35) 1997-1998. Canberra Street, Toowoomba QLD 4350

I can’t remember why we moved from Cavell Street, though I’m sure it has something to do with the fact we were living on the opposite side of town to both our high school and the USQ campus. We went from being a twenty minute walk followed by a twenty minute bus ride away from school, to only being a four minute walk away. And who wouldn’t want to live four minutes walk away from Harristown High School? I mean apart from people who’ve been there.

I JEST. The school was fine. Actually it was kind of progressive for a sport-centric school in a country town. They had a Performing Arts Day, which was exactly like a Sports Day, where students competed to earn points for their house, except instead of basketball and running it was singing and drama and dance and art. None of the other 21 schools I attended from 1986 to 1997 offered such a thing, so props where they’re due. The best part was I actually earned points for my school house for the first time in over five years. Not since the Tin Can Bay State School Swimming Carnival, when my togs fell down to my knees as I jumped into the water at the start of the 50 metre breaststroke and I had to swim to the bottom of the pool to pull them up again so that nobody would see my tiny butt HOWEVER a bout of gastro that swept through the school had meant there was only one other swimmer in this particular race so technically I still won second place, had I felt such a surge of school spirit.

So the school was fine; it was just a good solid chunk of the students in the school and the school song that sucked. Seriously, it was awful. The first two lines of the song just name the colours of things. Harristown High School’s school song remains the worst song I have ever heard in my entire life, and I say this as someone who at one time owned three different versions of the Macarena on three separate CD singles.

Canberra Street

I’m pretty sure I’d thrown one out by the time we moved in here. I think this house was only a TWO Macarena house.

We lived in Canberra Street for twelve months: from July 1997 until July 1998. The story I want to tell about living here is this:

Nothing happened.

I know this technically means I don’t have a story for this address, but the fact I don’t have a story is a story in itself. This was twelve months of relatively quiet, idyllic nothingness. This was the house I lived in when I graduated from high school: I passed my subjects with walking colours. This was the house I lived in when Aimée moved out and started living independently as an adult, dating a boy from our school she would go on to marry and be with to this very day. This was the house I lived in when we first got the internet (a whopping 40 megabytes of download for only $40 per month!). If you’re a fan of landmark events: it’s the house I was in when Princess Diana died and when Jo Beth Taylor resigned as host of Australia’s Funniest Home Video Show; two events we can all agree have stayed with us. It’s also the house where I started university. And yet? It is only noteworthy for being not at all noteworthy. It was uneventful.

Look at the house. Small, square, brick. A wee fence. Palm trees. There was a decorative butterfly on the external wall, for heaven’s sake. I lived in this house, like really lived in this house, like an actual goddamn person. I walked to school/uni, I walked home. I watched Foxtel, and listened to music. I used the internet like a typically sexually confused teenager: typing “man penis” into Alta Vista, waiting 10-12 minutes (33k modem!) and getting disappointed at the results being nothing but medical journal diagrams.

This house was just a house on a street: not on an island with no plumbing in the middle of the ocean, not on the site of an abandoned drive-in, not on a property with untouchable horses, not in a rural cottage (with faux-crystal doorknobs) built by kindly religious zealots. And there was such little drama: no crazy mean teachers with witch tones, no boating accidents, no peckish burglars, no paedophile babysitters, no crazy drunken quasi-stepfathers, no snakes.

(Yes, I know that is a lot of links. Yes, I know I just made the blog equivalent of a clip show.)

If this had been the house I had grown up in…I think I would have been okay with that. I feel like I would have had a grounded, stable upbringing. I could have felt like a regular kid living a regular life. Like a Keaton.

Family Ties

“The Cosby Show”, “7th Heaven”, “Hey, Dad..!” I swear to god, if a cast member of THIS show turns out to be a vile garbage person, I’m burning something down. Don’t let me down Steven, Elyse, Alex, Mallory and Jennifer. ESPECIALLY ELYSE: YOU’RE MY ROCK MEREDITH BAXTER

Then again, if I’d grown up like a Keaton, I would most likely have also turned out to be an irretrievable BORE. And the world would have been deprived of the bucket of broken pieces artfully assembled into a human shape that I have become.

So I’m glad we didn’t live there forever. Besides, the place we moved to next? I was so happy to be going there I would have traded in a THOUSAND Keatons for the chance.

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34) 1997. Cavell Street, Toowoomba QLD 4350

While still living in Rockhampton, in Turner Road, my friend Aimée moved in with my mum, sister, brother and me. Her family had moved away from the area, and she wanted to stay in the area. For nearly a year, Aimée was part of our Rockhampton family; my proxy twin sister (who was actually a year older than me) and in-house BFF.

Aimee and Lauren

Can you imagine being nearly 18 and having to move in with a family as crazy as mine? Aimée must have felt like a real outsi—oh no, never mind, she was as nuts as we were. Excellent.

This made it extraordinarily awkward when mum transferred her university studies from Central Queensland University to the University of Southern Queensland (if there’s one thing Queensland is good at, it’s naming its universities imaginatively), meaning we were all moving to Toowoomba.

The awkwardness didn’t last, because Aimée decided to move with us. Why? I was never game to ask, lest she change her mind. I was too grateful she’d decided to come. As well as not questioning her reasons, did I also intentionally keep very tight-lipped about my previous (horrible) experiences in the Darling Downs area, for fear of scaring her off? Yes. Yes I did.

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I’ll say this much about Toowoomba: they have cute little houses.

Cavell Street was a very quiet little street on Toowoomba’s east side. It should be noted: Toowoomba’s east side was very close to Toowoomba’s west side. To paraphrase Buffy‘s Cordelia Chase: We didn’t have a whole lot of town, there. But the school we attended, Harristown State High School, was on the “other” “side” of “town”, and we did have to catch a “bus” to get there (actually it was a real bus: scrap that last pair of sarcastic quotation marks). This meant a walk through the enormous Queen’s Park where, during our first few weeks of school, the Moscow Circus had set itself up for a series of shows. Every day for five days we walked past where the elephants were held, waving and saying hello. By the fourth day they’d started to recognise us and walked over to say hello back.

Moscow Elephant

Turns out they really DO remember everything. Including friendly local teenagers?

If only the students at Harristown High had been as friendly as the elephants. Harristown’s student body didn’t take kindly to our sort (I still don’t know which sort that was, particularly), and we were under constant scrutiny. The rumours of who and/or what we were flew thick and fast. We were twins, we were from a cult, we had been previously married, Lauren and Tommy were our children: our classmates were at least imaginative, if not completely fucking brainless.

:+:+:+:+:+:

Not long after we had moved in at Cavell Street, mum had to go away for a week, so Aimée and I were left in charge. While we had both often taken care of ourselves before, we had never actually taken care of ourselves, and younger siblings, for an extended period of time, so it was a pretty big deal for us. We were left with a small amount of money to cover food, and given free reign of the house.

We decided we wouldn’t be like other teenagers, who would probably immediately spend the bulk of the money on nonsense, leaving only a pittance to actually feed ourselves. We decided we’d spend the pittance first: two dozen packets of two-minute noodles. Financial responsibility! That way we’d have money left over in case of an emergency.

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See how mature and ready and prepared we were to take over a household?

To ensure that we would be kept busy, thus removing temptation to spend the leftover money, we decided we would learn Spanish. This is an actual decision that we made. We went down to the local library, grabbed three books and some kind of language-learning audiocassette, and took them home, determined to be fluent in Spanish by week’s end.

We lasted twenty minutes. Bored, dejected by our failure, and a little dizzy after two days of nothing but two minute noodles, we belligerently spent every last cent we had on a giant pizza order.

By the Saturday of our week of independence, we realised we were rapidly running out of clothes. I am embarrassed to say that at this point, neither Aimée nor myself really knew how to use the washing machine. And kids, this was back in the old days before they had buttons. There was just one dial and you had to push it and twist it and pull it: it was all very complicated. You young people today don’t know how good you’ve got it, etc. Anyway, while we were vaguely aware of the push-turn-pull manoeuvre, the intricacies eluded us.

As did the idea of sorting our washing, but we’ll get to that later.

We threw in our clothes, threw in the powder and the fabric softener (yes, all in the one place), and push-turn-pulled. The machine flicked into life, so we assumed we were good to go.

About half an hour later, while we were distracted doing something else (I can’t remember what it is, but it definitely wasn’t learning Spanish or paying attention to the washing machine), we heard a weird, terrible sound. Like a cassette of Yello’s “Oh Yeah” being chewed up by the player (kids, a “cassette” is…oh never mind.) What was the quiet digga-digga-digga-digga-digga-digga of (what I now know to be) the spin cycle suddenly became

digga-digga-digga-dinka-dinka-dinka-donka-DONKA-DONKA-DONK-DONK-DONK-DONK-KONK-KONK-CHONK-CHONK-CHOCK-CHOCK-CHURK-KURK-HURK-CHUGGAHHHHHHHHHHHhhhh…

And then terrifying silence.

From opposite ends of the house, we ran to the laundry. As we saw each other running in the same direction, we both realised it would be better to not get to the machine first, because the first person to look at it would probably have to make the call on what to do next. The frantic run became a slow jog with the look of a frantic run, which became a brisk walk with the look of a slow jog, which became a genial amble with the look of a brisk walk. By the time we actually reached the laundry, we were so reluctant to be first we were both doing Bob Fosse’s “The Aloof” from Sweet Charity:

“The minute you walked in the joint (BOM BOM) I could see you were a washing machine expert, so you get up in there and have a look, I’ll stay back here and watch…”

I was first to take decisive action.
“WHAT DID YOU DO TO IT!?” (My decision was to throw blame as hard as I could.)
“NOTHING! WHAT DID YOU DO TO IT!?” Aimée yelled back. I could see I had met my match in this fight.

Very carefully, we lifted the lid on the machine, shielding our eyes as if hornets were going to fly out of if. The machine was completely filled with soapy water. It refused to drain, no matter what we did with the button/wheel thing. No amount of turning it on and off again at the wall seemed to reset it. We even disconnected and reconnected the taps in the hope that whatever was causing this blockage (hornets?) would maybe just fall out. Short of tipping it onto its side and letting the water spill where it may (the laundry floor, the bathroom floor, and eventually our bedrooms), we were completely out of options.

We realised the only thing left to do was to siphon the water out of the machine into the sink, if only to get the level low enough to see if there was a blockage in the drum itself. Physics not being either of our chosen senior subjects, we could only siphon based on what we’d learnt in the earlier years of high school. We found a length of garden hose and absolutely nothing else, so we were going to have to use the old suction method. We knew what was supposed to happen: we’d suck the water up the hose, and then gravity and suction would take care of the rest, but it didn’t work. Gravity and suction failed to participate. Eventually Aimée and I were just sucking up and spitting out hose-lengthfuls of soapy washing machine water, from the machine into the laundry tub. It tasted pretty gross.

But not as gross as it tasted once the water levels finally dropped enough for us to see that the machine was filled with our underwear. Not just our white underwear, not just our black underwear: we had sorted by clothing type, not clothing colour, so the washing machine contained every. single. item. of dirty underwear Aimée, Lauren, Thomas and I owned.

For twenty minutes, we had sucked up each other’s filthy soapy jock water. We had become like blood brothers, but much much much much much much much much worse.

30) 1995. William Street, Crows Nest QLD 4355

After only a short stay in Ravensbourne, we moved into the township of Crows Nest itself. A very large house on Williams Street, completely free of any kind of nightmarish qualities (real or imagined: I swear that house in Ravensbourne was scarier when we lived there). It was just a home.

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Okay. This is better. This looks exactly how I remember it. EXACTLY. No distorted memories here. My bedroom was the window on the far right.

Not only did this home not cause night terrors, it was actually kind of cool. It was massive, for a start. As the oldest kid, I got a large bedroom at the front of the house: it was a converted sleepout, so my bedroom was actually a giant L shape. It was like having my own little pad. Plus, Robby and her daughter Taren came back to live with us again, and the house easily fit the six of us. I always felt like our family was complete when Robby was around. Despite this, Mum and Robby still stubbornly refused to even try being a lesbian couple, which strikes me as rank selfishness on their parts.

But the best part of the house was the phone cord. This was the first home I’d lived in that had an American-style loooooong phone cord. Just like in Roseanne, a wall-mounted phone hung on the wall in the middle of the house, and the cord meant you could go all the way to the kitchen, the front door, and the master bedroom. That’s what I remember most about that house: it being full of people I loved, and that long-ass phone cord.

Things outside the home, however, weren’t so great. The school I went to was the worst school I have ever attended. And by the time I finished grade 12 I’d attended twenty-two of them, so I say that with some gravity.

I had been bullied a lot at school throughout my years. Even as far back as grade three, when I was tortured by—and I’ve never admitted this before—a grade two kid. By grade 10, however, the bullying at stepped up a notch, and the school in Crows Nest was packed with horrible little notches. I don’t want to go into too much detail because that’s a massive drag, but I can say that the bullying got so bad that it made me actually skip class. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that one of the common threads of my childhood is that I was an insufferable goody-two-shoes, so this is a Big Deal. Not once, in nine and a half years of schooling, had I ever even considered not being in class. But on this particularly bad day, after being pushed down a flight of stairs, I simply walked off school grounds and didn’t return until the next day.

I’m not sure why it got so bad at this school at this time. Normally when I went to a new school, the sporty kids would find out early on that I was not one of theirs, and usually come after me. That was to be expected. But I would find, if not friendship, then at least an absence of torment in the bookish kids. At this school, though, it didn’t happen. Either the bookish kids were also sporty kids, or there just weren’t any bookish kids at all (he said, shadily).

Or, much more likely, perhaps we were all 14 year olds and all had preternaturally shitty dispositions and didn’t deserve any friends, myself included.

Truthfully, I know for a fact that I was certainly going through an objectionable phase. Hot on the heels of my one and only teenage temper tantrum (five months earlier), it was while living at this house, and attending this school, that I ran away from home. For the second time.

I swear I made it further this time.

After an extended argument with mum, I was in my room at the absolute end of my rope, and I decided then and there that I would leave. I had no long term plan, I was just going to leave to prove that I could. Though the term had yet to be coined, I was essentially ragequitting my life.

After fuming on my bed for a while, trying (and failing) to come up with a plan, and playing my Rednex CD as obnoxiously loud as I could (yes I had the whole album), I set to work.

I grabbed my school bag and emptied it to make room for all my belongings. I almost immediately repacked it with the same items because I didn’t own a lot of stuff: “my belongings” were primarily made up of my school stuff anyway. On top of that I put my uniform, so that I would be prepared for the next day: adolescent emancipation is no excuse to shirk on your studies.

To recap, I had so far prepared for my new life by packing all the items I would need for a school I hated. Though the term had yet to be coined, I was essentially emo as fuck.

Then, satisfied I had everything I needed to free myself of the tyranny of the horrible people to whom I was shackled, I left the house…

…by climbing out my quite narrow bedroom window and shimmying down the weatherboards. Look, I may have been an angsty, rage-filled teenager ready to run away and never come back and make his family sorry they ever made him so miserable, but you know. The telly was on. I didn’t want to make a big fuss.

Having freed myself from the William Street Family Prison, I gathered my bag, turned around, and just walked away. I walked for two blocks, and found myself in the middle of the town square.

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Look how much further I got running away from home this time! I think we can all agree that’s much more impressive. Brave, even.

I sat, aimlessly, on a bench: IGA to the left of me, Wingett’s Plumbing & Hardware to the right of me, Heritage Building Society at my rear. Nowhere to go. I tried to contemplate my options. Walk down to my grandparents at Short Street? They’d be no help. They’d side with mum without question. Go to my dad’s? He was too far away: it would be impossible to even get to Toowoomba on foot, let alone all the way to Brisbane. Run away and join the circus? I’d never been that good at hammering tent pegs.

I couldn’t even go hide out at a friend’s house because, uh, I didn’t have any.

I realised I hadn’t thought my plan through very well at all. When they did discover I was gone, they would find me immediately: the town was too small to hide anywhere. It occurred to me that all that would come of this was whole episode that I would get into trouble. BIG trouble. So much trouble that they might not let me go to line-dancing class anymore. Those Thursday nights line dancing with all the little old ladies at the Crows Nest CWA hall were sometimes the only bright spot in my miserable week.

I’M JUST GOING TO LEAVE A GAP HERE WHILE YOU LET THOSE LAST TWO SENTENCES SINK IN AND GET A SENSE OF JUST WHAT KIND OF TEENAGER I WAS.

So, I had spectacularly bollocksed up this “running away from home” thing. The best thing to do was cut my losses and go back home. However, I was so filled with embarrassment that I couldn’t bring myself to go back in the front door. So instead I shimmied back up the weatherboards and hauled my petulant self back in through my bedroom window. I briefly got stuck halfway: half in, half out, like Winnie-the-Pooh. But I managed to fold myself up and negotiate the narrow confines of the window: not without losing a shoe and getting a tremendous cramp in my left buttcheek in the process.

I half clambered, half rolled, half fell onto my bedroom floor, head first. I didn’t get up immediately. I decided I would hide in my room for a bit longer. I would even, perhaps, just stay on the floor a bit longer.

As I lay there, idly massaging my buttcheek and trying to figure out how I would sneak outside to fetch my shoe from the garden, I thought about the dextrous, gazelle-like grace I had just showcased and wondered if line dancing was actually doing anything for my coordination.

Note I didn’t give any consideration to what the line dancing was doing for my social standing. Just my dance skills. But honestly, who needs friends when you have the Boot Scootin’ Boogie?

29) 1995. Post Office Road, Ravensbourne QLD 4352

It was around Easter when we left Belyando Avenue: Drive-In House of Nightmares, and moved 1000 kilometres south to Ravensbourne, a rural locale outside Crows Nest, the town my grandparents still lived in. The best part about this? The “we” in question did not include Dale. It was only mum, Lauren, Tommy and me.

(We did briefly consider moving to Mackay, only 270 kilometres from Moranbah. We even enlisted the services of a real estate agent to take us to look at some rental properties. But by then my hair was so long that the real estate agent addressed my mother, my sister and I collectively as “ladies”, and the subsequent embarrassment was so strong that we left Mackay immediately and never looked back. Or maybe it just made more sense to move closer to our family. Whatever, all I know is I haven’t been to Mackay since.)

I’m not sure how the local council designated where Ravensbourne began and ended, because there really were no visible borders to the place. It wasn’t a town, it had no shops. There wasn’t a school or a bank or a town hall. We lived on Post Office Road, but there was no post office. The road wasn’t even sealed. The only reason there even was an area called Ravensbourne is because it was adjacent to Ravensbourne National Park, which lies west of Esk. I guess “dirt road west of Esk” looks stupid on an envelope and would make a postman angry, so they slapped a name on the place.

They sealed the road! Meanwhile, this is another example of the Google Street View vans just sort of stopping. Our house is further up the road, but I can’t get there. So, here’s….the road. And the bush. Ta-da.

The house we moved into was notable for being an A-frame house entirely built from timber, and for having a spiral staircase. Well, I guess it was more of a U-turn staircase, but it was inside the building and it made me feel super fancy. It had been some years since the snobby little boy who owned horses had been able to feel fancy. And here we were, Dale-free and with a spiral staircase. What more could we ask for?

If, at any other time in my life, you had put me in a creaky A-frame timber house nestled in the side of a hill on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, I would have been terrified. But, having just moved from the Wes Craven wet dream that was the abandoned drive-in house, it was like coming home to a warm hug.

It’s probably for the best that the house felt comparatively warm and inviting, because it creaked like a bastard. Timber A-frame houses are very…connected. Look, I’m not an architect or anything, all I know is that a sneeze upstairs at one end of the house would cause a creaking, clunking, juddering noise at the other end of the house. The house was like a physical, inhabitable science exhibit showcasing the tremendous power of the Butterfly Effect.

And yet? Not scary. Had the previous house been anything else, then this place would have been a terrifying horror shack. The dark hillside into which the house was nestled was ominous enough: deep in the bush, surrounded on all sides by the endless, suffocating tangle of lantana. The backyard was a steep slope of this dark bushland, which led down into a gully that was darker still. Even the name of the area—Ravensbourne—is mortifying. The cat refused to go outside at night and spiders were common. Sometimes the outside got so creepy that it would take me upwards of ten minutes just to empty the cat litter tray because I couldn’t bear to turn my back on the wilderness surrounding us. But despite all that…

…wait. No, wait. WAIT. The more I think about it, the more I…THIS PLACE WAS NOT A WARM HUG. IT WAS TERRIBLE!? Who am I trying to kid? I can’t sugar coat this. I can’t dress it up to ensure that the narrative flow of this blog has light and shade: two houses I lived in in a row were grim terror factories. A snake-filled pit backing onto an abandoned drive-in, and a creaking, howling timber cabin buried in the middle of what could pass for the set of a found-footage horror film. No street lights. The nearest civilisation a minimum of twenty-five minutes drive away. And the light-absorbing hellscape of the Australian wilderness on all sides.

weepingangels2

Oh no, not again.

Now, while preparing this story, an old family friend by the name of Bonnie got in touch with me. She still lives in the Darling Downs area and, knowing how patchy Google Street View can be in the rural areas, asked if I wanted her to photograph the house for me. I said yes, but only if she didn’t have to risk her life doing it. It may have been nineteen years since I was there, but I remember what a grim, inhospitable nightmare area it was. So yes, I said to Bonnie, do take photos but PLEASE go in broad daylight and if there’s even the tiniest hint of danger, RUN.

Bonnie made it back. She got the photos. Please don’t read any further if you have a weak constitution. These images may be disturbing. Remember, they were only taken a week ago. The horror you are about to see is real, and it is happening right now.

Avert your eyes.

ravensbourne1

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH WHAT A FUCKING NIGHTMARE

I mean, can you believed we lived in this? It’s a wonder we any got any sleep. I mean, sure, the edge might have been taken off by the charming paint job, and the new staircase off the balcony that wasn’t there before. And that little garden at the front helps minimise the need to scream in fear I guess. And there’s been some landscaping around that big tree to help the lawn grow. And there’s that lovely flowering bush at the back now. But I mean. Look again.

ravensbourne2

ALL SHALL LOOK UPON ME AND DESPAIR

Okay fine. It’s the most charmingly whimsical elven wonderland cottage I’ve ever seen. It’s like if Galadriel bought herself a holiday home in Stars Hollow. But I am telling you, it did NOT look like this when I lived there. At least, I don’t remember it looking like this. If I’m remembering it wrong, and it did look like this? Then I’m suddenly super mad that there are still 31 stories to go in this series.

Look, it was still in the middle of nowhere. Living twenty minutes out of a town (Crows Nest) which was itself thirty minutes from the nearest city (Toowoomba) did get kind of isolating. While us kids were at school, Mum coped with the loneliness by turning to crafts. She’d always been a crafter: during her time in Townsville (while I was living with my grandparents in Tin Can Bay), she’d made jewellery and sold it at the local markets. She loved cross-stitches and tapestries, made clothes, did ceramics, at one point in the early 1980s she even filled glass jars with layers of coloured sand. (Nobody said that craft had to be useful.)

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IDEK

To fill the time in A-Frame House of Apparent Non-Horrors, however, she opted for crochet. But not just any old crochet. She wanted to go big. She wanted to crochet a floor rug. First, she took all her fabric off-cuts and cut them down into strips, which she then tied together into one long string. Then she enlisted the help of my grandfather to make her a crochet hook as thick as a broom handle. Throughout the day and most evenings, she would do this giant crochet. Round and round she went, until the rug was too big to sit on her lap. Then she’d sit on the floor in the middle of the lounge room, where the rug was going to go, spinning it round and round.

After a few weeks, it was finished: the thickest, largest, most colourful crocheted floor rug you’d ever seen. Crafted by hand out of multi-coloured rags by a poor woman living in the mountains? It was a Dolly Parton song.

However. When it came time to leave Post Office Road, we discovered the downside to making a floor rug out of hundred and hundreds of metres of fabric in situ: You have no idea how much it weighs. That rug took three people to lift, and when we finally got it into the truck, it immediately crushed every box underneath it.

Look. Please don’t take this as a recommendation to enter a life of crime, but if you are already there: might I suggest crocheting your own blankets to wrap the bodies in? Those bastards will SINK.

24) 1994. 6 Short Street, Crows Nest QLD 4355

I spent each term of 1994 at a different school. Term one was at Wondai State School, term two was at Proston State School. By the time term three was on the approach, it was time to move again. Why? I don’t even know, and I’m not in a position to ask. But this time, we were moving 174 kilometres south, to the charming hamlet of Crows Nest, in Queensland’s Darling Downs. A small town with a local, artisanal cordial factory, it looked like it had all the folksy charm of Stars Hollow, the town from Gilmore Girls. It even had the vague shape of Stars Hollow: the cordial factory, supermarket, butcher, baker, fruit shop, bank, hardware store, haberdashery and fish & chip shop all bordered the cute and kitschy town square park.

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“Where you lead…I will fol-low…anywhere…that you tell me to…”

My grandparents bought their house to the west of the town square, nestled at the end of Short Street.

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Short Street was indeed short, and came off Sharp Street. There was no Sweet Street, which seems to me like a missed opportunity.

The fence of their house at Short Street backed onto hole six of the Crows Nest Golf Links. It was a great location; the golf course made it seem like the backyard was endless, and impeccably well kept. My grandparents even found an old set of golf clubs at an op shop and took up what they called “hit & giggle”, where they’d play golf extraordinarily badly and laugh about it. It was fun, but also illegal, as they’d simply scoot out onto the middle of the fairway at hole 6 (which was the furthest distance from the clubhouse), play to hole 8, then dash across to hole 4, play back down to hole 6, and then go back into the house. They didn’t pay club fees, they didn’t pay for the course itself, and they sourced balls from their own backyard (people who hit balls into other people’s backyards are rarely brave enough to go retrieve them). To put it in 21st century terms: my grandparents were illegally downloading golf. They were golf pirates.

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So close, Google Image search! SO CLOSE.

I enrolled at Crows Nest state school: my third P-10 school for the year. It seemed okay. A few doors down from my house lived someone from my class, Jeffrey. We became friends and my grandmother immediately took a disliking to him. The cynic in me wonders if my grandmother didn’t just hate all my friends on spec because my compliance to her nonsense was directly proportionate to my level of isolation, but that’s a Münchausen-by-proxy wormcan I’d rather not unpack. Besides, maybe he really was a dickhead? He was a 14 year old boy, it’s highly likely.

I don’t actually remember much else from living in Short Street. I think by this point I was too exhausted to care. From Murgon to Proston and now Crows Nest; I was on a constant tour of the middle of nowhere. I think I took a small hiatus from having any vested interest in my life. Does that sound needlessly melodramatic? I was (very nearly) a 14 year old boy, it’s highly likely.

I do remember I was obsessed with the Crash Test Dummies. How did I even know about the Crash Test Dummies? Even with a TV aerial, living with my grandparents meant being cut off from popular culture entirely, under the heading it isn’t music, it’s just a jangle of noise, and so on. The Crash Test Dummies seems like an odd memory tent-pole to have.

Oh! I remember! At some point in the last month at Proston I’d procured a battery-operated clock radio. If I went out to the north-west corner of a paddock up a hill, I could tune into some local radio stations. That, combined with the weekends in Brisbane with dad, had drilled a tiny hole into my pop culture ice moon prison. And through that hole leaked at least two Top 40 songs from the era: Crash Test Dummies’s Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm and Marcella Detroit’s I Believe. 

Very few teenage rebellions take the form of defiant Easy Listening, but here we are.

Anyway, after a couple of months mum came down to stay for a while. It was only a holiday, she had to go back to Darwin, but in the last week she asked if I wanted to go with her. Still feeling the sting of having had to move to some pretty shitty places (Crows Nest might have seemed Gilmore Girls-y, but it wasn’t. And even if it was, my grandparents were Richard and Emily, not Morty and Babette), I said yes. Do they play Crash Test Dummies on the radio up there? They do? Does the TV work? It does? Is my Sega Megadrive still in working order? It is? I’D LOVE TO GO.