30 June, 2007

The Ballad of Lad Litter and TLOML V

Things couldn’t have been better.


And then I appeared to become seriously ill.

About a week later, I neglected to ring TLOML towards the Thursday to see if she wanted to do anything on the weekend. I thought about it, but as a really lazy bloke, I reasoned that she might ring me. She didn’t. And I thought well, missing one weekend together won’t be the end of the world.

I had a couple of mates over to the big old house on the hill this cold Saturday afternoon and we were having a choof and listening to some great music. As you would. Flash by Jeff Beck it was, which had the minor 1986 hit People Get Ready, with Rod Stewart on vocals. We were talking about Beck’s playing. His odyssey from the Yardbirds through various Jeff Beck Groups. With a veritable cavalcade of stoner insights flying back and forth.

Well, your mind opens and you let the odd thought in that wouldn’t otherwise form part of any straight stream of consciousness. And some of it still holds water when you do get straight. I was standing near the mantelpiece and giving a partly coherent and excruciatingly pompous summary of Beck’s place in rock guitar history. The Crashing Bore Holds Forth.

I leaned over towards the mantelpiece with one hand outstretched and missed it completely and stumbled.
“Shit, sit the fuck down you fuckin’ idiot,” one mate sympathized.
The other bloke backed me up though.
“And your talking shit too ‘cos your just too fucking stoned. I want to listen to the fucking record, not you.”

Suitably uplifted, I joined them on the lounge suite. I wasn’t spinning out, but I was pretty stoned and had the wobbles. Which was a bit disconcerting. And I was a little disoriented. I spoke negligibly from there on, but when I did, I slurred my words. After my two paisani left, I had a bit of a nap. When I woke up in the early evening, I was no longer under the influence of Terence Stamp’s Favourite. And I felt clear, not dizzy. But the walls kept bumping into me and I sounded as if I’d been partying like it was 1999.

I called TLOML and she wasn’t home. Do you know where she is? I asked her mum.
Yes, she’s over at her Uncle Big Irish Bloke and his wife’s.

I was put out, and the logic went something like this: I hadn’t called her, so it was up to her to call me, and she hadn’t, so therefore she was in the wrong and I was therefore entitled to ring her and demand to know where she was and why she hadn’t called me. And why she had the nerve to be out while I was stuck at home. This actually made sense to me at the time. I kid you not.

I grilled her mum some more about where she was and then when TLOML got home and called me back she wanted to know why she was expected to call me to see about the weekend, and I mumbled and stammered my way through a lame and very unconvincing presentation of my case. She told me she thought I was drunk, OR SOMETHINNNGGG!! she added in what must have been Arial Black 72. I tried to assure her I wasn’t, but I sounded in my cups, verbally.

But now, let’s do an Enid Blyton, shall we? Let’s, having gone into minute detail in an introduction, then just zip through a crucial part of the narrative in a really brusque, dismissive can't be fucked kind of way, probably annoying the crap out of our readership. Both of them. Anyway, ol’ Enid placed a great store in the recitation of lists, if I remember my Magic Faraway Tree correctly. So:

1) I’d had a really painful sore throat the week before. The GP had said it was Clayton’s Tonsillitis. The tonsillitis you have when you don’t have any tonsils;
2) When I returned to him with the wobbles, he referred me to an ENT Specialist. Balance problems are often middle-ear related. But the ENT bloke thought I needed to see a neurologist;
3) I was tested. I was scanned. I was interviewed. Did I belong to a high-risk category for HIV? I theatrically affected mild outrage at the very idea of such a question.
4) After all the variables had been isolated, the loss of co-ordination was found to be an inflammation of the cerebellum, a complication usually arising from glandular fever, which the sore throat must have been a small case of. Tests don’t show it, so you have to eliminate everything else;
5) I spent a week in St Vincent’s on a cortisone drip and then I was fine;
6) And lashings of ginger beer. No Blyton list is complete without it.

But what was TLOML doing while all of this was going on? And where were we? Well, she was a busy girl. What with visiting me at the big old house on the hill a few times a week while I waited for a hospital bed, bringing me soup and other meals. And then during my week in hospital, she came in every day. I longed for her when she wasn’t there and waited all day to see her.

A fellow patient I used to sit and chat with was introduced to her and after she left told me:

“You’re on a good wicket there mate...”

I couldn’t have agreed more.

Another with whom I shared many a cigarette asked:

“Who’s that girl that comes to visit you? She is really beautiful. So glamourous.” I concurred with that too.

She had been worried about me earlier, while the protracted diagnosis played out. I told her there was no point in winding myself up. No news was good news, and she could be assured that, if it came to the worst, I would promptly go to pieces like the best of them and prove I wasn’t as stoic as I was trying to make out.

But through it all, she brightened everything up. I was with someone who really cared for me. Liked me. Enjoyed my company. Thought I was ok. As my fellow patients had hinted, I was a very lucky bloke.

The day I was discharged, a good 5kg lighter than when this all began, she came over to the big old house on the hill in the evening and...

Puts on Les Patterson voice:

...I don't mind telling you she did her fair share of ceiling inspecting that night.

Are you with me?

28 June, 2007

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That...

Someone came to this blog today from the UK after doing an AOL search on, ahem, "put the big lad in my arse." Well, not on the first date, I wouldn't, no. I didn't get around to checking, but I'm kinda hoping Alan Jones' website made it into the results too.

24 June, 2007

The Ballad of Lad Litter and TLOML IV

She was fabulous. I remember telling myself that I could get used to all this, and hoped I would get the chance.

We said goodbye and I told her I’d give her a call soon.

It looked like I had a girlfriend.

I felt pretty good about the whole business so far. Pleased with myself. Smug even. Possibly dangerously smug, I warned myself, but it was very empowering to drive down the street with eyes only on the road for a change. Not bothering to even look at women walking by that I would previously have unashamedly checked out. I didn’t need to anymore. Because I had a girlfriend, I constantly congratulated myself. I wasn’t a loser after all. Not yet.

Anyway, a few days after the-weekend-of-two-dates I just felt like seeing her so I rang her up and asked if she had been watching The Life and Loves of a She-Devil miniseries that was concluding on the ABC that night. She had been. So how about if I came over and we watched it together? She was okay with that.

I arrived to find her Big Sister and her mum and dad sitting in the kitchen. We were introduced and chatted. Big sister left to go home soon after and her mum asked me what I’d done on my day off, which I’d taken to get my car’s electrical system fixed. At an exorbitant price, too.

Not much, I told her, but I’d spent the day at my folks’ place and had to walk past my old primary school on the way to and from the auto electrician’s and it seemed a lot smaller than I’d remembered it.
“And where was that?” she asked.
“Oh, St Somethingorother’s.”
“Really? But that’s where Big Sister and TLOML went to school!” she told me.
This was getting a bit coincidental.

We compared notes on years and it turned out that Big Sister had been in my Grade 4 class and I remembered her clearly. She was a very bright, articulate girl and hadn’t changed. I also remembered her two-years-younger sister, who at that age looked just like her. And her mum had taught both of my sisters at the local Girls High School. How about that for a freak out? These days we’d all be charged with stalking each other.

I searched my memory for recollections of the young TLOML and there were two: she had come in to our classroom after school to meet Big Sister on the way home and I can remember her dark hair in long plaits; and another time when Big Sister and TLOML were walking on one side of a tree-lined street and a mate and I were on the other. I’d called out to Big Sister and she’d pointed her nose in the air and kept walking. TLOML had looked across, looked back at Big Sister and then done the same in a gorgeous Little Sister kind of way.

Well, this was something. I had known my new girlfriend all along, without knowing it.

We watched the conclusion to the mini-series, which wasn’t all that good, but I had just wanted an excuse to see her. She told me much later that she hadn’t even heard of the Fay Weldon vengeance-themed blockbuster but just said that she had so I would come over. She’d then told her mum to forget about watching anything else and to play along.

Later that week, we arranged to meet at a pub with a whole crowd of colleagues and I can vividly remember chatting with some of them when TLOML arrived and came straight over to say hello. We kissed unselfconsciously, me whispering I’ve missed you into her ear. Aaww! She’d missed me too, she was polite enough to reply.

I can’t remember much about the rest of what must have been a very pleasant evening beyond the fact that it finished up with us together again back at the big old house on the hill.

Everything was going rather well. And it felt very natural, totally comfortable. She was really lovely, and her family was nice too.

Things couldn’t have been better.


And then I appeared to become seriously ill.

09 June, 2007

Level Crossing Accident: 1975

I know I'm supposed to be on a work-frenzy driven hiatus but damned if the need to blog doesn't strike at odd times and subsume all in its path. You know exactly what I mean.

This week’s level crossing accident near Kerang was horrendous. You just expect to be safe on a train and would have no trepidation about catching one, no jitters like you might experience before a flight. My sympathies to those who lost loved ones and to the many injured and their families. I hope something is done to make level crossings safer. It brought to mind an incident from long ago when I was involved, albeit peripherally, in a level-crossing accident near Heyfield in East Gippsland.

A couple of nights ago, I Googled Heyfield and sent this in an email to the Heyfield Family History Society:

In April 1975 my fourth form class went on a camp to Mt Tamboritha in East Gippsland. The school owned a chalet deep in the densely forested mountains there. It was a bush hut really. The word chalet was always uttered with eyes pointing skywards by students who'd been there.

On the last day, one of the teachers was going to be driving the school’s Land Rover back and asked for four volunteers to accompany him. Not fancying the lo-o-ong bus and train rides back to Melbourne, I put my hand up and was picked with three others to bounce unrestrained on centre-facing bench seats in the back.

After coming down the winding, precipitous dirt road, with logging trucks whooshing past at high speed, I remember the relief at being back on the wider, safer bitumen as we passed through Heyfield. Just out of the town and approaching a near right-angle bend to the left, we were overtaken at speed by what I recollect as a white 1971 Holden Kingswood sedan. We could see a longish, rusty red goods train approaching from the west up ahead. “He’s trying to beat the train,” someone said.

When we rounded the bend a short time later the train was proceeding slowly through the level crossing about 500 metres ahead and the white car had stopped. We thought he’d pulled up but as we got closer we noticed steam coming from the car’s radiator. He’d hit the train and bounced back. The train was slowing to a stop.

The car was occupied by a man in his 40s who was unconscious but groaning. We couldn't tell the extent of his injuries but his face was unmarked. I can remember the teacher speaking to him to reassure him that help would arrive soon. We were unable to open the car doors and the teacher felt it would have been unsafe to move him anyway as the steering wheel and column had been forced right up against his chest by the impact. The front of the car and engine compartment were pushed in too. He must have been shopping as groceries were strewn all over the road. I remember turning the ignition off and the guard from the train walking slowly back to his van and then walking back even more slowly carrying a fire extinguisher so we could spray the engine as a precaution. The fire extinguisher didn’t work.

The teacher spoke to the occupants of the next car to arrive and they turned back to town to get help but I seem to remember leaving the scene before the arrival of police or emergency services. I think it might have been a case of the train moving up slowly to clear the crossing (the car was not tangled up with it at all) and us not staying because we hadn't actually seen the impact and so were not technically witnesses. I forget the rationale behind the decision to leave. It was a long time ago and I was only 15.

From time to time I have wondered whether or not the poor fellow survived. I hope he did. He was around about the same age as my dad was then so it was a nasty shock for me and quite close to home. The teacher and my classmates were also shaken up by it. He looked like a family man on the way home with the week's shopping.

I understand that this would no doubt be a sensitive matter for friends or relatives still living in the area and I apologise if this enquiry might upset anyone. Please use your judgment and take the matter no further if this is the case. I just wondered if you or any long-term Heyfield residents might have any recollection of the incident that I've described.

I also understand that this is something of an unusual request for information especially after such a long time. I think what sparked it was this week’s disaster near Kerang and a coach driver I had a chat with earlier this year who told me he grew up in Heyfield and was surprised that I knew where it was. I told him why I remembered Heyfield but this chap was not living there in 1975 so didn't know anything about the accident.

The email bounced back.

Just as it did when I sent it to the Heyfield Resource Centre.

I’m still wondering.

03 June, 2007

I'm Just going Outside. I May Be Some Time...

Lad Litter will be taking a brief hiatus while he struggles manfully to get through a very busy time at work. Lad Litter regrets any inconvenience or loss of continuity. Lad Litter also apologises for talking about himself in the third person. Very annoying, that.

I should be back with a couple of posts in the next week or so. In the meantime, here is a limited rundown:

What I'm Reading:
Caesar's Legacy by Josiah Osgood;

What I'm Re-Reading:
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut;

What I'm Watching:
Life On Mars on the ABC;

Strange Days by Kathryn Bigelow on DVD;

What I'm Listening To:
Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds

Where I'm Going:
The Retreat in Brunswick on Thu night;
My Cricket Club's AGM on Fri night;
Home to watch Essendon vs West Coast on 7;
Blogs I'm Really Enjoying:

*The title is a reference to Titus Oates. Quite a guy.