Toenails versus Chewing Gum

Was thinking about my early years living in symmetrical, careful, planned, 1970s ‘cul de sac’ suburbia before we moved out to the abject chaos of the jungle.

Food was constantly on my brothers and my minds. Mum and Dad were young parents trying to find a vocation (stints at real estate, sound system installation) to provide for three growing boys and their insatiable appetites.

From an early age apparently I used to sit perched on top of the letterbox from which to survey the coming’s and going’s of the street and yoga-like stretch my foot up to my face and eat my toenails.

The neighbours used to comment to my mum on my sense of balance and finesse with which I did so. He’s destined for great things they’d say.

Well no, they didn’t say that – I’m making that up. I think they thought of me as a curious freak of nature to puzzle over when folding the washing and gazing out the window.

Was it hunger that drove my search for sustenance in the keratin protein of my toenails ?  I’ll never know.

The fishmonger in his truck would venture down our street each Friday and we local kids would barrel after him together with a gaggle of haggling housewives to buy the fish of the day. We were interested in looking at the different varieties of fish on display gazing up at us with their glazed, cloudy, dead eyes smelling somewhere between fresh and week old.

Occasionally, a novice ice cream driver would take the wrong turn and head down the street with his jingle playing. That was a ‘call to arms’ and every kid running, on bikes, skateboards, crutches or whatever came to hand would corner him in his truck and watch as one or two lucky ones got to choose a chocolate dipped and sprinkled single scoop.We always hoped he’d give us one for free, but he never did.

Anyway, this gets me to the point of this memory and that is the mystery of my brother’s chewing gum stash.

My brothers and I got 10 cents pocket money. Once it was in our hot little hands we’d immediately dash off to the local dairy for our 10 cents worth of mixed lollies – our sugar bliss. The lollies came in little brown bags pre-made by the dairy-owner, all ready for the kids. We’d chow through our various spearmint leaves, milk bottles, jet planes, wine gums and assorted gelatin pretty darn quickly. No room for civility. You pause, you lose.

Yet my brother always had wads of chewing gum left over which was curious as there was no chewing gum in the 10 cent mixed lolly bags to the best of our knowledge. He’d gloat and show us the juicy load of gum in his puffed up Marlon Brando ‘Godfather’ cheeks, all the time stretching it out with his tongue and playing with it at will. But he was always coy on where it came from.

So we spied on him for the next couple of days and it soon became clear.

He’d head off to our garage and get a small gardening trowel, wash it under the tap – undoubtedly for hygiene reasons – and take off down the street or ‘cul de sac’. There every piece of discarded flattened gum he came across on the footpath and road, he duly scraped up and put in a plastic bag. Once he’d finished his hunter gathering, he rolled the stringy bits of gum together to form a solid mass and stuck it in his mouth, and that was the source of his everlasting gum stash.

There can’t have been any flavour left in the gum that could have been out in the elements for years, run over, walked over, and possibly pissed on by dogs. But whatever it was it gave him a sense of satisfaction and satiation. Who were we to judge?

But we didn’t follow suit and we stayed clear of anything to do with his food for the rest of our lives, even to this day.

Frankly I’d prefer my dirty blackened toenails to pissed on gum any day, but that’s just me.

chewing gum

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Jenny The Spunk or the Spunk Who Loved Me (Not Really Though)

Being in the spare room often gives me cause to reflect on manly stirrings. The wife has extreme menopause of a kind that leaves me feeling like Lawrence of Arabia in the impassable Nefud Desert. Sand, sand and more damned sand. Not a drop of water in sight.

Last night I explored the baser part of my fishbowl right back to the beginning and my first crush – Jenny “The Spunk” (Jenny pronounced with an ‘ee’ and not an ‘ay’ – that’s Forrest Gump’s Jenny, not my Jenny.)

My Jenny was quintessentially English with thick hand knitted jumpers, cascading curls and she was smart. My only criticism if I had one, was that she wore thick knee-high embroidered patterned white socks. Good quality ones from England. Whereas the more skin I could see of Jenny the better.

She was my “Spunk” or “Honey” as both boys and girls (“Sheilas” and “Fellas”) called each other they fancied back then. Sad thing is she just didn’t know it or the steaming pile of goodness she was missing out on.

But how does a 10 year old impress this 1970s Aphrodite or even get her to notice him ?

In my mind I saw myself as a young Harry Hamlin (Perseus) and her my scantily clad classical beauty Judi Bowker  (Princess Andromeda) from the Clash of the Titans movie. Barring the bucked teeth and bowl haircut my mum gave me, though.

Judi was an on-screen crush of mine and a “Hottie” by the way.

Yes, I know that movie was from the 80s and the crush was in the 70s, but time blurs you know and the feelings were the same. Unfortunately though our encounters were like stop-motion Ray Harryhausen cinematography from the movie. Stilted and stumbling.

This was my dilemma.

Lurching back to the 70s, I’d been watching CHiPs on TV with Jon and Ponch and noticed the way the bikes were veritable chick magnets. No sooner had they stopped their motorcycles than women from everywhere emerged from the fake undergrowth sets. Flashing smiles and other bits, they were all over them like a swarm of “Honey” bees if you like.

So that’s what I needed to do of course. It made total sense. Stake out Jenny’s house (or “joint” to use the 70s TV lingo the baddies on CHiPs used) on my bike.

Okay, it was no CHiPs Kawasaki, but as a pushbike it did have a fake gear stick and brakes on the handlebars. The bike would do the trick.

Besides I didn’t need as many women as Jon and Ponch. Just my darling Jenny…

So every day after school and on weekends, I’d ride over to the asphalt service lane opposite Jenny’s (she lived opposite on the other side of the road) and ‘Park Up’ longingly looking towards her house and trying to look as sophisticated as I could with my bowl haircut blowing in the wind (courtesy of my mum) and my gear stick in neutral. All the time, hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse of my beloved. The idea was she’d notice the bike and this would set an unstoppable chain of events in motion. It being written in the stars and in the Pantheon of the Gods that the two of us would be together. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

I was there for hours.

I thought about a lot of things squirming from side-to-side on the banana seat of the bike.

I remember thinking that Jenny and I having children was probably a bit far down the track. There was no point getting ahead of myself. But then again the idea wasn’t inconceivable, I mused to myself.

Kids were inconceivable though, at our age come to think of it now !

I sat astride my ride, my chopper bike behind a low slung heavy chain that was weighed down in the middle by a heavy lock that almost kissed the asphalt driveway. It was there to stop cars after hours getting up the service lane. To block things off.

Well that chain came to symbolise the chastity belt that I’d never break through because Jenny unfortunately never appeared. Despite me, my bike, and every heavenly emotion and willpower I could muster – the closest I came to catching a glimpse of her was her bloody brother Geoffrey mowing the lawns.

Yes I was pretty heavy-hearted. But I wasn’t done yet. Where Jon and Ponch had failed me, divine providence would prevail. One last dying gasp, one last throw of the die.The course of love never did run smooth.

Jenny used to go to Church and Mum had been on at my brothers’ and I to give Church a chance. So I did. Once.

But what I found in Church shocked me to my 10 year old core and in the end tore my love completely asunder.

The sight of Jenny singing about her undying and obedient love for God (along with other people I recognised repeating the words of prayers over and over) scared me.

My free-thinking Jenny was somehow possessed by this thing called religion. There was no way she would notice me on my Chopper bike when I had to compete with God and Jesus. I was no angel. I rode a bike for God’s sake ! and I saw myself as a bit of an outlaw. I’d leave skid marks from the bike on my driveway from braking too hard and all that kind of rough stuff. Although you’re right, Perseus (Clash of the Titans), was technically a hero not an outlaw.

There could be no future, no kids. I’d never see her without knee-high socks !

Distressed and leaden with shock, I did manage to position myself next to an open window in the old Gothic Church where the service was being held and at an opportune break in the prayers, fell gently backwards out of it onto the grass and ran home as fast as I could.

Sadly, that was the end of Jenny and me.

She’ll never know how lucky she was….

chopper bike

My Chopper was just like this only yellow. How in the world can a girl not be impressed?



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Carbaryl Shakes and Wasp Napalm

With the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ in his ears I guess, my brother lit the petrol much quicker than any of us expected and the air just supanoved, exploded in front of us. An overflowing swimming pool of molten honeyed light poured over the edges and painted in the picture frame between my eyes. A lighter click and striking flint flame instaneity – faster than any of us could take in what was happening. Then a deafening BOOM, shockwave, and the windows of the house blew out.

How did we get here, wherever that may be, you may well ask?

Well it all started with a German Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) that stung my Dad in the head.

Like I said in my last post, we lived in the bush and the place at times was swarming with wasps in Biblical plague-like proportions. An underground nest over one particular scorcher of a summer encircled the house as the wasps decided that anything within their perimeter (read ‘killing-zone’) was fair-game, to be terminated with extreme prejudice. And that happened to be my Dad’s forehead. A soft target.

Despite yelling and doing a sort of a jig in his office while he hit his forehead with the palm of his hand and pulled at his scalp, with the words ‘Son of a bitch ! Jesus ! Get It (The wasp, the Fuck – I’m filling this in for him) Off Me !’ There wasn’t much I could do for him, although the thought of hitting Dad over the head was tempting.

Eventually, and it took a while ! Dad dispatched the wasp and decided he’d had enough. He came back from the hardware store laden with Carbaryl (an insecticide we’d never heard of, which wasn’t surprising given we’d never even heard of insecticide), sprinkled it on some fish and put it in a tree. The idea with the stuff is that the wasps get the powder on their bodies, contaminate the nest, and meet their maker, swapping the jungle room for the sauna room in our case.

Well somehow we kind of forgot about it for a day or so, I guess we just assumed it was doing its righteous work. That was until we put two and two together, when poor old Jaybo (also known as Wolf), our adopted stray dog that came out of the bush (like Scrawns the cat in my previous post), became pretty unwell with what later came to be known in our house as ‘the Carbaryl shakes’.

The Carbaryl laced fish had come down in the wind and Jaybo being Jaybo had eaten it, even though it was fish. Unfortunately Dad hadn’t realised that the stuff was pretty toxic to animals and we hadn’t bargained on Jaybo’s scavenging skills, having lived in the bush before she adopted us. We all felt pretty bad about it, even though it was an accident.

Thankfully, Jaybo pulled through. However after that and me accidentally walking on top of the nest with my brother being stung in my stead when we did a reccy, things escalated.

A carefully formulated night-time plan of attack when the wasps were less active; of using a measured amount of petrol; of blocking up the entry to the nest so that the fumes overcame them and they quietly snuffed it in their sleep; was thrown out.

My brother’s new plan, as payback for basically everything, was to keep pouring a crap-load of petrol as close as he could get to the nest entrance, with a trail behind it so he could light it from a distance, while he got stung by the swarm.

He carried out his plan to a T. They stung the shit out of him.

But in his haste to get the hell away from the wasps, he gave little or no warning before he lit the thing. There wasn’t time to run before the blast hit, which by the way was a massive freaking avalanche of supercharged unleaded flame !

So although we blew the wasps to kingdom-come (& thankfully not us as well !), we did lose a few house windows in the process.

A few days later there was even an article in the local newspaper about a mysterious explosion.

We still talk about it. We were bloody lucky and Jaybo (like Scrawns, the cat) lived a long, happy life, despite the Carbaryl shakes – which we still feel bad about.

Jaybo (Wolf)

Jaybo (Wolf)





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Scrawns or Meow See Tongue (Mao Tse Tung)

All creatures great and small, two-legged and four-legged, running away from someone or something, tended to end up as flotsam and jetsam washed up against the gashed rock hills and errant bush that formed the city limits where I grew up.

Such was the case with the well-bred, waylaid and ultimately strayed Mr Scrawns, our cat.

Like so many creatures seeking refuge at the edge of the badlands, he suddenly appeared in the light-of-day one day. He’d been scavenging on bread crusts, hernias hidden beneath matted fur slung low under his belly, with a broken jaw that left his tongue extended in an unnerving first-impression hung-over but quizzical look, the end of which was rough to the touch like a piece of crispy fried bacon wizened in the sun.

He was according to the vet, quite well-heeled for a stray, a Birman ?, a relatively uncommon breed to fall upon hard times. Upper crust living on crusts. He even had real leather ears. He’d either been hit by, or thrown from, a car and ended up living on the edges of society before he wandered into our lives and asked for a bit of help in the form of some grub and lodgings.

Thereafter to us he always had a bit of mystery about him. He was peerage, a remittance man, a raconteur, kinda classy. His quizzical look and distended tongue that hung to one side came to resemble a cigarette-holder at the corner of a toffs mouth.

My most vivid memory of Scrawns is of the cat door snapping shut one night and him running up and down on my bed while I was trying to sleep. To the point where I just couldn’t take it any more and with the words: “For fuck’s sake Scrawns, stay still !” turned on the light to see him looking at me from the other side of the room with his head tilted quizzically and his tongue hanging free, and an equally quizzical rat about his size sitting on the bed next to me. It was the rat that had been running up and down my bed that I’d been patting and trying to settle down. Scrawns had kindly brought him inside so I could meet his new friend.

Unfortunately Scrawns died (peacefully) some time ago now. Upon his passing my brothers and I hauled a big-ass piece of rock from some road battering works and had a plaque made up for it that we stuck down with super-glue.

It read: ‘Scrawns Bush. With magic tonguey and matted fur, from the bush we now inter.’

It may not be known as ‘Scrawns Bush’ on official maps, but to us that place will always be known as ‘Scrawns Bush’ in our hearts.


Mr Scrawns

Here’s looking at you kid. So long old-fella.

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Wax Toilet Paper or Waxing Lyrical

The last time I encountered wax toilet paper was probably 20 years ago and I ain’t never going back, you hear me…I ain’t never going back.

What was that you said? I said I’m never going back!

For some reason known only to the powers that be, to stop people nicking toilet paper from public toilets years ago councils/governments/the system/big-bosses/whoever the fuck it was, ‘They’, decided to stock wax toilet paper. Not only that but to make doubly sure that the idea of  doing a runner with a fistful of wax was a no-goer so as to save the public at large a fist-full of moolah, they also used / invented that paper roll restricting plastic piece of shit thing so that to get a decent length of any sort of paper you basically have to keep tugging and tearing off postage stamp sized pieces of paper for about 15 minutes until you have just enough for a tentative swipe. And with that furtive glancing blow off the cheeks, it starts all over again!

The last time I encountered the wax, I had to laugh to myself as I realised I had spent 5 minutes seriously considering using my hand as an alternative.

The fiendishly clever powers that be, had created the ultimate deterrent.

It isn’t ‘fit for purpose’ to coin a recurringly annoying phrase. Wax toilet paper doesn’t fucken work ! How in the hell is wax absorbent? Like war, it is wiping, without end. So there’s zero chance of the paper going missing and the use of the stuff ‘in-house’ must be freaking low.

In achieving their objective, they actually created something that bore no resemblance at all to the purpose for which it was intended. That’s the mean bit. They could have left a bucket and spade or a rake in there and that would have been just as practical.

You’d think they would have stopped there. They’d won. Nicking the stuff never enters into even the most hard-core of crims. But then you add the perforated postage stamp thing in the mix to actually dole out the wax toilet paper and you realise that these really are heartless bastards ! They’d done their job, but they went that little bit further just to show you who’s really the boss when it counts. Who’s your daddy now.

I can’t remember how exactly I dealt with the wax situation. I may have cut my losses and left my underwear behind, like so many thousands of others did. We lost our underwear but they got to keep their precious wax toilet paper.

However for all their fiendish cleverness, you don’t see wax toilet paper these days. Maybe they got caught short themselves and realised they’d gone a bit too far, or else generational knowledge caught up with the inhumane practice.

Having said that though the perforated postage stamp dispenser thing lives on, inflicting misery. They also added the key lock thing so you can’t jimmy it open to get a decent fucken length of paper to finish the job with. You bastards !




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Naming Miss Lucy

My 11 year old daughter continues to grow exponentially.

She asked me the other day if I had been underwater for a couple of hours without air when I was younger to make me turn out the way I am, or been beaten repeatedly in the head by my parents with clubs. Nice !

For the second time someone dropped a chair on her head at school, not sure how exactly that happens, but I suspect that having started college it’s some boy’s way of trying to impress her. Drop a chair on her head. That’s how her suggestion that I’d sustained repeated head injuries as a child came up as she talked about her day at school and showed me the bump on her head.

Anyway this started a conversation on the various names she’s had for her 11 years so far. She’s had a few.

When she was womb bound inside my permanently feverish half-century wife, “the hottie”, without realising it I subconsciously picked up on the concept of external sensation being good for kid’s development. There’s been a few documentaries on it, so I guess it came from T.V. osmosis. No Chopin for Lucy though, genius seems to come with baggage. Above average intelligence will do quite nicely thanks.

So I came up with a call mimicking a bear or a whale, something mammalian and non-threatening letting her know there was someone out there beyond the wall of amniotic fluid , the amniotic glass ceiling. It was two sounds, “oose, oose”. Repeated many times over the course of a day. It seemed to work, she kicked in the direction of my voice – or so I thought. Having established for her that there was life out there but that she would need to make a break for it, the “oose, oose” transitioned into an actual word – “jellykin”, that unfortunately has no meaning.


I guess the “jelly” part came about because she was kind of encased in jelly. I didn’t really give much thought to where the “kin” bit came from until recently when after watching the 90’s Star Wars prequels with me (no mean feat of endurance), she asked me why I had called her after Annaqin, aka Darth Vader before he became Darth Vader. I couldn’t really give her a good answer other than to say that Darth was a boy, and she was a girl so I didn’t think that’s where it came from and we left it at that. However it has come up from time-to-time in disparaging tones that I’d named her after one of my 70’s movie/T.V. mash up experiences that I’d sponged up into my brain but got the name and even the sex wrong.

After she popped out she became, “Baby Monkiss”, “Mushy Burger” and is now the “Goose Burger”. The “Goose” we think came from the saying “Lucy, Goosey”. Not sure what the connection with burger is, but I guess I equate food with love.

Lucy’s names are equated with stages in her development. I have a mental picture of her alongside her various names like a medical journal of the life-cycle.

Anyway, that’s what I thought of last night sleeping in the spare room bed.



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