Spewin’ chips

March 5, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Sawn and unseen.

I recall the dust man had another role.

A role so awful it may explain why he spent so much time with his incinerator.

Our primary school wasn’t air-conditioned.

And the roof was made of tin.

We had none of today’s namby-pamby, go-home, get-out-of-jail-free temperature thresholds.

We sat and worked and ate and played and laughed and fought in the true-blue, dinky-di Australian heat.

At least, most of us did.

Some of us were of a relatively delicate disposition.

Lily skinned, slender limbed, carrot hued and/or freckle flung.

For these students, summer was a time for spewing.

I don’t know if it was the heat, the lack of glad-wrap on home-made jam sandwiches, or the highly processed tuck-shop fare.

Perhaps a combination of all three.

What I do know is that there was an awful lot of spew about.

The corridor floors were shiny with patina and polish.

When sick hit – often with considerable force – it splattered comprehensively.

Compounding the situation after the fact was the dust man.

His response to spew was to strew it with sawdust.

Appropriate, one might think.

But then,

he left it.

As the hot day wore on, the barf bouquet breached every nook of the school.

And, like so many mouse-trap-taped ping-pong balls, one emetic event could spring kindred reactions from sensitive souls.

By mid-afternoon, the halls could be decked with hazards.

Nor did it end there.

We always yearned to be out of class.

And played ferociously at every chance.

When the bell knelled a return to travail, we lingered as long as we dared, then raced back to class at the last instant.

The sad confluence of this was that one poor, speeding pupil invariably fell foul of dusty chuck.

I can hear it now …

Pounding footsteps down the hall.

The shriek of recognition on turning a blind corner.

The screech of protesting Bata Scouts.

The awkward thump and endless, hideous slither.

The scream of anguish.

The clatter of heels.

The raucous Schadenfreude.

And the wail of the victim who, tarred and feathered, had stinking hot hours to endure.

Why the dust man did it, I’ll never know.

I suppose, these days, we’d call it poor cultural fit.

The chunder down under was always gone by morning.

The scene set for another fool

to fret the stage.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by Maja Dumat.




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  1. Yes. Why did they leave that sawdust for so long? These days the office ladies have a special non-odorous powder which can be vacuumed up. Evocative writing, Paul.

    • Hi, Michelle. So you saw it too! Could it have been that dust men actually hated the kids and colluded across parishes? Thanks so much for your words of kindness and recognition. Best regards, P. πŸ™‚

  2. Too many memories, thank you Paul.
    Some are best left unrecalled – except to remind these young things just how hard we had it.
    But what we thought was hard was often not for our parents.
    Guess that’s the rhythm of life! πŸ’ƒπŸ»

    • I greatly appreciate you toughing it out, Desoie. Then and now. With kind regards and an initialled hanky, P. πŸ˜‰

  3. At 4 am today, my family and I were woken by the loudest, evilest and most prolonged bout of vomiting any of us has ever heard. On returning home from our dawn walk, we found a large, bald, tattooed stranger camped in an old-fashioned swag on the front porch of our neighbour’s cottage. Upon entering our home, we heard him hurling copiously yet again. How he kept it up, I do not know. When I asked him just now what he was doing there, he replied, ‘Sleeping’. Nothing like this has happened during our 18 years here. As this seems rather a coincidence in light of the above post, I’d just like to know if any of you might have put him up to it for a lark. I’m all for life imitating art, but there are limits.

  4. Great story Paul, it brought back so many memories of Primary school. Never could understand why they just didn’t mop it up, guess soaking time was important! Saw a few more later in life outside night clubs … they were called pavement pizzas then.

    By the way Schadenfreude is an awesome word that I had to look up but will be using with several German colleagues!

    Cheers Malcolm

    • Wonderful to hear from you, WLB2! One of the pleasures of this blog is that I realise stuff like this actually happened to others of my age. Glad you like the German word. I love it, but only bring it out on special occasions. Guten luck mitt yer Deutche Vriendens. Or somezing like zat. Kind regarts, Herr F!

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