Category Archives: memoir

Cold

Can we have the heating up Mr Lovell?’

No Jimmy, but I will allow you to go and get your school jumper.’

But I didn’t bring one!’

Tough.’

cold-boy

It’s been bloody cold in Hobart this past week. Most are rugged up in the Tassie tuxedo – ie, puffer jackets – as befits snow down to the lower levels on kunanyi. I don’t possess one. Does that make me un-Tasmanian? But I have multiple layers on today with, thankfully, the city providing comfy warmth at its indoor locations. But it’s not only brittle-frozen Canberra at this time of year that has them, Mr Glover. We have that species of humanity here in Hobs as well. Men usually, but an occasional member of the fairer gender, pretending there’s no icing in the mountain and it’s balmy mid-summer. They are dressed for the outback in shorts, tees and sometimes even thongs. They strut around, thinking all passers-by must be so in admiration of them for being so overwhelmingly Tassie-tough. What the normal sensible denizens really think about them is not fit for these pages. There are some, I know, who have a radically different tolerance to the cold than I. Some of my nearest and dearest can somehow withstand severe frostiness. Most I fear, though, are all show; the grown up versions of young Jimmy from my teaching days.

I watched those foolhardy lads, rarely girls, descend from their buses whilst on early morning duty with the frost on the ground. Their goosebumps were the size of Mt Myrtle overlooking my school. They were sort of holding themselves very tightly, as if that would provide some minor relief for the uber-cold they must be feeling. Attired, they were, in grey shorts topped only by short sleeve shirts over bare skin – no singlet. It was pointless asking where their jumpers were and no doubt, back home, they’d be just as stubborn against any parental entreaty to rug up. At door opening time you bet they’d be the first in, standing shivering under the classroom heaters as they revved up for the day. If the room had a thermostat it’d be up to the max by the time you made it to start your teaching day. Then the room would be like a Scandinavian sauna, causing you to dispense with a few of your own layers and even then be sweatily overheating until the room eventually cooled to tolerable levels.

sweat

So when Jimmy asked, I was unsympathetic. I wonder, as an adult, is he still parading around his home town in mid-winter dressed for high summer at Bondi? I ruminate as to whether his abode’s power bills are astronomical – or does he guiltily ram on the layers once he’s indoors, no longer feeling the urge to flaunt his Tassie he-manism to all and sundry.

Yep, I know I’m soft. I need to be coddled in warmth when the temperature drops to single digits. And don’t get me started on those naked maniacs who brave the Derwent come the solstice dawn. I bet, Mr Glover, your Canberra has nothing to match that nude madness.

solstice

Canberra’s winters by Richard Glover = https://www.smh.com.au/national/richard-glover-frozen-stiff-in-an-apparently-hot-land-20190702-p523c8.html

Pigeon

It was your former friend’s older brother’s pigeon coops that did it for me, Mark Mordue. Bought back those hazy memories of an old mate, now lost to me in time. It seems to me the ‘sport’ of pigeon racing is from another era. It may still have its devotees, as a backyard hobby of sorts, but are they still sent to the skies to compete with other coops? If that’s the case it’s wide of my orb these days. But way back then I was introduced to this proud pal’s pigeon-house and its denizens. I cannot look back with any degree of confidence, but I suspect each bird had its name with any champion homers treated as feathered royalty. I probably held several of them and cooed my amazement at their feats. This was certainly pre-uni for me – the late Sixties, maybe in my matriculation years, maybe before even those. I know, during the two years post-Grade 10, I had other friends and my interest in girls had awoken. Leaving my regional area for the capital, to train to be a teacher, ended this particular relationship – that is for sure.

pigeon

We’ll call him Rob. It wasn’t his real name. He never went by his real name. He was somewhat older. Now much is lost, but he chose, for whatever reason, to hang out with myself and other younger guys. There were a group of us – a fellow from the housing commission flats down on North Terrace; perhaps my brother and some of his cobbers. It’s all so vague in my synapses. Despite his greater years, it didn’t seem Rob had any interest in the opposite gender. There was never a sign of any girlfriend at that stage. Maybe he was otherwise inclined, but there was never a hint of that either. Did he drive a car? Was that, in turn, our attraction to him? Of course, a mode of transport meant freedom to us who then relied on walking to get from A to B. But I have no memory of there being so. He definitely had a boat which he left on the sand at West Beach for much of the months of warmer weather. He’d row a number of us out to sea in it. No life jackets – and I could hardly swim a stroke. He took us so far out that the sunbathers back on shore were mere dots. On some days we’d fish from it and we also beach netted. On other days we’d take our rods down to the wharves; to Ocean Pier, readily accessible to us in those times. On the seaward side there was a narrow ledge, high above the briny, from which we’d dangle our hooks. Heaven help me if I fell in. Any catch we’d proudly take home for our mothers to cook – even dozy old cod. On occasion we’d toss out couta lines. What ever happened to couta? Like pigeons they don’t seem to figure, but then they were prized.

Tennis was another activity I engaged in with him. There were old bitumen courts behind the school where Burnie Makers now imposes itself. We were all reasonable players and took it quite seriously. It was fun.

Rob’s parents owned one of the town’s corner grocery stores. It’s long gone, as are all the others of my childhood – Redmans, the BP Roadhouse, the Terminus Cafe where my father alighted from driving a Green Coachliner down the highway from Launceston each evening, the West Beach Shop.

pigeon

After reading Mondue’s ‘One for the Boys’ I wondered what became of Rob. When I returned to my home town, to continue my career in education, there was no re-connection – not even an encounter similar to the columnist’s that I can bring to mind. And that would be strange given the relatively small size of the place and the long years I spent in the schools around the locality. But by then I was married and was eventually a father. I never hung around at the attractions of my growing up. Maybe he still did. Did Rob marry and produce offspring? Did he move on to the bright lights of a big city somewhere? And now, these days, is he even still with us? Questions I cannot answer, probably never will. In any case, I trust he’s had a good, fulfilling life.

He was kind to us younger boys. We felt entirely safe in his company. I never smoked, but I seem to think he may of done. I don’t remember any indulging in alcohol or, heaven forbid, drugs. All in all it seemed quite an innocent time without the distractions of today’s digital world. We were out and about, not stuck in front of screens, at least until ‘The Flintstones’ or ‘Bonanza’ came on in the evenings. But was that innocence just a veneer? It may have been for all I know. So long ago now – with so much in front of me. I’d forgotten about Rob until I read that column. I shouldn’t have.

pigeon

Mark Mordue’s column = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/childhood-friendship-is-a-beautiful-thing-that-slips-away-20190514-p51n97.html