Blast from the Past

Like sands through the hourglass…

Dingalings do stupid things, they don’t think of others at all,
They’re dopes and bullies, see the trouble they bring? That’s what we call dingalings!

If you’re now wondering about my sanity then you obviously didn’t grow up in Perth in the 80’s…

Dirt and Germs

I stumbled across a Livejournal page linking to these while searching for info on the old Ascot Water Playground. This was a favourite summer destination when I was a kid and I only just discovered that it’s all shut down and derelict. I cycled over today and scouted it out for Abandoned in Perth. I’ll probably get a proper expedition together later on.

It was a great place Ascot Water Playground. You had a big pool at the bottom, a sort of concrete bunker halfway up with fountains and slippery metal ladders (which were a death trap waiting to happen frankly) and two smaller pools at the top linked with locks. Locks! Like on a canal! A paddling stream ran from the top pools all the way down the hill to the bottom pool and one year (oh the excitement!) they opened a new pool with water slides. And admission was whatever you decided to put into the tins at the gates!

One of the defining moments of my childhood was at Ascot, the day when I finally summoned the courage to climb the deathtrap ladders all the way to the top. All the other kids (including my younger brother) who’d been clambering up and down them with abandon for years kept mocking me mercilessly about my cowardice, and on this particular day I decided I was going to conquer them even if it meant I fell to my death on the concrete below. I waited until there was no one in the bunker (both so the other kids wouldn’t figure out how badly their mockery hurt me, and so that if I chickened out at the last minute there’d be no one to see) and hauled myself up the slippery bars and over the top onto the roof. Then I clambered back down and wandered off, quite happy with myself.

(I only ever climbed the ladders once again – the next time the other kids started mocking me. I climbed up and down once to shut them up, and then never risked it again. Honestly, I’m amazed no one was ever killed on those things.)

But – back to the modern day – run off from the park into the river was apparently getting out of control (the site is right on the riverfront) and there were all kinds of liability issues (those ladders I bet), so the playground had to shut down about five or six years back. Another irreplaceable childhood memory gone – although at least it’s gone in a way that provides me with something to clamber around and take eerie photos of.

The Livejournal page I stumbled across has a bunch of other musings about Perth in the 80s, including a reminder of the plastic tugboats and space shuttles you used to get Red Rooster in. How could I forget those!? They were made of extremely thin and brittle plastic (that crumbled after only a few hours exposure to Perth’s harsh summer sunshine) and you got a sheet of stickers to personalise them with. Great days!

I’ll have to write about my memories of Atlantis Marine Park and Dizzy Lamb sometime I suppose…

Rex Mortuus Est

The end of an era…

Many years ago – back in the 50s in fact – a promoter by the name of Lee Gordon arranged an Australian tour for Little Richard and a bunch of other American rock’n’rollers. He booked the artists, booked the venues, did the publicity and then had a ridiculously tough time selling the tickets.

Why? Because no one in Australia could believe that the people they listened to on their records could exist, in the flesh, on an Australian stage. They lived in the far off, almost other-planar land of America. The idea that they’d visit Australia was as ridiculous as saying that you’d booked Santa Claus or Superman to appear. It had to be either a bunch of impersonators or some kind of scam – so no one was willing to pay to be ripped off.

Back in the early nineties, when the Big Day Out festival was just getting started, the big guest was Marilyn Manson. This was at the height of his “Antichrist Superstar” period, when he was the biggest, larger than life, most controversial, most frightening personality in music. And he was going to appear at Bassendean Oval, the run of the mill, slightly run down football field that I went past every day on the way to and from school.

As I remarked to my friend Mike this was as if Batman or Spiderman was going to appear – Manson seemed just as much a fictional character as anything from the world of comic books. And yet he was going to strut his stuff in our very backyards. It was downright surreal.

The reason I mention this is the sudden death this morning of Michael Jackson.

Jackson has been around my entire life, always there in the pop cultural milieu. In the 80s he was huge – people laugh these days when he’s called “the king of pop”, but back then he truly was. He was a brilliant song-writer and composer with string after string of hits, most of which still stand up today.

Then he started to go weird. He descended into increasing bizarreness and his music became increasingly unlistenable. He became “Whacko Jacko” – at best a complete weirdo, at worst a dangerous pedophile. His latest excesses and eccentricities were a staple of the tabloids. And as a result – without my realising it – he migrated from the part of my brain that catalogues real people into the part that catalogues fictional people.

So to hear that he’s dead gives me the same sense of surreality that Marilyn Manson’s visitation did, and that those 1950s Sydneysiders had when they were offered tickets to see Little Richard. It doesn’t make sense. How can someone who was never really real die?

So let’s all raise our glasses of Jesus juice to a unique individual. Thanks for Billie Jean at least dude.

The Laughter of Mr Rose

A tale from my disreputable past

I was thinking the other day of an incident that happened to me in high school. Not a hugely important or earth-shattering incident, just one that sort of illustrates a point about how you can sometimes be too intelligent for your own good.

The incident occurred in year eight maths. My teacher was Mr Rose (not his real name by the way), a youngish and slightly arrogant fellow with the looks of someone who’d much rather be strutting up and down the beach in a speedo than stuck inside forcing mathematics down the throats of a bunch of unwilling thirteen year olds. This particular day, towards the end of the school year he posed us a problem to do with a clock face.

He gave us an angle, and claimed that at only one time of the day did the hour and minute hands of the clock form said angle. Our job was to determine what time of day that was.

A simple question you might think. But for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out! I did all the maths I could, and even resorted to rigging up a crude clock face with a protractor and a couple of pencils, but I couldn’t for the life of me find the answer. What was particularly disturbing was that all around me my classmates – even the particularly thick ones – were apparently figuring it out and going up to Mr Rose to be marked. The best I could do was a rough estimate (around 5:42 I seem to recall) which Mr Rose totally rejected. How were they doing it!?

The class finished without my finding an answer, and I got 0 marks on that particular exercise.

It was some years later – after I’d left high school – that I figured out what I’d been doing wrong.

You see, there was an unspoken assumption about the exercise. The hands were assumed to instantaneously jump between set points on the clock face without crossing the space in between. Much like electrons jumping between valence shells within an atom, they just plain didn’t exist between these points. This meant that the minute hand could only occupy 60 positions on the clock face, and the hour hand only 720 – a fairly manageable number of angles to account for with a well structured mathematical relationship between them.

I on the other hand was assuming an analogue clock face where every division of every angle counted and hence – although I didn’t realise it at the time – the positions and angles of the hands were infinite. The problem as I understood it was unsolvable without inventing differential calculus, which was a bit beyond me at the time as I was only thirteen years old and wasn’t Sir Isaac Newton.

So yeah, that’s the story. If I’d been a bit dumber I would have assumed that the hands could only point to round minutes from the start and would have solved the problem in no time. As it was I outwitted myself by thinking the problem was about a real clock face, and not the numbers represented by one.

Mr Rose is probably still laughing at me.

Jack Sprat and the Doom of Dogs

Better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!

Many years ago, when my brother and I were young kids our parents would occasionally leave us in the care of our aunts overnight. They lived in a small, yet somehow rambling house in North Perth with our two cousins – both boys about eight years older than us. It can’t have been much fun for them as teenagers babysitting two little kids, but they did a good job and I can’t remember a single incident of teasing or cruelty towards us on their part.

One thing they did do however was teach us two very important and little known facts, which I shall now reveal to the world at large.

The first concerns the gap down the back of an armchair, between the cushions on your couch, or even between a bed and the wall. You may think this is nothing but a depository for loose change, but in fact it is a dimensional portal that opens solely for members of the canine clan. It is The Doom of Dogs!

I have to admit I was a bit shaky on exactly what happens to any pooch that falls into the Doom of Dogs – the cousins seemed a bit shaky on that themselves – but whatever it is it must be fairly terrible because their aged terrier Suzie (her full name was actually Suzie Wong, but that’s a story for another day) would run for the hills whenever we placed her on the couch and started pulling the cushions apart.

(Of course we would never have let her actually fall into the Doom, we were merely using her to demonstrate the concept. Repeatedly. Every time we went over there in fact.)

The second important thing they taught us was the real words to the nursery rhyme Jack Sprat. You are no doubt familiar with the traditional version, learnt from books and at nursery school…

Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean,
And so betwixt them both, you see,
They licked the platter clean,

Well the real version, passed down through our cousins’ family line for generations (or at least since they made it up the previous week) is…

Jack Sprat forgot his back,
His dog was green with envy,
So together they sat, on Old Shag’s back,
And told stupid stories,

Now the meaning of this rhyme (not that it rhymes very much, if at all) is naturally an ancient and terrible secret. I could of course tell you, but then I’d have to condemn you to the Doom of Dogs, and no one wants that…

True Tales of the Gallery Benches

A tale of mystery

Many years ago (around the early nineties) I was meeting up with a couple of friends in the city. We’d arranged to rendezvous outside the State Art Gallery, which is just across from the main train station and linked to it by a wide pedestrian overpass. It was a bright, sunny day and (as is usual on bright, sunny days in the city) the whole parade of human life was passing back and forth between the gallery and the station, the public benches opposite the main gallery doors being an ideal location to both meet friends and discretely people-watch at the same time.

I arrived first and took a seat. After a short while one of my friends turned up. We sat around talking our usual brand of nonsense while waiting for the third member of our group to arrive. He was running a bit late and we had ample time to study and comment on the people passing back and forth about twenty metres in front of where we sat.

One passer by in particular caught my eye. He looked like a typical businessman with his well pressed business suit, designer sunglasses and briefcase. What particularly caught my notice however was the wire running from his briefcase up to a pair of earbuds. This may be a common sight now but in the early nineties it looked slightly eccentric, so I drew the attention of my companion to him and facetiously commented “You see that guy? I reckon he’s got a microphone in that briefcase and he’s listening to everyone’s conversations”.

The man stopped dead. His head swung around and he gazed at us for a few moments with a look of barely concealed horror before rushing off at an extremely brisk walk, glancing back at us once or twice before vanishing around the entrance to the gallery carkpark.

My friend and I looked at each other in mute shock for a few seconds before breaking into gales of hysterical laughter.

True story.

Love’s Labours Lost at Lamonts

Marron and embarrasing recollections at Claisebrook Cove

You know, I seem to be suffering from awful amotivational syndrome at the moment. Now that’s usually a term used to describe the effects of pot consumption, which certainly isn’t the case here, but it’s a fairly accurate description of how I’m feeling. Mentally dull, detached and completely unmotivated to do anything at all.

Which is a problem because I’ve got to go to work tomorrow. I mean I’ll go, but I don’t know how well I’ll be able to concentrate. Guess I’ll just have to suck down the caffeine and manage as best I can.

I have had a reasonably busy weekend. Went around to Rebecca and Dom’s new place in East Perth then we went out to lunch at Lamonts at Claisebrook Cove. I had the marron which was nice, but involved a fair bit of work because (Lamonts being such a classy joint) they serve them in their shells and you have to dissect them before you can eat them. This to my mind is the kind of thing they should handle in the kitchen, but then what do I know about the lifestyles of the rich and famous?

Anyway it was a good day out, although one odd note was that one of the waitresses seemed awfully familiar. She kept glaring at me too, although I don’t know if this was because she recognised me, or if she objected to my continual glancing at her to try and figure out who she was. I strongly suspect she was a girl I went to high school with, a girl that I shall refer to as Sam.

Sam wasn’t at St Francis’s for very long, I think she was there for about a year, year 9 or 10 perhaps. She was actually the cousin of and shared a surname with one of the more dominant Rebels, which (to my somewhat deranged mind) gave her a certain edge – a frisson of danger if you will – although hardly knowing anything about her I can’t say whether this impression was in the least bit accurate.

Of course as with most of the girls at my high school that weren’t actually physically deformed I thought Sam was pretty cute and had a bit of a crush on her. However any vague hope I had of getting to know her was ruined by a totally ridiculous – and in hindsight fairly funny – incident that took place one day after school while waiting for the train at Central Terminal.

There were a bunch of us who used to hang together on the train. Justin Simes, Carl Taylor and a few others, occasionally including the unpredictable semi-bully Megsy. We’d sit up one end of the carriages (these were the old diesel belching monsters that ruled the rails before electrification) in what was almost an old fashioned compartment between the passenger doors and the inter-carriage door. You could comfortably seat eight people in there who would be pretty much hidden from the rest of the carriage. We got up to all kinds of chaos on those trips home – the most memorable being Mike Harris’s mooning the cars at the Farnborough level crossing – although I was usually more of an uneasy bystander than a real participant.

On this particular day most of the gang were absent. It was just me and Justin waiting for the train. And surprisingly – to me at any rate – Sam. I don’t know if she and Justin were friends, or if she was just bored, but she wandered up and started a conversation – a conversation including the both of us.

I did my best to be cool, although on the inside I was doing the usual geek “oh my god oh my god she’s talking to me oh wow oh wow don’t blow this man just be cool man just be cool” thing. The three of us chatted for a minute or two, and then she suggested we moved further down the platform where there were some seats free. We assented, and I bent down to pick up my bag.

Now you need to know some things about the equipment I used to carry to and from school. My bag for instance. It was one of the standard, shapeless, green, zip-up bags with two straps and the school crest on the side that we all had to use (in my last two years they expanded the rules to include green backpacks with the school logo, but I never had one of those). In any case mine was fairly old and beaten up, and the zipper was so temperamental that I often left it unzipped.

And you need to know about the files we used. Everyone was required to have a large lever-arch file to store their school work in. I could never be bothered to actually clip anything into it, I’d just shove it in, resulting in it acting merely as a cover for a huge pile of loose leaf papers (my year nine social studies teacher used to take great joy in grabbing it off my desk, taking it up to the front of the room, shaking it out in front of everyone then making me pick it all up – but then he was a sadist who called people ‘gecko-head’).

Anyway on this particular day on the railway platform with Sam and Justin I grabbed my unzipped bag – containing my file – and swung it in a carefully calculated cool and nonchalant motion up to my shoulder…

Unfortunately I only happened to grab one of the straps. Also my file was sticking out the top, paper side uppermost. The bag swung around in a graceful arc, and right at the top of its ascent launched my entire term’s work out in a high velocity wad that quickly separated and landed gently all over the railway tracks.

I stood there in shock, with an expression on my face not unlike that of a stunned mullet. Sam burst into immediate hysterical laughter, as did numerous standers by. Much to his credit Justin immediately jumped down onto the tracks and started gathering everything up (this being quite safe as the station was the end of the line and you could see trains coming for a good kilometre away). I chased down the papers on the platform and before long everything was back under control. But any small chance I might have had of not looking like a complete dork in front of Sam was totally shot, and I never spoke to her again. She left the school not long afterwards.

So that’s one of many incidents of humiliation from my high school years, brought back to mind by possibly running into the girl involved. At least I can actually laugh about it now đŸ™‚