Monday, July 10, 2006


When we lived in Seddon, in the early to mid 60's this middle-aged bloke lived two or three doors away. He might have been 40 or he might have been 50; I couldn't tell. To a ten year old anyone over 15 seems incredibly ancient! Heck, he could have been 30 for all I knew.

He was in the habit of playing the genial host and inviting us into the bungalow he occupied behind the house. You know, I've only just realised that I have no recollection whatsoever of the people who occupied the house. We'd, the three of us, myself and my younger sisters, sprawl on his bed as he gave us lollies (sweets, candy) and he'd talk about his job.

Now let's take that little memory from 1964 or thereabouts and drag it forward forty or so years. Middle aged bloke inviting three kids, the oldest ten or so, into his bedroom. There ain't enough money in the world to induce me to perform so foolhardy an act even if my intentions are completely innocent!

It was pretty enjoyable listening to him telling stories about life in a railway signal box whilst wolfing down chocolates, so enjoyable that we made a visit a regular thing.

One afternoon during the school holidays we traipsed down the side of the house hoping for another visit with our friend. Of course it was a weekday and he was at work.

As we stuck our heads around the gate at the end of the sideway we saw the flames blistering the paint on the bungalow and, in a panic, we ran back out to the street. The old man (Misery Guts) worked just up the street on the opposite side; that's where we went to raise the alarm.

Pretty soon the fire truck was there and they made short work of the flames.

It was our misfortune that we'd been seen going in and running back out; some nosy bastards across the road accused us of setting the fire. Protestations of innocence fell upon deaf ears and Misery Guts treated me, as the supposed ringleader (being the eldest has its penalties), to the most ferocious application of the strap I'd yet experienced.

Of course, the fact that I had, half a year earlier, deliberately set a fire in the wasteground near Stoney Creek counted against me. A miserable sin of extreme youth done so I could see the fire trucks take care of business. It took Misery Guts maybe a minute to see through my excitement on that occasion and smell a causal link.

Our middle-aged friend was arrested some years later for interfering with little girls but I honestly don't remember any hanky panky during our visits.

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