memories ....

Richard Swan

Bill Williams (  wrote an elegy about his time at Telopea. He laments  “failure to seduce the sirens of the school. … testament to the wisdom and  judgment shown … when our clumsy advances were brushed aside”.  This brought me in mind of one foolish incident which I have never talked about, probably not to my wife, certainly not to my daughter.

Our English teacher, Mr. Montgomery, passed away quite young I believe. He managed to encourage me in writing while saying, very accurately,  that I did not write good English and could not spell. He introduced me to T. S. Elliott and John Donne. I learned J Alfred in its entirety and a dozen or so of Donne’s poems. If you explored beyond the Donne in our officially approved text book you found an incredibly passionate, sensuous writer who devoted his best work to very fresh, frank, extraordinarily modern accounts of his relationships with Bill’s sirens.

I was courting a young lady from Telopea and  I took her out in my mother’s mini deluxe to park near the edge of the lake. In those days there were no barriers, walking paths or landscaping. We parked on a slope with a fantastic view of the lake and a sharp drop over a cliff edge down to the lake level. Even at that tender age I had learned that talking about electronics or computers or science did not win fair lady. With the advent of Google, Facebook etc, at least in Silicon Valley, being nerdy can now attract positive attention. At that time in my life I wanted to talk about passion through poetry and would quote some of the less racy but heartfelt lines from Donne.

miniNeedless to say, I was not at all successful with this courting approach and it was soon time for me to take her home. Somehow, when it came for me to back the mini up, I was distracted and let it roll forward with my foot on the clutch. Clunk, the front wheels were over the edge of the cliff.  We were able to gingerly crawl out of the car in the total darkness. We managed to walk along the lake road to reach the Hotel Canberra,  the only lights visible. I called up my good mate Steve Bisset and he headed out to the rescue with a tow rope. I think my date called up her sister or other friend to get home. Steve and his brother David thought the incident was immensely funny. Their laughter was the crowning epitaph to a spectacularly disappointing and humiliating evening.


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