I wrote in Home at the Golflinks Estate about growing up at Richardson Street and in The Five Longest Years I wrote of the first five years of my life. Whilst when you are moving through the world at that age it seems a huge place, the reality is that our mind maps in those years are very tiny indeed. Looking back I see snapshots of places I frequented, how I got to them is a blur and the strength of the memories is directly proportionate to the time we spend in each place. Thus my home looms large in my memory and as I grow older the geography locked into my brain expands.
In those earlier posts I spoke at length about home – 24 years distilled into around 2,000 words which hardly seems enough to do it justice so in this post I want to explore how I came to know a bigger world.
The open drains running along Massey and Richardson Streets were a playground. When I didn’t have to worry about Dad throwing gallons of petrol on the water and lighting it, or dodging the rats that ran from the conflagration I spent hours playing along the edges and in it. Funny, it never seemed dirty, the water was just waste from the houses, the sink drains and the storm water runoff.
There were myriads of fascinating creatures that lurked in the weeds that grew bigger than I was. Caterpillars of all colours and sizes and the butterflies and moths that they later became. There were spiders everywhere too, Daddy Longlegs, which we were told were one of the most poisonous on the planet but had a mouth too small to bite a human, even a little one like I was at the time. Sad to say that the real story of the Daddy Longlegs is very different to the myth and if you want to know what it is you can check it out at Misconception Junction.
In the water were red worm type things that looked like singular anemone tentacles and I can say that none of them ever bit me either
I remember the warm, balmy nights of late spring and summer, and a young boy with skinny legs and baggy shorts listening with wonder to the song of the crickets somewhere beneath the ground. It amazed me that as I approached them attempting to find them beneath leaves or wherever they happened to be hiding, that they would fall silent.
One day I discovered that if I walked very softly I could locate the crickets burrow and with a quick stomp of my foot I could stop the song. This was a great game and the song nearly always began again. One day the grandfather of the girls next door was visiting them. He was obviously watching me creep around the garden stomping on cricket songs but as he was hidden by a screen of shrubs alond the common fence, I did not see him. Suddenly a deep gruff voice yelled at me across the fence.
“Why are you killing those crickets? What have they ever done to you?”
I was ashamed. I didn’t know that stomping on cricket sounds would kill crickets. I didn’t even know what a cricket looked like. From that day on, although the sounds still fascinated me, I tread warily near the cricket burrows and never stomped on one again.
Gradually the neighbourhood expanded. Firstly the homes of neighbours were mapped in my mind and as we got older we were able to venture a little further afield. Dinner time saw the Mum’s of the neighbourhood come to their front doors and call out in our case “Laurie and Karen. Dinners ready.” And no matter where we were we seemed to be able to hear it.
There was a vacant area along Eley Road which is now a park. Back then though it was the dumping ground for the excavations of the houses and it was full of piles of clay. It was a BMX track before there were BMXs and we spent hours riding up and down the piles doing jumps and generally racing each other around the various tracks.
Winding through it was a creek which is now barrel drained. It was actually a storm water outlet on the corner of Swinburne Street which eventually found it’s way into Gardiners Creek near the golf course on Station Street. The outlet pipe was huge, at least to someone under three feet tall hobbit sized that we were and we explored it up the hill towards Nash Road. Yeah I know it might have been dangerous, but it was fun and we all did it. We could only force ourselves to go as far up there as we could as long as we could still see the light at the end.
The clay piles bordering the creek were also great places to have battles. We’d break up into groups and toss yonnies and brinnies at each other like they were grenades. Oddly enough I don’t recall anyone ever getting really hurt. Falling off your bike caused far more scrapes of legs and bloody cuts and bruises.
Further down the creek near where the lane way came through from Roberts Avenue to Brook Crescent was a pond which filled up when the creek was raging and in flood. It was surrounded by blackberry bushes and like Brer Rabbit us hobbits used to crawl through the brambles to the edge of the pond where we’d catch tadpolesto take home and keep in a bucket. I managed to raise quite a few to frog hood and at one time Dad built me a small pond lined with plastic to keep them in. Oddly enough as soon as they got legs they disappeared. I always hoped that they’d find there way back to the creek eventually.
If we followed the creek further downstream towards the golf course we’d come across an abandoned farm house. Of course it was a place we explored even though it was haunted by the ghosts of thousands of murder victims from past centuries. There were plenty of times we scared the crap out of each other and ran all the way home as fast as we could.
So the world got a little larger when we were hobbits in a slow methodical manner. More about the world beyond the neighbourhood to come.