pineapple is slashed and ravaged before you get to enjoy her. They really are some work, aren’t they? Anyways, apart from all that, pineapples don’t like me as much as I like them.

The gorging of fresh pineapple gives me great satisfaction at a weird arse price. After prepping the poor baby for slaughter, I begin to eat. Sometimes I core her, other times I don’t. Biting into the soft, stringy flesh, slurping and sucking the juices as well, the immediate euphoria hits. Bite by bite the effects of the sweet, Vitamin C packed morsels, begin to take effect. First, I develop this light film of sweat across my top lip. My boys think it’s a pisser, and completely weird! After a few minutes of this I consume more sweet pineapple morsels, the film of sweat will thicken. Eventually while picking out the stringy bits between my teeth and after probably a third of a pineapple, remember I only do this once a year, my tongue will start to get an itsy, bitsy, bit tingly. Depending on whether I am eating the core too, sometimes it can be more like a rough, cat tongue sensation. I kid you not, it’s the weirdest sensation to have in one’s mouth. All good though, just keep eating… it’s once or twice a year right? So eventually I have had my fill. Sick from the sweetness, high on natural sugar and fingers covered in a thick, sticky gloss. Stringy bits act like stuck dental floss between my teeth. I sport a very sexy, dripping, sweaty lip and I have earned a cat’s tongue. I am done.

Over the years I have investigated the dangers I face associated with consuming pineapple. I might cut my finger during the battle of prepping, or even cut my fucking finger off! Or I could choke on a stringy bit because we all know that they are the WORST bit of eating fresh pineapple. You’re seriously pulling stringy bits out three days later! Nevertheless, I have accepted that this is some sort of mild reaction to the Ascorbic Acid packed flesh of the pineapple. At certain times of the year, particularly after the frosts have started and the new oranges are available, oranges will give me the same reaction. Meh! I’m still going to do it!

I truly love pineapple. I adore the smell. It tastes amazing. It’s a party in my mouth and exciting for all my senses. However, I won’t eat anything remotely pineapple flavoured. Not a pineapple Cruiser, ugh! too sweet, not those clinker lollies, eww, they screech on my teeth and certainly not a pineapple Zooper Dooper. I can’t even stomach the though of it. Fresh is best! Even if she’s a Bitch to prepare I still think she’s worth it, once a year.

Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!

Nom