GORDON SANITAIRE by Gordon Urquhart (XX)

Way Back When

When I was a lad we used to hang around outside the newsagent and general store after school and on weekends. Men would go in and come out with their packets of cigarettes or their tobacco and they would give us the cigarette cards which came in almost every pack you bought of anything in those days. It wasn’t just cigarette cards and it wasn’t just tobacco products. My marble bag was a drawstring affair, which originally held birdseed. These birdseed bags came in various sizes and when the newsagent, who was also the general store owner, decided he didn’t need some of the smaller ones he asked my mates if any of us would like a free bag. Of course we said yes. You didn’t say no to free things.

The mother of a boy about our age gave me some perfectly good marbles too one day. They were the Tuffingtons and they lived at the big house on the hill. Barnaby he was called: he was the heir to the Tuffington crepe paper empire. Not that he was a mate of ours, this chap called Barnaby, but he we knew of him, and he already had a substantial collection of marbles (we guessed). He said he didn’t want some of the marbles his mother bought him on this afternoon, as he didn’t want any doubles. I gladly accepted when Mrs. Tuffington offered. She said they were surplus to Barnaby’s requirements, and I said thank you, in my politest voice, and Mrs. Tuffington patted me on the head. She was a lovely woman.

I won many marbles playing on the street with the other boys, but it was Barney Tuffington’s tiger’s eye that got me going. When you won a game you won the other fellow’s marble. But the tiger’s eye was my favourite. It was my first ever marble, and I won so many games with it. I also had a beautiful black pearl. It was too rare to even play with.

And I had quite a collection of cigarette cards. All the boys did. I put them into a book, an album really, a place where I could display all my cards and look after them. I made the album myself, we made things ourselves in those days, and I covered the album in paper. I also collected cuttings from the major sporting contests of the time. I kept photographs when they were in the newspaper, cut them out and kept them. Pictures of cricketers and boxers and rowers and rugby league players. All my best things were in my album.

How was that? Convincing, was it? It really isn’t difficult to write up some fake reminiscences. Add a few touches of period detail. Or what sounds like period detail. No, that wasn’t my childhood. After school I went home and ate afternoon tea with Nanny Eltham. Then I did my homework. Or I went to oboe practice. Or spent some time on my experiments (most of my experiments at the time involved explosions, but our junior gardener didn’t mind as long as Mumsy’s greenhouse remained unhurt). There was no hanging around anywhere, and no unnecessary time spent with youths of my own age. I was already looking for loopholes in the Australian constitution by that age, and had no time for marbles, coloured or otherwise.

Mrs. Tuffington was a fine woman though. Her hair was the colour of honey poured at sunset, but that’s another story for another time.

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Published in: on June 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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