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Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Intriguing Tale: my early love life [FINAL PART]

[continued from Part 4]
I whirled Lorraine to the outer rim of the Diggers Arms Hall galaxy and she was pleased to see me livening up for the first time that night, and pleased also that I was trying to keep her away from my competitors. I was pleased that she had no idea of my primary and far baser motive.

But, Eddie Roberts was a veteran of the Tap, and skilled in cutting off a couple at the pass, and before long I had to yield up my treasure. I stood at the centre of the floor and looked towards the entrance. My heart was in my mouth as I saw two Ladies enter, one the right size and hairstyle for Robyn. The other? I didn’t know Christine Foster all that well, but it didn’t matter, because I realised that the two who had just threaded their way through the non-dancing Gents at the entrance door were the Pershouse girls, whose dancing skills I have maligned cruelly in another story. Never was I so glad to see them! I would have danced all night with both of them. Together, if necessary; it wouldn’t have made that much difference.

I tapped Eddie Roberts back and retrieved my prize, with what I hoped was a warning frown not to have a second crack at the cherry, even though he was bigger and older than I was. We danced out the bracket, and I escorted Lorraine to her seat. It was after 9.00 pm.

This was unusual as most of the younger dancers were always there no later than 8.30 or so. But neither Robyn nor Christine had ever been to the Calliope dance and didn't know the ropes, so I couldn't count on that. A glimmer of hope arose in me that Robyn was not going to make it there that night, not that I wished anything bad on her of course. Odds on [b] now 100 to 1. Odds on [c] no longer off the other end of the scale entirely.

A Jazz Waltz was announced. It should have been a Foxtrot. Again, this would be a touchy one if Robyn should enter and find me in a fairly close embrace with Lorraine. Even though the lights were lowered for this dance, it was going to be a risk, as Lorraine often put her head on my shoulder for a Jazz Waltz, denoting a special intimacy and exclusive embracing rights for both partners. 

When she did it the first time, I wondered if she would get a tongue-lashing from her mother, but to my amazement she ignored it completely. That was the mater in imprimatur, I guess. With nothing really to lose from my point of view, we Jazz Waltzed our way round the dance floor, Lorraine’s head on my shoulder giving me a better field of vision to watch the door.

End of Jazz Waltz. 9.40 pm. Interval - and no Robyn! Where was she? I dared not put the question into the ether, for fear of an invocation I really really wanted to avoid, all the more now that hopes were raised.

Look, I don’t mean to drag this out any more, so I’ll get straight to the point after dancing around it so long. There are so many of you just willing this late entry by Robyn into the hall so you can see what happens in the Coliseum when they let the lionesses loose on the village idiot.

Correct? Have you no pity? You think this was funny? Well the joke’s on you then, so suck eggs. Robyn failed to make an appearance at or after Interval, and my spirits rose with every passing moment. When Lorraine left just after midnight wedged between her Mum and Dad in the ute, waving happily, I was even more my jolly self than ever, the night’s anguish and guilt all but forgotten.

I realise that this is a rather flat conclusion to something which should have been much more climactic, but if I invented such an ending just to entertain you, the course of history would have changed forever: the Time-Whatsit-Continuum would be permanently damaged and lives placed at risk. I’ve seen Back to the Future enough times to appreciate that and so should you. [I guess you’ve noticed how cocky I am now that the danger of exposure of my sins had passed, but I have to express my relief somehow. Cut me a little slack.]

I’ll try to compensate a little by telling you why Robyn failed to put in an appearance on that memorable night. Her dad worked for the PCD – the Port Curtis Dairy Cooperative Pty. Ltd., where all our milk was sent to be pasteurised and bottled. She told me at High School on the Monday following the dance that on the previous Friday, he had fallen from the loading bay at the PCD as a truck was backing in, and was jammed between the truck and the edge of the loading bay. He wasn’t seriously hurt but had a rib cracked and mild concussion, so they kept him in hospital overnight, and he wasn’t in a fit state to drive for the weekend. Robyn’s mother didn’t have a Driver’s License, which wasn’t unusual for women at that time. 

Robyn was deeply remorseful about breaking the date, but I readily forgave her as it seemed the decent thing to do. I did ask her to pass on to her father my regrets at his mishap and my hopes for his speedy and complete recovery. I'm afraid I said the second part of that with more sincerity than the first. I know - I'm evil. Lucky, but evil.

Now you might wonder why I didn’t know about that till as late as Monday. This is a good reminder of the state of communications in 1962. No iPhone for a start. No quick text message to say that her Dad had messed up the arrangements by getting injured at the PCD. [I secretly wondered if the truck that was backing in was carrying milk cans from Calliope, but that was damned churlish of me]. And in our case, no regular telephone either. This may surprise you, but at a guess probably fewer than half of the houses in country Australia at that time would have had phones, and we never had one for the whole time we lived in Calliope. If you were on a property then you had to pay all the expenses for putting in telephone poles and lines and installation, which was a small fortune.

So, we were totally cut off in immediate communication in ways that are barely conceivable now, even though Gladstone and Calliope were only 20 km apart. They might as well have been separated by the entire landmass of Australia, and a notification about a failed sleepover at a friend’s would have been regarded as low on the emergency information priorities. A telegram might have worked if it were sent early enough to the Fosters, but not to boyfriends who should have been heartbroken by the news, but weren’t – though I’d loved to have known about it in advance and spared all the personal angst. Direct communications such as telephones were for emergencies, not convenience. At least that's the way it worked at our place.

This is probably why I have never been all that comfortable with phones. They were usually the bearer of bad tidings, like deaths in the family. I’ve preferred email in the past twenty or more years, or Facebook for the past 12 months or so. Not phones. Just befriend me on Facebook and we’ll be right.

In 1962, the most common form of communication between Calliope and Gladstone for casual talk was by letter, as I vividly remember during holiday times when my new girlfriend and I wrote our billets-doux daily the next year – my final year of High School. 

But that is about another ending and another beginning. Life is full of them. You’ve probably had enough of this by now. Let’s just say that not long after that miraculous escape from public humiliation, in dealing with the opposite sex at High School I changed from being a parallel monogamist to a serial one. That was a far less stressful existence.
[Go to epilogue] | [return to index]


  1. that ending is unsatisfactory from my 'girl' point of view!

    Which of the two did you break up with first...

    What did you tell them when you broke it off...

    Did they ever find out about each other...


  2. OK OK OK - Absolutely final final instalment on way! I get the message!!!


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