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Stuff from way back when

Home-isolation … it’s come to this. I’m prepared to write about anything, even stuff I wouldn’t normally admit to. Such as:

When I was a kid on the farm on Kangaroo Island I’d do things that these days I wouldn’t do for any amount of money. Here’s my first example:

Playing Biggles in the scrub behind the milking shed was hard, hungry work. The good thing about a farm was that food was always within reach. Such as eggs. Raw eggs, that is.

How lucky was I that a few chooks used to lay eggs in the milking shed!

Yum, fresh raw eggs.

There’s a knack to drinking them. All that is needed is a sharp nail – never a problem finding them in any farm shed – and you prick a small hole in the ‘blunt’ end of the egg and a slightly larger one in the ‘sharp’ end of the egg. Wrapping your lips around the sharp end you then suck out all the contents.

Disgusted yet?

Have you ever seen a freshly laid egg? Before it has been cleaned? It’s quite evident that it was born from a chook’s bum! And I used to wrap my lips around the bloody thing … a thought now more disgusting than sucking out the raw contents.

(As an aside, we had an exercise in the army … groups of three with the two largest running a hundred metres carrying the smallest person on their shoulders. Further instructions were at the finish line. The smallest in my team thought it was rather funny that she had the easy job … until she saw the next instructions: eat a raw egg. While she was vomiting up said egg I thought to myself; “What’s so bad about eating a raw egg?”)

Back to the farm …

We were never short of roast lamb dinners, prime steak, the freshest of veggies, a big feed of yabbies from the river or fresh crayfish caught by a family friend. But the rest of the time we were stuck with Dad favourites: tripe, heart and kidney stew, ox tail soup, white pudding, black pudding, boiled cow tongues (a big tongue would feed a small family), and I’d even had possum stew and roast wallaby.

But the raw eggs I ate by choice. Dirty eggs, direct from the chicken’s bum. Which leads me to my next story …

It was always an exciting time for me when cousin Jenny from Adelaide would come and stay for the school holidays. We had 1500 acres to play on, dozens of scrubs to play in, a river to swim in – yet there’s one game we enjoyed the most …

The farm had an abundance of cow pats. Do you know how well a dry cow pat frisbees when thrown right? Jenny and I had hours of enjoyment chasing each other around the paddock frisbeeing cow pats at each other.

Splat! I sure could frisbee those cow pats around with pinpoint accuracy.

I can promise every reader that two things I no longer do are eat raw eggs or throw shit around!

Speaking of cows, one particular dairy cow was the meanest thing born with four legs that God ever blew guts into. Her name was Trurio (as in “goodbye”). Trurio didn’t like me, and I didn’t like her.

One day I decided to let her know that I didn’t like her bad attitude, so I sneaked up behind her with football in hand and fired off a magnificent kick aimed and the part just below the tail. Bullseye. I then quickly scampered up the nearest tree when it was obvious that vengeance was sought.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: never kick a footy at an angry cow’s arse five hours before milking time. Unless, of course, you don’t mind sitting in a tree for five hours while a nasty piece of work with long horns waits below for whatever came first: milking time or when I fell out of the tree.

One more story, if I may, that you will never, ever hear of happening these days. Never.

Our area school was just outside of a town called Parndana: a population of about 150, boasting a general store and not much else. It didn’t even have a pub back in those days.

It was in 1967 (when I was in First Year) that our new Deputy Head Master, Mr Lloyd Bennett (who looked a cross between Skull Murphy and Brute Bernard – a fearful fellow) came into the classroom asking who the fastest runner was. We all pointed to Terry May, who was called by Mr Bennett to come forward.

Handing Terry some money he said; “I want you to run into town and buy me a packet of Craven A and hurry back as fast as you can.”

As Terry was about to dart off, a smiling Mr Bennett called out; “Terry, I want the cellophane left on the packet!”

Just another normal day at school, way back when.

Me as a young lad feeding the pigs (I’m the one in the back). Shorts pulled up past the belly button must have been fashionable back then.

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  1. Grumpy Geezer

    Getting all nostalgic after reading that. Rather than reminisce about all that was wonderful growing up in the 50s and 60s I’ll simply add – Peter Stuyvesent schoolboy pack. 10 fags for, from memory, a bob. Never did me (cough, hack) any harm.

  2. Patricia

    Brings back memories. My first school was a one room school where there were about 20 children, 5 of whom belonged to the teacher who taught every class from Grade 1 to 1st year high.

    What a wonderful man Mr Bailey must have been.

    I rode a horse, many miles, to school, but I was not the only one, half a dozen of us did. No being run to school in the car, our parents were far too busy with sheep and crops to take the time out to do that. Those who did not ride a horse to school, rode bikes, which I progressed to after a year of riding a horse. I still bear the scars of those first many miles (as it was in those days) learning to ride a bike, so much harder than a horse.

    Our village consisted of one, one room school, one dilapidated post office, two churches. That was it, entertainment was a monthly dance held at various locations around the district where everyone went, no babysitters, and when we children were tired we crawled under the benches around the side of the church hall and went to sleep and the radio that we used to sit around and watch in the evening after all the work for the day was done.

    Shearing time was work, work, work in the shearing shed. Where I got into trouble more than once for jumping up and down on the fleeces in the bins after they had been graded, sorted and trimmed, by hand.

    Ah the good old days. Thank goodness they are gone. No TV, no air conditioning, open fires for heating, and a slow combustion stove for hot water and cooking, after I chopped my share of the wood, no dishwasher, no washing machine, my mother washed for the whole family in a wood fired copper, dragged the boiling clothes out with a long paddle and dumped them into cold rinse water then put them through the wringer.

    I remember one Christmas Day where the whole family, except my mother who cooked a hot Christmas lunch for multitudes, spent most of the day cutting, stacking and loading wheat sheaves onto a truck because it looked like rain. I remember an Aunt, Uncle and cousins coming to stay for a holiday and my uncle spent the whole time on the tractor ploughing the paddocks to sow wheat. I think he enjoyed it, except when he got sun stroke and spend a couple of days in bed being very, very sick. No rushing off to the doctor, many miles away.

    I remember my step father chasing me around the wide verandah of our house, I had obviously done something dreadful, and me flying off the edge of the verandah and up a very tall tree, where I stayed until dark when I felt it was safe to come down.

    Thank you for this trip down memory lane. It was so very long ago and the world has changed unbelievably since I was a child in the 1950’s.

  3. Anne Byam

    Oh Michael – you have hit so many memories … although not on your wonderful Kangaroo Island – but in Victoria not far from Eildon. Alexandra district.

    I did not suck eggs ( there was an old saying “Go teach your grand mother to suck eggs” … which was our way of saying todays “eff off” I guess ?) Having had chickens and watching them stand up for the last push, then taking the newly laid very sticky and actually hot egg, was fascinating enough. The stickiness ( brilliant chooks ) as you would know, but perhaps others might not – is from the final coating of some kind of antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-something they cover the egg with to protect the chicken they all think they’ve just popped out.

    I have drunk milk direct from the cow, but she was a nice girl – not like yours. And have eaten all those delights, including eel, but barring possum and wallaby. Kangaroo was a staple meat, and kanga tail soup. And those pressed cows tongues … nothing more delicious. Mum used to bung them under the kitchen table leg with saucer on top of the tongue bowl and boy, we wouldn’t have DARED to go near it. Just had to wait.

    Thank you so much for a wonderful story, full of ‘way back when(s)’ I could so relate to.
    You have made my day.

  4. john tons

    By the time I taught at Parndana we did have a pub or rather a ‘club’ . The school had a swimming pool but the best swimming spot was at Stokes Bay. One of the best things about living on KI was that it was a community that looked after each other. When you went shopping you did not bother to take the keys out of the ignition – you never knew is someone needed to move the car. If kids did something wrong all that would happen the adults would have a quiet word this sort of quiet policing worked. Basically you were part of a community so it came as a real shock when going back to the mainland you would find that if neighbours had a problem they did not talk to you but rather contacted the authorities. We have lost a lot by living in these anonymous self contained silos. No wonder people go stir crazy at least I live again in a small community where lockdown is bearable.

  5. Michael Taylor

    I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments just as much as I enjoyed writing this. Thank you, all. 😀

  6. Jack Cade

    I was born and bred in Liverpool, just on the fringes of the areas nominated as the worst slums in Europe as late at the mid-1960s. I used to play on (and in) bombed sites. I say ‘in’ because one building we played in was without a roof but the upper floor was accessible by climbing on a pile of rubble and jumping up to catch a hold on the joists. I suspect children in Iraq, Libya, etc will be doing the same things this very day…
    When I was 10, my father got a job with ICI, who had a huge plant 25 miles (and a world) away, in mid—Cheshire. We were to live in a country village where you could see sheep and cows, when the only ‘exotic’ animals I had ever seen were Manx cats (tail-less cats peculiar to the Isle of Man which was close to the Mersey estuary).
    In mid-Cheshire spoke a different English from the version we spoke in Liverpool. Scousers tend to use too many words, Cestrians used very few. ‘Dad’s down road, in pub.’ They used different adjectives and superlatives – I’d say ‘It’s the gear’, they’d say ‘it’s a easier’, they used old English words like ‘mard’ meaning timid, and ‘nesh’ which they called you if you said you were cold. ‘Ah, tha’s just nesh.’
    But where Michaels essay struck a chord with me was the farming memories. We used to walk from village to village, crossing different farms via the ancient right-of- way paths, fields separated by stiles. The local kids teased newcomers from the city by saying
    ‘What would you rather do? Run a mile, jump a stile, or eat a pancake?
    A pancake was a cow pat.
    It’s more than half a century ago now, but I can still see, as clearly as if it were this morning, the delight on Sheila Clough’s face ( she was a gorgeous Heidi lookalike with blonde pigtails and twinkling eyes, and I loved her) when I asserted my preference to ‘eat a pancake.’
    We wandered, unfettered, all day in those times. It was a golden childhood – probably never to be experienced by any subsequent generation.
    Plus, we discovered rock and roll …

  7. Jack Cade

    I should have re-read before posting. They said ‘it’s a rasper’ not ‘a easier’.

  8. Michael Taylor

    John, the club went up a year or two before we left the island, much to my Dad’s delight. It meant a 14 mile drive to a pub instead of the 40 miles to Kingscote. 😀

    I agree it was a great community. It was also a hard life. It sure was tough.

    One of our teachers, Trevor Boreham, was the meanest, toughest bastard ever to teach at a school. I’ve seen him punch the crap out of a kid in class. I also saw him kicking a kid in the guts after he threw him onto the classroom floor. I saw him grab a kid and throw him head first into the classroom wall. But it never seemed out of place for us kids. Everyone of us in the class was a child of a soldier settler, so discipline was a part of our lives. I’m certain that our fathers brought the war home with them. We grew up under the shadow of fear that we were bound to do something wrong and receive unjust punishment for it.

    But as an aside, apart from his mean streak Mr Boreham was the best teacher I ever had. He taught me more about life than anybody ever could.

  9. Jon Chesterson

    1966, Prep school in Sussex. Miss Turford, first year teacher, curly thin ginger-pink hair with threads of grey, thick rimmed glasses eyes like pebbles and half deaf, but somehow knew exactly what you were doing. You could never tell if she was staring at you or the kid sitting next to you.

    The first year dormitory was at the top of the main house just below the attic room which was partly converted to accommodate the school’s cook Miss Finnegan. She looked like a ghost in her eighties, silver white hair, short tempered, doubled over due to chronic arthritis and you could hear her climbing up the stairs after lights out, coughing and heaving with a fag in her mouth for ages till she got up the four flights of stairs to her tiny room.

    In the middle of the night from year 3 onwards you might be dared to wander down under the gym, which was an old world war 2 prefab like building built on brick pillars, in almost pitch black darkness except on a moonlit night. The underside of the gym was reputed to be haunted with dozens of old cobwebbed top flap desks with broken enamel ink wells, which as you climbed in deeper got lower and lower till you could barely crawl on your hands and knees or make a rapid exit if you were confronted by a ghost, Miss Finnegan, spider or creepy crawly.

    In the middle of winter at 6.45am on a frosty February morning, you might be woken up by Mr Locke, english and latin teacher (deputy head) or Mr Burnett, history and latin teacher (who wished he was deputy head) and marched down to the open air swimming pool, where they’d break the ice with a metal pole and order every kid to jump in and skinny dip. Some of us would look like ghosts getting out and could barely walk or dry ourselves as our knuckles and ankles froze blue. Swollen joints and chilblains were common after hugging the oil fired radiators in classrooms, and the library was the warmest room in the school but out of bounds during morning and afternoon tea breaks. Something about our latin teachers as to who could inflict the greatest fear and hardship, and both masters were the winter season coaches for rugby union, which of course was mandatory even in heavy drifting snow. The ground was so hard and sharp some days it would rip your skin on contact. The scrum was the busiest place on the field and the wings were the coldest, where you were lucky if you ever got the ball. Going down on a tackle was like being hit by a truck when you were skinny and tall with legs for running not bucking.

    And yes, I ran away from school once, through the woods and as far as a disused railway station waiting for an imaginary steam train to take me away, but brought back the following day by the local constabulary to face six of the best (I’ll forego how that was detailed) and no supper.

    We had 1.5 hours of prep every evening, lessons on Saturday mornings and the best time of the week was Saturday afternoons free play down the woods in our wellies, unless you were playing in one of the school teams (junior colts or firsts) in a home or away match; and Sunday matinee in the gym to the latest release of James Bond (Dr No or Goldfinger – so perhaps not the latest after all), the Ten Commandments or the Dam Busters (definitely not the latest but full of false national pride and cheer) from a noisy two reel projector which would often break down half way as some of us fingered our way through a personally labeled jar of marmite or peanut butter from the boy’s pantry.

    Cricket in summer too was good, and even though we got thrashed every time at away matches with Holmewood House in Tunbridge Wells, their afternoon teas were an absolute profiterole and treacle tart treat, which went far beyond our egg and tomato sandwiches to lemon and lime cordial. When they come to us they’d barely touch the sandwich and jam tart trays, most of the Holmewood fixtures were away on playing fields three time the size of ours. Anyone might have thought we were all batted out on purpose to get everyone’s just rewards sooner. No-one but I enjoyed cross-country and 880 open handicap, so it wasn’t hard to be the school’s solitary ambassador at long distance events in little regional athletics at Hurstpierpoint. Must have been all that early childhood training and psychological preparation to escape Colditz and our patriotic latin teachers.

    It never really occurred to us that one the world’s worst wars had ended barely 21 years earlier, it was all historical fiction to us. We were the children of the great coal miners’ strikes and national power cuts, when happily night time prep was suspended for card games and chess by candlelight, which felt like christmas come early.

  10. Vikingduk

    Memories best left behind and I would have but I’ll blame the whiskey far too early in the day be the fly in the ointment first house recollections High Holborn St. Surry Hills Sydney creepy house creepy street lady cross the street gasses herself next door keeps homing pigeons our cat kills a few dead cat chucked over fence pigeon keeper has door slammed in face Move to suburbs cool new friends out all day home another argument oh shit ambulance this time sister or brother just punched out of mothers stomach you see the gassing I heard of was a preview of what was to come wake up one night find mother with head in gas oven saved her that time not the next cops at door mother is dead they say see ya later left with step father a man I had flattened with a beautiful right hook off to grandma’s aunts and uncles what do we do with me leave him with grandma the wheel returned back in Surry Hills two up two down no running hot water and here I am now a f*cked up human

    I would suggest that you don’t leave this horrible downer in what should be a good memory rave but hey such is life strange the roads travelled by us humans the experiences the learning the stories that form us I suspect this whiskey will impair me for further tales sayonara

  11. Michael Taylor

    Jack/Jon, fabulous stories.

    Jack, I’d often read that Liverpool in the 50s and 60s was the toughest place in England. But they produced the greatest rock band the world will ever see. And the best chips.

    Jon, when you mentioned “wellies” my mind went straight to The Green Welly Stop between Glasgow and Glencoe. Have you been there? On our first stop there I cleaned out their supply of Stroma. 😀

  12. Michael Taylor

    Vikingduk, if you are drinking whiskey then it means it is Irish. That is an unforgivable sin.

    But if you are drinking whisky you are forgiven, because it is Scottish.

    Whiskey with an “e” is Irish, without the “e” it is Scottish. There’s also another difference: the Scottish version is better. 😁

    They have a saying it Scotland – “The Irish might have invented whiskey, but we perfected it.”

  13. Jon Chesterson

    Michael, that Stroma, I’ll really have to get me a bottle some time! Glencoe at the opposite end of the country been through many times as a child and my granddad lived in Glasgow, station master at St Enoch’s. My wellies were black and no I’ve never seen that Green Welly shop, selling whisky you say, now that almost sounds Irish with or without an ‘e’, and why is Drambuie not Drambui!

  14. Michael Taylor

    Jon, do what you can to get a bottle. It will not be the last one you ever buy! It’s a sweeter version of Drambuie.

    Can’t say Glencoe – despite all its beauty – was our first choice when we went to Scotland. We wanted to stay in the old pub at nearby Ballachulish but it’s impossible to get into these days. I have an old friend who lives in the hotel: Diego, the resident cat.

  15. Jack Cade


    Liverpool probably tied with Glasgow for being a tough place to grow up. If you walked around the streets (as I did – pretty feral) you’d often be asked a question ‘Eh la’, wanna fight?’
    Actor Ricky Tomlinson was raised in a rough part of Liverpool in the 40s and 50s. His song ‘Are You Lookin’ At Me?’ Pretty well suns up the attitude on the streets of Liverpool, Glasgow, probably Newcastle, too. It was a commonplace invitation for a ‘discussion’.
    Australia also had its hard cases – remember The Newcastle Song by Bob Hudson (‘Rack off Normie’)!!
    By the way, I see Kochie has asked that our boys be kept away from the Crows – don’t want them getting bird lice…
    I was in the Mt Crawford forest with my grandkids yesterday. Charlie Dixon was there. He is gi-effin’-normous!!

  16. Michael Taylor

    Can’t blame the team for not wanting to stay in the same hotel as the Fruit Tingles. They’re all rude, arrogant bastards.

    And was Charlie pulling a few trees out by the roots and slamming them on the ground as though they were a Crows whimp?

  17. Michael Taylor

    PS: Are you sure it was Charlie and not a Yowie? Same size.

  18. Jack Cade


    I didn’t see him in action, but there was a shedload of tree trunks scattered around. Training alone, probably.

  19. RomeoCharlie29

    The seppos put an ‘e’ in whisky too. As for childhood nostalgia, mine in the 50’s was pretty normal after the folks had patched up their differences. Outer bayside suburban street, cousins living nearby, a rowboat for the creek and beach, discovering how to climb on, and run over, the tile roof, then discovering how fragile tiles could be. As teenagers discovered flash powder and made rockets out of metal bike pumps, sometimes amazed I still have all my fingers, and both eyes. Thanks for the wander down memory lane, David and others. I have a mate living on KI, the Penneshaw end, and have visited a couple of times, I like it.

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