I happened to be one of the premium riders and won more than my share of races, why oh why did some one with my ability and experience use the front brake at the top of the steepest mound? Twelve started the race and none finished. I went to an early lead and maintained it for at least three laps. Up the highest and steepest mound I sailed, but for some inexplicable reason I touched the front brake. The bike suddenly stopped dead and did a complete 180 degree flip and for several seconds I became Rocket man, hurtling through the atmosphere to land ungracefully with a dull Squelch in a steaming great pile of horse shit. Shortly afterwards I was joined by my bike, followed by 11 other competitors and their equipment and when the dust and dried out manure settled what remained resembled the New York Trade Centre after 911. Apart from the odd graze and missing pieces of flesh, there were no serious injuries, although it took me three to four weeks to bash my front forks back into almost their proper position.
I was always fascinated with these buses as they were quiet and the ride was extremely smooth. Eventually we would end up returning to Want Street and my visit would end with either a cold drink or a cup of tea. Around 5pm I would say my goodbyes and off I would go on the long peddle home to Nelson Street Annandale. Back then I never regarded the journey as anything out of the ordinary, whereas today I have big problems riding a bike 300 metres down our flat street and back home again.
|Today's long distance ride.|
Even though none of us were as young as we once were, we still got a kick out of acting like absolute dickheads and at times risking our necks attempting to survive riding home made billycarts down the dangerously steep Chester Street directly opposite our house.
Many times what appeared to be an almost lifeless body would be rushed off to hospital by ambulance after coming to grief at the hill's bottom. Years later when I read Clive James 'Unreliable Memoirs,' I became aware how closely my mischievious childhood in Annandale resembled his in Kogarah. His relating of the Sunbeam Avenue billy cart racing inspired me to put many of my experiences down in writing, including taking on the Chester Street hill.
Chester Street was around 150 metres long with a tight left hand turn at the bottom. Usually a sentry would be at the start of this deadly turn making sure no cars were approaching.
The billycart daredevils would wait for an all clear signal from this sentry before attempting to break the land speed record. The roar of the ball bearing wheels was deafening as the braindead riders sped downhill minus any form of protective clothing. More often than not, many would fail to negotiate the left hander and what followed was nearly always complete and utter carnage. Bodies and bits of billycart would be seen flying through the air and a common site was the ambulance arriving to transport some unfortunate off to RPA hospital.
The most frightening experience was speeding down the hill after being given the all clear by the sentry, reaching halfway at almost the speed of sound, then being signalled by this sentry and told, "Hang on car coming." FAARK!!!!
|Chester Street hill|
|Most popular wheel|
It was around this time when I would take some of the much younger kids down to the Flats for a kick of the oval football. I was regarded as king of the kids for a while. as their parents seemed to have faith in me as a minder. On one occasion there was a group of young teenagers fooling about on the parkland and my young proteges' had their football stolen by these hoons. There wasn't a lot anyone could do, as these wankers were a bit on the large side, but nevertheless I foolishly attempted to intervene. I snatched the football from one of these bullies and when he confronted me I thumped him in the mouth. He objected and proceeded to belt the living crap out of me. I was lucky a passerby drove off these ferals and walked with us on the long journey home. Both my eyes were closed through swelling and when my mother laid eyes on me and was told what occurred, she dragged me down to the bully's house and confronted his parents. They were genuinely alarmed and the boofhead was severely chastised by both his mum and dad for picking on one as young as me.
A few years later at school we were having a Christian Brothers boxing tournament and I happened to be the only Lewisham kid who went through the qualifying events undefeated. I was evidently a good boxer who had talent I was not aware of.
On the night of the inter school matches, some misguided soul thought I was too good for the opponents in my age division and put me up against someone much larger, guess who? It was Boofhead the bully. Many of my classmates waiting their turn to enter the ring began saying decades of the rosary for me and many were shaking my hand and informing me it had been a pleasure knowing me.
The big fight lasted one round. I danced around the ring like Fred Astaire, poking him with left jabs and when he became frustrated he swung a haymaker that missed by a mile and I hit him flush on the jaw with a swinging left hook. He hit the deck and was given an eight count before rising shakily to his feet. I sensed blood and rushed in to finish the job. He only was able to throw one more punch because of my onslaught. Trouble was his only punch slammed into the side of my head and the next thing I remember is travelling home on the bus with my distressed Mum. The next day my left ear was twice the size of the right one. I am certain this was the end of my boxing career.
This tale does have a happy ending as many years later, after I had joined the Avalon Surf Club and was aged about 19, I was walking down Trafalger St when who did I see coming in the opposite direction, none other than my persecutor. I asked him whether he remembered me and he answered that he did and told me in his words, to "Fuck off". I grabbed him by the shirtfront and slammed him up against the brick wall, his head making a nasty dull thud. I hit him with a left rip, followed by a right rip to the solar plexus and connected with my deadly swinging left hook that landed flush on the side of his jaw. It was a repeat of what happened in the ring all those years earlier, only this time he never got up, he was out cold. I left him on the footpath's nature strip and continued on my way towards Parramatta Road. I never saw him again and I am certain he would have appreciated that.
The character Gavroche from Les Miserables sang,
"So never kick a dog, because he's just a pup,
You better run for cover , when the pup grows up."
In this case how very appropriate.