a chartered accountant
became a partner
we moved to Park Road.
Four poplars evenly spaced
stood like sentinels in front of our place
regally immobile unless distracted
by a passing bird or a fleeting breeze.
Bisected by a gravel drive
flanked by lawns and a pomegranate tree
turning towards a double garage
with a courtyard on the other side.
Bickleigh Vale boasted a billiards room
kitchen, breakfast room, two bathrooms
a lounge, living room, and four bedrooms
with stuccoed brick walls and a slate tiled roof.
By the back veranda, an arthritic tree
leaned languidly over a sandpit
with an aviary and lawn
hemmed in by rampant blackberries.
The land sloped to a wilderness below
with an old chicken shed
converted into a clubhouse
with chairs a table and a cupboard.
Adolescence approached stealthily
with strange yearnings and little warning
an inexplicable furtive groping
for something always out of reach.
We compared our growing penises
while gazing lustfully at girlie pictures
tame in those puritanical days,
but titillating all the same.
A pearly drop appeared on mine
to my immediate concern and shame
although applauded by my mates
the unwitting price of fame.
At times I’d get the urge to climb a tree
or clamber up onto the roof
to see the world from some other perspective
and find something I seemed to need.
We were side effects of Pop’s success
Mum, me and my two brothers
passengers on his merry-go-round
unable or unwilling to get off.
Pop was remote, but never aloof
but incapable of sentimentality
or of the love I was missing.
Mum cared for us maternally
but whether she loved us
it’s hard to say
I know she loved to socialise.
Love was a sentimental convention then
Errol Flynn’s smile before the inevitable kiss
Sinatra’s theatrical swooning
all as real as Disneyland.
Programmed to love God and do my duty
I prayed regularly and remorsefully
for forgiveness, and deliverance
from the terrible sin of self-abuse.
Exiting eventually from Peate Avenue Primary
Pop enrolled me at his old alma mater
the prestigious Scotch College
exclusively private and Presbyterian.
Appropriately attired with cap and badge
regulation suit and Gladstone bag
I journeyed by train from Gardiner station
to Kooyong and the school on top of the hill.
Apprehensively passing through wrought iron gates
along a snaking driveway
past a copse of trees and a rugby pitch
to the Memorial Chapel overlooking an oval.
Beyond was a weathered brick edifice
set around a quadrangle with a tree in the middle
two tiers of classrooms and the Assembly Hall
or tribal meeting place I called The Old Mausoleum.
Like a church inside with traditional pews
slots for hymn books and honour boards around the walls
a stage and rostrum beside an organ
and an aisle down one side.
With academic gowns flapping
the masters strode towards the stage
sonn followed by the headmaster
entering from the other side.
When class lists were read out
I was allotted 5C French 1
led to a classroom to selected a desk
then collect some books.
My two wasted years at Scotch
tend to merge
variations on a terminal theme
boring lessons and mundane routine.
Masters sat at desks on rostrums
occasionally stretching their limbs
and inculcating by dictating.
Competitive sport both inter-house
and between schools
was highly rated and esteemed
as character building.
Assigned alphabetically to Gardiner House
one of four factional tribes
each fiercely partisan
I often wondered why.
Gardiner invariably lost
and as a member of the footy team
I rarely touched the ball
in a team incapable of winning a game.
Scoreless for the entire season
except for one solitary behind
our abysmal side epitomised
my own futility and lack of achievement.