The names are true enough, I suppose. I was indeed a scruffy child - and many would hazard a scruffy adult – and Fandango Jones was indeed orange. Though quite possibly more orange these days with the addition of facial hair. Either way, it’s safe to say we were a pair of little bastards when let out on the prowl in the elderly-filled town of Mount Waverley.
The perpetually slow moving streets of the sleepy suburb were the ideal playground for a couple of antisocial children with a lot of time on their hands. No matter where we went, boredom would set in, and sooner or later we’d be lobbing objects over fences for some trivial reason or another.
SG: “Man, that’s the house with that bastard in it!”
SG: “Well then. I wonder what we should do with all these apples…”
BO: “Mmm, I wonder”
And then would come the inevitable hail of rotting fruit over the fence and onto some poor housewifes nice clean washing. But it wasn’t just fruit that we used to turf at our enemies, real or imaginary. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that we often didn’t really bother with the construction of enemies at all, and just restorted to games of ‘golf’ in our grandparents tiny backyard, equipped with a treeful of lemons and our grandfathers set of golf clubs. Our idea of damage limitation was not to try and chip the fruit around the backyard, but more along the lines of trying to hit the fruit around in the way that it could be construed as an errant chip that may’ve accidently flown over a fence… or two. That, and lemons. Totally less damaging than golf balls, they are - Certainly in terms of our grandfathers’ reaction to them being lost, at any rate.
Then came the trips outside of the house. I think it was one of the few places you would have children actively offering to go out and grab a litre of milk.
“Hi Nan, do you need anything from the shops?”
“Er, no, don’t think so”
“Are you sure? I think you’re low on cheese”
“Why don’t you take a look in the fridge, and see dear?”
Now given Nan was more or less confined to the dining room chair for most of her career as an elderly person (and probably knew damn well what we were up to), and Pa was always just as keen for a stroll up the street, it wasn’t really much of a challenge to be sent up the road for a stick of butter with a ten dollar note in your pocket.
Off we’d stroll, Boy Orange and I, in search of the nearest shopping trolley. This generally wasn’t too difficult, as it was back in those heady days when people actually walked to the shops, so would leave trolleys, post-shop, in conveniently placed locations for the trolley boys’ nightly collection round, And of course for errant eight year olds.
With our shopping trolleys (one each) secured, we would usually head to the railway station carpark. If it was a Sunday, we would head over to the empty Wooly’s carpark, just for a bit of variety. Both of these carparks presented their individual challenges. Both had speedbumps, but more impressively, both had bloody excellent ramps of one form or another. The Railway featured a pedestrian underpass, which consisted of a rough ashphalt slope, with a right angled turn to the left at the bottom into a small tunnell, and then another right angle turn into the pathway on the other side. It also featured guttering which had to be avoided at all costs, and a couple of pylons, presumably to stop people doing silly things like racing shopping trolleys down there. Needless to say, the challenges in this particular race were to;
a) stay upright ,
b) make the turn if possible,
b) scare the pants off any pedestrians who were so foolish as to try and actually use the underpass.
In later years, we would try and emulate this feat on my skateboard. Though for some strange reason, we never used to stand on the bloody thing, instead we would lie on it and try and paddle it around like a surfboard. This seemed to result in more grazes.
Over in the safeways carpark, the only slope to be found was in the loading dock. The smooth concrete provided a much better surface for ones’ attempt at trolley racing, resulting in a far more satisfying speed. The real problem with this slope was that it ended quite suddenly with a concrete wall and a big jutting out piece of metal at the bottom. Clearly, the key was to obtain maximum speed, and to time ones’ jump off the trolley in a way that would not result in;
a) your head being removed by the metal bit,
b) your body being maimed by the concrete wall,
c) the trolley bouncing back from the concrete wall and mangling you.
But as much fun as it was to race ones trolleys, it simply didn’t compare to the fun a daring duo such as our fine selves could have in a supermarket. One of the supermarkets (the Woolworths) had installed a complimentary coffee machine in an ill fated attempt to win customers away from the competing supermarket 50 metres away (the other Woolworths). As we were still children and did not drink coffee yet (I’m looking at you, CouchBoy), it was rather fortunate that they had thought to include a hot chocolate option on said machine. It was crap, but more importantly, it was free. After helping ourselves to several cups, and then disposing of all the whitener in the bin, because really, who the fuck wants whitener, anyway?, we’d make our way into the supermarket.
I recall one particular time, not long after the launch of Kinder Surprise into the Australian market; I made an arbitrary decision that they were the kind of chocolate clearly designed for toddlers, and therefore unsuitable for our consumption. Based on this decision, the next time we went to this particular market, I set about breaking the kinder surprises, and nicking the toys from the toddler-chocolate shells. I’m not entirely sure where the rationale for this came from, and didn’t have much time to consider such a thought, because it soon became apparent that Boy Orange had come prepared for his supermarket trip… with a cap bomb. We delighted in tossing the little metal ‘bomb’ up in the air, complete with rolled paper cap (or two, or three) jammed in the top, watching it fall, make contact with the floor and bang loudly, scaring the bejezus out of whichever elderly woman we’d been stalking. I don’t recall seeing any heart attacks onset by this, but I’m guessing a few years were shaved of already shaky lifespans that day.
After a good bit of cap bomb fun, the store manager tracked us down. He was fucking furious, and as he stood there in his silly white shirt and his silly Woolworths tie, going pink from anger and not quite knowing what to say, I think all we could do was giggle a bit, completely diffusing his anger. Don’t get me wrong – we were indeed little bastards, but we weren’t the sort of little bastards that could usually deflect a telling-off like that, we were the sort that would crumble, cry and bit, and be suitably ashamed – which is why it was so fucking ridiculous that this grown adult seemed to be having so much trouble trying to get a pair of young kids out of his store. We weren’t disagreeing with him, we weren’t even being argumentative and refusing to leave, we were simply waiting for him to take the lead and escort us out. Eventually we wandered off, leaving the store in good will (with our stick of butter), stopping for a complimentary hot chocolate or six on the way out. When we got home, we were saddened to discover that the Kinder Surprise toys were just as shit as the chocolate they were encased in.
One day, nan filled me in on her latest news, absolutely elated. The nurse came in on Tuesday, and she says I can’t walk anymore!, she conveys with a huge grin on her face. But we soon discovered the source of her unusual eleation at the news of being permanently disabled – she was now eligible for a mobility scooter! This was a pretty big win for her, because I don’t think she really had any intention of walking anywhere again anyway. I think she hit about 65 and decided that she’d been walking for at least 60 years now, and it was about time she had a good break and put her legs up. So, the scooter was delivered, and she used it all of twice before going back to the dining room chair she was so fond of. I suppose I can understand why though, she was head of her own little world in that room, where people would come and visit her and chat, where the heater and tv were always on, and where food smells were always coming from the kitchen.
It really was quite amazing – she managed to maintain control of the kitchen and all the meals it produced from that chair. She’d cut up beans on the table, and then instruct someone to go and put them in pot x, or to give pot y a stir. On special days, she’d instruct someone to bring her the electric fry pan, and there she’d sit, in her chair, at the table, frying up some salmon patties. It was really quite extraordinary, now that I think about it.
The upshot of this recently acquired yet completely unused mobility scooter, was that much to the rest of the familys’ dismay, nan would actively encourage myself and Boy Orange to take it out ‘for a run’ to stop the battery from dying or some other feeble excuse. That woman sure knew how to make us kids happy – ten dollars placed in our ownership, a mobility scooter with a fully charged battery, and instructions to go and get some chips from the charcoal chicken shop. We were in heaven.
A bit like this, but more of a bucket seat and a basket on the back (for dinking. Not for groceries)
We would jack the speed up to ‘Rabbit’ (as opposed to ‘Turtle’), and away we’d go. We quite effectively became pavement hoons, taking every corner as fast as Rabbit allowed, usually getting the scooter onto two wheels, and if you were really good, just one. With the help of the basket on the back, you could dink people, and you were showing pretty serious skills if you could get the scooter into a skid – though it’s safe to say that we usually managed to flip the thing sideways when that happened. Actually, flip is maybe too strong of a word. Perhaps something along the lines of an inevitable slow motion fall. As I recall, we used to manage to break things with the scooter on a pretty regular basis – often by presuming it had much better braking qualities than it actually did (it had none – just motor regulation). Terracotta pots, garden gnomes, garden edging and errant bits of hedges and fencing all fell prey to the scooter at one point or another, and with the help of the little horn it came equipped with, we only managed to clip a small number of pedestrians on our travels.
The funny thing is though, through all of this, the only time anyone actually got angry at us was the manager in the supermarket - and even then it was of to absolutely no effect. We would regularly terrorise these streets, lob lemons into peoples yards/windows/antennas, throw rotting fruit into peoples backyards, and regularly endanger pedestrians. I’ve no doubt we found lots more mischief to get up to in one way or another, but all these old people would just smile at us, ask us to pass on some greeting or another to our folks, and perhaps offer us a choccy biscuit. It was a very odd place.
Unfortunately, I think most of these kindly people are dead now (I’m going to presume the supermarket manager died young from some kind of heart condition). It is a shame, because I suspect it’s a rare place where a community are so tolerant of childish shenanigans. Christ if kids did that now, I’m guessing hapless bystander would get arrested for being a pedo, and the parents would be stripped of their parenting rights for being so careless as sending their kids up the street to grab some shopping. I can just imagine them being dressed down about all the dangers for kids in the world these days – don’t you understand? THERE COULD BE TERRORISTS IN THAT SUPERMARKET!
I think what the adult world it totally failing to understand is children are a much bigger threat to the adult community than the other way around. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just deluding themselves.