Saturday, May 25, 2013


"Foolhardy," Lena said today. "Where do you think that word comes from?"
bold but rash, delighting in taking unnecessary risks
I answered that it was obvious but she got out the dictionary and said it came from the French 'foll' as in 'folly' and that 'hardy' means strong.
"I always thought it was old English," she said. "But it's French."
"Yeah ... strong and silly. Or -" and here I look to her husband J, who is of the same ilk as me, " - hurtling into a scenario and knowing your body will see you through. Yes?"
Thank goodness for strong bodies, is all I can say. Living an unsafe life can require physical resilience.
I love spending Saturday afternoons with these two. They may be public servants but they are primarily artists. They will bring out a decent wine, a plate of cheese and fruit and engage me in a robust debate on love, literature and local history. On my bad weeks, they will both hug me. They are both fallible too and they know it. I know I can always hug them back.

So, foolhardiness ... whilst encouraging my son Stormboy's hankering for a scooter license, I've found myself stalling his attempts at a learner's permit in strange, passive aggressive ways. I've been unable to locate his passport or birth certificate. Can't find the money for a helmet. Medicare card? Damn, son.
Why is this? Because I'm afraid for him. Because his dance amongst the road trains and Commodore drivers will be without the cage they call cars to protect him. Because he is still a child. Because as soon as he gets that bike, I know I won't see him very often. Because I'm waving goodbye to his childhood.

A memory swims in. It's midnight. I'm nineteen. We are hurtling along a highway, way over the speed limit, heading for the waterhole to go for a swim.  Pilbara. I've been drinking tequila. I am climbing out of the back passenger window of a speeding Toyota Corolla and onto the roof rack. Solitary ghost gums flash by. I hang on to the roof rack of the tiny, tinny car. The stars and land and sky crawl over me. I climb to where I can peer through the windscreen at the driver, see his eyes widen in horror at my upside down face.

I only called back this memory recently. For some reason, and it was not the tequila, I'd mentally decided to lose that one. That night was a long moment of absolute existentialism. I'm quite glad I'm still alive.


  1. I'm not sure if that car even had a roof rack.

  2. My parents worried about helping me to buy a motorcycle, but they did. I know how they felt then and how you feel now. Statistics are no help, especially when you are thinking of buying a lottery ticket.

  3. Bred from a bikie and a foolhardy feral (see above), this kid can probably make up his own mind. I've got to grant him that.

  4. I rode a bike for 12 years. When it came time for my son to follow suit, I had the same apprehensions. My wife, who had riden pillion for many of theose 12 years was totally freaked at the thought. He doesn't use it much. He's a teacher and has to cart stuff around so he also bought a car. It lengthens the odds.

  5. It was captivating, standing high in the bustling blue air. Compensation, to an extent, he thought, if the ensign continued to ignore him.

    The ensign was his son, Edmund Junior, who he’d ordered to accompany him on the climb.

    They were at the height of Mount Clarence and his stomach was an insect’s nest. To his left the coast ran away in a series of low bush-covered hills. On the other, a long finger of land tipped with a granite dome they called Bald Head extended from the west. In the sea-filled gap between lay the two islands. Protectors and limiters, thought the major, keeping out the high seas while keeping in all that happened.

    The ensign drew near and the major seized the moment.

    ‘Just us now, Edmund,’ he said.

    His son was surprisingly positive ‘It’s like standing at the edge of the world, sir.’

    ‘A wild and dangerous thing,' said the major, 'but magnificent, I’ll grant you that.’

  6. You're so good at evoking those 'damaging' moments, as Tim Winton would call them. Those things you did that you never should have, that changed you irreparably, no matter how deep or how long you buried them. Nonetheless, it's your duty to protect him. What else is there to do?

  7. Good stuff, Ciaran. I like that scene.
    I suppose kids making baby steps away from the nest bring up these things, yes?

  8. I made a more erudite comment but it got lost somewhere......

    Interesting subject, I don't envy you being a parent.

  9. Oh, I hope it didn't get lost in the spam MF. I checked but it wasn't there.
    You know, I'm so glad I've birthed this boy. Between him and his sister, they are the biggest trip in my life. Right now, while I'm finally getting more sensible :~) they are entering the wild side of life without a roof rack. But they are both heading back to the core values they were brought up with which is intrinsically good. There's a solidity to them both, attended to by their grans, aunties and fathers. It's all okay ... with the scary moments chucked in.