Tag Archives: childhood

Oh tree

bush shack

Oh tree

within your branches we’d play

in your shadow we’d lay

shielded from the summer sun


you were there when we wanted to swing

behind you we sat when crying

or hid just for fun


into your bark we’d carve

the initials of lovers, now gone

and still you stood strong


you waved your branches in anger

at the wind and storm who scared us away

we were back before long


under you, our pets laid to rest

with you, childhood was blessed

around you, together we’d run


now your branches are bare

we’d hear them sigh, you are so dry

rest now, dear tree, your work is done



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Riders in the Chariot

I am currently reading Riders in the Chariot, and I can relate to so much of what is in the book. I grew up not in Sarsaparilla but in Marayong. There were few houses in our section. We lived on property and I watched the development over the years, as the cucumber farm became Niranda Drive with all of its tiny little houses and tiny little yards.

I can relate to so many different types of people with their cultures and traditions. Most of my friends and neighbours were true blue Aussies. This was a time when there was no such thing as political correctness. Frank was the Maltese guy. Mr Sartori was a wog, and Mr de Sousa was a black guy. That’s just the way it was.

Unlike Riders in the Chariot, we didn’t discriminate against others who were different. We were certainly curious, but we were young and bold and asked the questions that one would surely not dare to ask now.

Neighbours helped each other out. We had bush fires every summer. Most of the property was just grassland. We always had a supply of wet hessian bags ready in case a flame was seen leaping up the embankment from the creek.

Us boys were always the first to spot a grass fire happening. More often that not we were out in the back yard pretending to be Dennis Lillee or the Chappell brothers. I bowled spin so I was always Richie Benaud or Rick McCosker. Derek de Silva couldn’t be an Aussie cricketer though, and Sri Lanka hadn’t become a world team at that stage, so we always picked out Indian cricket names for Derek and his brother Cliff to be.Image result for backyard cricket

We played in the yard, or later in the back streets (those that were developed to butt our property) until the street lights made a halo for the moths to circle round. Then Mum would open the back door and call out and we know we had little time to say goodbye to our friends and get in to wash up for dinner.

We had a small strip of shops. There was the bottlo, owned by the Swans, who were my friends grandparents. I got to work there in my teens, in the store room. The heavy work made both my muscles and those of my friend Brad ripple as the sweat glistened. We certainly earned out cokes. Next door to that was the Milk Bar where you could buy clinkers for a cent each, redskins for 5 cents, or chocolate buttons and freckles for 2 for 1 cent.

Mr Fullers butchers was next door to the Milk bar, then the chemist, Franklins supermarket and the post office. Mr Fitzgerald’s Newsagency, who I worked for as a paperboy, was the last in the line for a few years. Later, a hardware store, a hairdressers and a takeaway built on the end of the strip.

We knew the names of all the shop keepers, and the lady on the railway station who checked our train passes as we got off the train after school, or later put holes in our little green cardboard tickets to ensure they weren’t used again.

We had our share of eccentric people too. Across the bridge was old Wally, whose wife had left him because of drinking problems. Father Burns was the local priest who shouted at us from the pulpit. We were too scared to sin, not because of the threat of Hell, but because of the terror of telling our sins to Father Burns who would give us 900 Hail Marys to say or else we would never be forgiven.

In the house on the corner lived an older lady and her 2 girls. That’s right, Mrs Ferguson. Her daughters were redheads and we always liked pulling their hair. It was so thick tied in the ponytail, it was just like a pony’s tail. Their house was made of wood. The floor went down a slope to the kitchen, and up again to get to the girls bedrooms, where we often played dressups.

Mrs Ryan was my kindergarten teacher at St Andrews Catholic School. She was old when she taught me, but even older as she walked past our house each day coming home from the shops when I was in high school. She never failed to give me a smile and say hello.

Mrs Hope lived 2 doors up from me. She also had 2 daughters. one was away at University, and the other was my age, but I am sure she didn’t go to my primary school. They were well to do people. When you walk in their house you can smell the old money. It had a number of highly polished ebony furniture pieces. I often went there just to play the pianola. The house was draped in Wisteria vines and smelled wonderful on a summers day. Hers was a house with plenty of exotic shade trees that cooled the house in summer. It was unlike my own yard which was full of Gum trees, and paperbacks and tea trees. They offered greenery, but it was harsh. The shade was way up high and provided little relief from the dusty heat on the ground.

We had blackberries. They bordered the property between our place and the council land next door. Mum would send us out to fill a bucket for pies and jam. We would fill her bucket, but also fill our tummies. The quickest way to get blackberry stains off your fingers is to rub an unripe one on the stains. You had to be careful in the patch. That’s where the redbelly black snakes lived. We never thought to kill them though, we were just respectful. It was their home after all.

Image result for blackberry bushes

We made tree houses and cubby houses. We had vegetable gardens and ducks and chooks and dogs, and sometimes turtles. I would go to the chinamen’s garden at the top of the hill to ask them for some worms to feed my turtles.

Besides playing in the creek next door and having camping adventures down there, where we sat up all night catching carp, we also had a little sewerage creek where we caught tadpoles and small frogs. or we caught tadpoles with legs that would soon become frogs. We often found frill necks, blue tongues or common eastern skinks.

The birdlife was pretty ordinary back then. There were no scavenger birds that you see now. There were magpies, big ones. There were cockies, and the occasional crow, but that’s about it. We would sometimes catch eels down the creek. We didn’t like the eels, you couldn’t eat them. So we always left them out for the birds to eat, or put them on the road and watch the trucks run over them. We were cruel I guess. Kookaburras filled the trees when a storm was coming. We knew that when they started singing, to run and help mum pull the washing off the line and get the animals fed before the rain came.

It’s all gone now. The house is still there, but all the land is built upon by medium density housing. People live in each others pockets. They don’t know who their neighbour is. They don’t know the names of the shopkeepers and I don’t think the train station even has a person working there any more.

There is nothing rustic about Marayong any more. It’s Polished, prim and proper. Each house has at least one car and children are not seen playing or riding bikes on the streets. Nobody walks to school. The scout hall is long gone. The creek now has cement where once there were banks of green grass, that somewhere along there was  hidden the treasure that the bank robbers stole in 1928. We searched but never found it.

Is it progress? People moved to Marayong to get a share of the good life. But too many people came, and now the good life has moved out with the original landholders. Nobody can leave their doors open anymore. nobody sits in the doorways of their garages, with the lawn chairs out, sharing a beer with all the locals while listening to the footy on the transistor. Those days are gone with the Mr Whippy vans.

We were all riders in the old VW that we drove around the back yard. It was our Chariot. We all had our dreams and visions of the future, but there was no real divine revelations. Now that chariot is gone. We mourn the days of our youth and the freedom it offered. Gone are the days when the biggest decision was if I wanted a choc top or a fairy cone. We lament regarding the loss of the bushland and space but instead buy our own McMansions with their 4 square meters of lawn to mow.

I guess its time to grow up and move on.




Filed under VI Best creative post, Visionary Imagination

Experience Life

At this time of year questions get asked from relatives who haven’t seen you for the year between festive events.

” So, what have you been doing with yourself?”

Doing; does this encompass all that has happened in one year? No. there is much more to life than doing. When asked at a job interview “Tell me about yourself”. It is a natural response to talk about the things we have accomplished by working or in education. Experiences in life are much more important.

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend…”. James Taylor.

I think the essence of mindfulness is experiencing life.


I remember the first time I ever had Orange soft Drink (pop, soda, fanta, call it what you will). I experienced the love that radiated from my grandfather when he suggested that we walk across to the corner store to get one. When we entered the store and the little bell rang above the door to announce our entry, I was surprised. I had never been inside this shop and it was the first time I had experienced that sound.

My grandfather jiggled the coins in his pocket and bought out a few. We stood before the vending machine and I watched as he dropped the coin into the machine and I heard it clatter down inside the machine. Then a gear clanged, releasing the locking mechanism allowing my grandfather to shift bottles around inside the machine until he had the desired drink in place to lift it out.

From the view of a 4 year old whose eyes just saw above the lip of the refrigerated machine, it was a world of wonder. He lifted the bottle clear and the gears once again clanged to re-lock all other bottles in place. He held the bottle under the opener attached to the vending machine and opened the bottle for me. He reached onto the counter to get me a striped paper straw which he pushed in the neck of the bottle. Then he handed the bottle to me and told me to hold it with both hands as he lifted me into his arms to cross the road yet again.

I remember the smell of the soda, it was sweet and smelt of oranges. I heard the fizz of carbonated bubbles rising to the surface. I sucked on the straw and my small mouth was filled with the wonderful sensation of incredible taste and the bubbles swirling around my mouth, tingling my whole being. Then feeling the coolness as it slipped down my throat as I remembered to swallow.

My eyes crossed as I tried to watch the soda ascend the straw on the second suck on the straw. I saw the look on my mothers face and I saw her smile widen as I continued to consume my fruity delight. I was happy, so she was too.

A drink of soda, is more than just to quench the thirst. I felt love, I heard new sounds, I saw new sights, I enjoyed a new taste.

It is a time I remember in fondness. A time when I really experienced life.

Perhaps we need to approach life with the childlike wonder in all we do.


credit for picture… http://bonanzleimages.s3.amazonaws.com/afu/images/2708/8131/bon_003.JPG

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