Jun 5

When I was a kid I got hooked on Class B drugs. That’s B for Biscuits.

It started out innocently enough; my mum would let me have a bite of her Milk Arrowroot or Morning Coffee. Little did she know that she was setting me on a path to biscuity ruin. Soon I was sneaking Scotch Fingers from the pantry. After I had my first sugar hit from a plate of Nice crumbs there was no turning back.

In the mid-’70s there were less biscuits on the market, but they were much more pure than today. I had my first taste of a Honey Jumble around age seven. Before long I was hooked on Chips Ahoy and Chocolate Wheaten. These were an addict’s worst nightmare; once you had a taste you ate until the packet was empty.

Most days I’d score a Wagon Wheel on the way home from school. My poor mother had no idea that’s what I was buying with my 20c pocket money each afternoon.

This led me into the next phase of my addiction, when my cravings could only be satisfied by chocolate. I moved from Chocolate Wheaten into the fully chocolate-covered biscuits; Tim Tam was the most popular, all my mates used to take it. I’d have two Tim Tams for breakfast with a Chocolate Monte chaser.

Around age twelve I tried to wean myself off chocolate by moving back to cream biscuits. I gradually got down to six Delta Creams a day. Sometimes I’d mix things up with an Adora Cream or Shortbread Cream. I would go down to the park at night with friends and we’d crack open an Arnotts Cream Selection. It seemed like fun, we didn’t know the harm we were causing ourselves. But let me tell you, I never, ever touched the Orange Cream … man, those things are nasty.

In the early ’80s the market became flooded with a wide range of new biscuits. Old favourites were coming out in new varieties. One day I scored a pack of Tim Tams only to find it had been cut with caramel. Soon it was becoming difficult to find a pure Tim Tam anywhere.

New biscuit markets started to form. Even the yuppies had their own boutique biscuit: the Kingston. This was popular in night clubs and at celebrity parties, it wasn’t for a suburban kid like me.

My moment of clarity came after an all-night binge on chocolate Tiny Teddies. I came to in the grey dawn, cardboard and chocolate crumbs strewn about my room, and began to weep at the ruin my life had become. My family was very supportive, and with some detox and rehab I was able to kick my habit of many years.

My story has a happy ending. Now I only eat biscuits socially. I avoid the biscuit aisle at the shopping centre and don’t keep biscuits around the house. At Christmas maybe I’ll celebrate with a Mint Slice or two.

Remember, the first step is to admit you have a problem.

Apr 14

Throughout my school life I sought to remain neutral, like Switzerland during World War II. My avoidance of conflict with schoolyard bullies was largely due to my obvious lack of strategic military importance. I bothered no-one and was left alone in return. There was, however, one chilling episode during which I was the target of an orchestrated campaign of terror.

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Apr 7

I was seven years old when my sister got married. She and her new husband went to live in Mt Gambier, in South Australia, where my sister worked as a primary school teacher. They built a nice brick house, right next to the cemetery.

Not long after they moved in to their new home, mum & dad and I drove down to visit them. Their house seemed very new and exciting to me, and it had all sorts of modern, fancy contraptions that our house lacked. I was particularly intrigued by the little buttons on the backs of all the doorknobs. I had never seen these before and had no idea what they might do. (In our house if you wanted to lock a door you pushed a piece of furniture against it.)

Early one morning I had to go to the toilet. (I should mention here that I slept in the spare room, on a bean bag. This was the ’70s after all.) The toilet was in its own little room, and was spotlessly clean. As I sat there I spied the little button on the doorknob. I pressed it a few times to see what would happen. As I opened the door to leave, an idea hit me. I stepped out of the cubicle, then reached back inside and depressed the button. I tested the outside knob and, sure enough, it wouldn’t turn. Eureka!

Then, without thinking, I shut the door behind me as I left. I tried to open the door. It was locked, from the inside. Uh oh.

Immediately I sensed that I had done something wrong, and so I scampered back to the safety of my bean bag bed. At some point I realised there was a general hubbub in the house so I went out to face the music. At first I feigned innocence, but pretty soon I crumpled under the pressure. Yes, I admitted, I might’ve accidentally pressed the button and somehow the door blew shut, or something.

My sister was very angry. My brother-in-law had to get a screwdriver to unlock the toilet door. Maybe he had to take the doorknob off, I don’t know.

To add insult to injury I was charged with the additional crime of weeing on the toilet floor that same morning, which is absolutely false. I think my dad was most likely responsible for that. Or I was framed.

Portrait of the locksmith as a young man, c. 1977

Apr 3

Another of my earliest memories is of when I fell in the water. I guess I was about three years old when this happened. Our family had gone to Forster for a holiday and we were staying in our caravan at Forster Caravan Park, as we did most holidays. I don’t think it was summer though, because it was very cold and I was wearing a big, thick jumper that my mum had knitted.

Forster Caravan Park sits right on the river and there is a large man-made lagoon with a boat ramp. Across one end of the lagoon is a wooden walkway, which we always called “the catwalk”. Our caravan was next to the lagoon, and one day my brother Russell took me for a walk along the catwalk. Russell would have been about thirteen years old I guess. Mum would always tell Russell not to let go of my hand.

I can remember walking along the catwalk, holding Russell’s hand. The next thing I am underwater. I remember looking up through the water for a split second, and seeing the sky, and Russell looking down at me. I wasn’t afraid or freaking out, I was just underwater. Then he jumped in and picked me up. The water was only a few feet deep.

Russell carried me, dripping wet in my woolly jumper, up the grass to our caravan. Mum ran outside to see what had happened. This part of the memory is strange though, because I see it from mum’s viewpoint, watching Russell carry me towards her. This image has probably been implanted in my memory because our family talked about this event so many times. All I can clearly recall is sitting on the bottom of the lagoon, looking upwards.

Snubian artillery division takes adventure playground by force, c. 1973

Mar 27

When I was three I had to go to the hospital to get stitches in my chin. This is perhaps my earliest memory. I had just got out of the bath, and dad was towelling me dry. I can remember slipping over on the wet floor and cracking my chin. Our bathroom floor had lots of small, different coloured tiles. Dad picked me up and was giving the top of my head a rub, thinking that’s where I’d hurt myself. He didn’t notice the blood dripping from the cut in my chin.

Next thing I remember is sitting on mum’s lap in the front seat of the car, driving to the Royal Newcastle Hospital. (Imagine if you saw this now, a kid on someone’s lap in the front seat of a car! How times change.) Mum had put some sort of bandage on my chin and was pressing it down. I don’t recall whether it hurt or if I was crying. I think I was pretty calm as a little kid.

I don’t know what happened when we got to the hospital, but I clearly remember lying on a table and the doctor placing a cloth over my face. The cloth was made of cotton, and I can vividly remember its smell, and how it felt against my skin. My chin was numb of course, but I could feel the tugging of the needle as it went in and out. Afterwards I heard the doctor tell mum that I was a very good little boy.

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