When I was a kid – say between the age of 7 and 16 – I lived in a cul de sac in one of the prettier of Melbourne’s outer suburbs. I had a lot of fun. It was a developing area where families had settled to build their own home and live the life they had always dreamt of. In our small street alone, there must have been nearly 30 kids between about 18 homes. Most of those kids could be accounted by – as we would say at the time – the catholic families to either side of us. On one side, there was a child making industry where they averaged one child a year for over a decade. The last count I heard, a few years after I had moved away, was about 16, I think. The other side was 5. We were the proddies in the middle but had the same dream as everyone else.
I remember going to the local primary school before we even moved into the area. My father, who worked in Eltham at the time, would pick me up from school every night and together, we would drive by the house built for us, a stylish and modern tri-split-level. We would check on the construction progress, my dad with excitement while I felt the fascination normal every boy has for construction sites. When finished, it was the best house in the street.
In time we moved there. I have many great memories of that period. These were the formative years of my development, and purely as a boy looking to experience the world, they were abundant, rich and enjoyable. I could tell a hundred stories or more. Once, when years later I met with my best friend of that time, he asked if I had written anything of our childhood there. He had the same memories as me: he said that I should.
In the last week, one tiny memory – or is it a motif? – has recurred to me. Near the top of our street, a house had a purple-leaved plum tree growing on the fence line. The property was bounded by a wooden fence painted mission brown to around head height, I guess, but the branches of the tree over-arched the fence and hung over the pavement. It was a blood plum tree, which in my opinion, are the tastiest and juiciest plums there are, though it seems many years since I’ve tasted one. In season I remember the splotches of purple on the pavement where plums had fallen and burst. Being kids, we would often raid the tree and pluck the ripest looking plums, which we would eat with the juices running down our chin. Often we would turn on each other in a sort of Huck Finn-ish sort of glee and begin to fling blood plums at each other. The battle would rage as we ducked and weaved and dodged and laughed and celebrated when our shots rang home. We all played a sport, and in the way of boys very accustomed to picking up things, mainly rocks and stones (or ‘yonnies’ as we called them then) and throwing them for the fun of it, and sometimes at somebody else. Plums were easy, and blood plums especially satisfying as with each bulls-eye, a purple stain would erupt on the victims’ clothes.
That’s what I remember. It’s a simple memory but very pleasing. Gotta get me some of them blood plums, methinks.