God goes everywhere. Maybe it was a vinegar stroke, certainly a masterstroke when He came to God’s Own Country. First Queensland, then the rest, not resting till He had initiated the faithful Vegemites into the right dream, The Great Australian Dream. Cellular Seducer. Fair dinkum.
Dinkum enough for the bronzed, digger Aussies (and their wives) to believe that eating vegemite every day was good for their health, and that God, via Jesus would answer their prayers. If. That was, if they, across the nation, all chanted the famous main mantra, nightly. And Rightly, after Himself’s Prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, that was.
Commonly known throughout the sunburnt country as The Ocker Mantra, the fact was that no one slept until this important duty was complete. God Himself, also, did not appear to sleep until He had received the murmured mantra from the whole 10 million strong mob of true blue blokes and sheilas that were lounging around like lucky lizards in The Great Southern Island. A Big Plus.
It was simple, it was true and it set the right rhythm in place for the rest of their bless-ed lives. Bless their little cotton socks. Dead Set. It had been religiously passed down through
All mums and dads prayed for it, including Ruby’s. All, without exception, demonstrated to their kids the method of how to pray for it. And so it was, that as one whilst kneeling on the shiney linoleum floors, with fervent eyes looking upward to eerrr, heaven, all with hands in supplication, they did beget to their long haired, frocked up hippy, Jesus Christ, his Dad, God, and apparently their ghost, (God’s hardworking wife, the Son’s Mum) they would chant:
‘In the name of the Father, God,
the Son, Jesus Christ
and the Mum, naughty Mary, and the Holy Bank Manager,
please, I promise I’ll be fair dinkum if you just send me:
1 – solid marriage until we both do die together, in our sleep, in our late 70s,;
1 – one 3 bedroom brick veneer suburban house next to a school, a pub, and a Catholic and/or Church of England church;
2.5 – kiddies, (one boy one girl and one ‘mistake’);
1 – Holden Commodore Sedan, (or better still, a Station Wagon, thanks);
1 – ‘Spot’, the dog;
1 – ‘Puss’, the puss, and if possible,
1 – yellow canary (Harry).
Bewdy, tar for that. Oh and also, please make sure that we all live happily ever after, thanks very much, no worries God, catch ya tomorrow night then, see ya, amen, ahem, ahem.’
And why not? After all it was the fortunate ‘50’s, a time when Australians across the nation ate homemade jam sandwiches, (that’s white bread, thanks love) for lunch, wore fresh unddies, and carried a clean hanky. Every day!
They knew that everything the local doctor told them was true, that politicians never lied, and that Australia, the land of summer skies, was indeed, the Lucky Country. Yep, a nice clean slate history, with mostly not a black face in sight, these people were simple white folk, they asked no questions, and were ever grateful for food on the plate every night.
The only thing God neglected to mention to Ruby’s Mum was about the tea towels, and their true purpose in the great Australian way. While all the shredded singlets, frayed shirts, and faded frocks got reborn in every man’s garage as rags, the tea towel, a clever brainchild of God’s was intended, likewise, as the glad rag of the kitchen. Mums, Australia wide, had got it wrong. Perhaps it was the bounding kangaroos, the dumpy wombats, definitely Ned Kelly with his iron-chef face and sawn-off shot gun grimacing from the All-Australian made cotton tea towels, perhaps that caused some genetic historical irony to arise. Suffice to say that with the help of kiddy labour, every night the Aussie tea towels swiped the face of recently washed dishes.
What with Ned Kelly being shot dead by plenty of coppers, down at the billabong, without a fair say, a true blue digger’s hero was born. Ned, like all bronzed battlers was poor but game, and was the only icon the common people had, so like the tea towels, they clung to him. You see, The Pommy Establishment didn’t like any one else taking their jumbucks, d’rather let the peasants starve under the coolibah tree. The Old Boys School equaled the Olde Money equaled The Ruling Class: a mob of high-life criminals themselves, so who was there for the simple folk to venerate but a wild fire, bank-busting outlaw? How were they to know the irony of all of that, considering the Home Country, bent on keeping up the good name of Her Majesty and the Westminster gang, forwarded history books out to the colonies which did not even acknowledge existence of the Aboriginal race, let alone the establishment’s part in the genocide of those unmentioned. A historical propaganda programme for all the adults and kiddies, alike.
Such moral dilemmas aside, God still loved Australians, and they knew it. No probs, Oz sure was the Lucky Country.
Well, Ruby’s Mum and Dad got all that the Aussie Mantra offered, except the yellow canary. And ssshhhhh, as with not a word to her Dad, after 5 years of secretly banking 5 shillings every week, her Mum managed to save the princely sum of 400 quid. Such a handsome wad of real cash. Ever grateful to God, Queen and country, Ruby’s parents appreciatively snapped up their 1/3 acre dream by way of a cheap, government subsided housing trust home, far, far away in the dusty, dank dry boon blocks of good olde puritanical Adelaide. There on the northern edge of town, even the small flocks of gentle, ignorant sheep grazed thankfully around the flourishing all-expanding housing developments. They too had done their prayers. And all was at one in the workers backlands.
Poor in the money department, yes. Abundantly rich in spirit, absolutely. Good all rounders, was what Mr. And Mrs. Treebles were. Edvyean and Myrtle, that is. Him, 6 ft. a hundred, her 4 ft. nothing. A clever connection that – marrying the tall and the short of it to the wedding vows.
Edvyean, like all Aussie Dads then, was a handyman magician, and his garage, that mystical place from which every broken, torn or sick household gadget arose from the ashes to bravely re-enter the kiddy frey, one more time. Edd cemented, tiled, repaired and built everything, occasionally chopped chooks heads off, and grew bundles and bundles of rhubarb too.
Myrtle, her aproned up Mum, boiled, baked and barbied the goodness of out everything, diligently darned, knitted, sewed and crocheted the entire household’s wardrobe including the unddies, milk jug doilies and the dunny roll bag. Plus the family, as a mob, also plucked, cut, made and scoffed homemade preserves: a healthy larder of love, diligence and pickled delights. Every night cept ‘Friday Fish and Chip shop’ night, Eddy and Myrt devotedly trotted out the one meat, three veg ‘nd gravy meal, closely followed up with the swollen bowls of Nellie Melba pudding, dolloped custard goop and quivering red jelly. In fact the first time the family all went out to an actual restaurant for tea was on Ruby’s 12th birthday.
The only other requirements which God insisted upon, before each evening meal were in the minor mantra key of drone and went like this:
Thanks very much God, the Queen and Government for giving us this food,
our daily bread which we have worked our guts out for, forever and ever amen;
and finally, in the key of Aussie Rules barracking: “Two, Four, Six Eight, Bog in don’t wait.”
Obviously Aussies would never fully learn the words to the National Anthem, still it wasn’t really their country, but at least they knew the three main chants on tap. God chuckled: sweet as. Homemade tucker, home grown kids, blending and twitching in harmony, in harmony. Every Sunday, without fail, Myrtle filled a righteous pew, humble before her Methodist God to offer further reverence.
“Thanks very much God. Don’t worry about us being as poor as church mice, just please keep the love bit coming.” She knew that God, too, loved an almighty love for her family of Edd, the funny little girl and her two brothers. Well, anyway the prayer worked as cool as a cucumber. Mrs. Treebles ran the inside, Mr. Treebles ran the outside, and 5 days a week they went out to work for the usual pittance. Still and all, without so much as a brass razzoo to bless themselves with, Ruby and her older brothers never went hungry, always felt loved and never ever saw their Mum and Dad openly argue. No, they did do that, amongst other things, in the privacy of their bedroom. Viva la Vegemite.
Why back then, every underprivileged family could gauge when Christmas Day came around because that would be when the one and only chicken of the year reigned supreme on the mahogany dining room table. Christ’s Chook, all roasted, stuffed, no longer with us, all golden and glistening, arse up and legs reaching for the Ned Kelly sky: there the regal chook lay for all to admire.
Beside it, humming away would be the cotton-swathed, rum sozzled fruit pudding, the pudding of the masses just dying for the cack egg yellow custard to be poured upon it like blessed water. All in all a Carmen Miranda cabaret with sweaty threepences and sixpences sauna bathed within its steaming hot folds. Naturally each guest at the table retrieved a murky thrupence or if really lucky their very own sixpence from the swath before them. It was Jesus’s Day, that surrealistic day when the Salvation Army would pull up at the front of their suburban home proud to share The Son’s birthday… like cockies all perched on a roost, they’d be sat on a long wooden pew in the back of a ute. Navy blue bonneted women clasping tinny tambourines, hatted trombone men in ill fitting suits and ties, all letting the hymns bubbling up at the drop lovely money into the donation hat. Yes, And why not, after all it was God’s only son’s main birthday festival event.
And Ruby’s cheeky young taste buds didn’t help matters, when desiring the unreachable delicacies, many an hour found her nose smudging up against the outside window of the well-stocked local deli. Too poor by half, she so envied the brightly coloured boiled lollies, desperately wanting to taste their sugary sweetness. All an out of reach delicacy dream. So instead, the feisty little girl reached out and gave all the local vicinity boys a few good beltings, wagged school and regularly bicycled off, miles away from home all alone, happy in her world. Of course being caught out was unavoidable, but it mattered not one iota because none of Edd’s and Myrt’s creative penalties worked. Except for one that is. To Ruby, a fate worse than death was being banned from laying beside the radio after tea each night, and not being allowed to listen to the eventful goings-on in the outside world.
All of Australia’s ‘little Johnnies’ knew what they were going to be when they grew up, either bell clanging fire engine drivers, or failing that be goodie two shoes policemen snitching old wallopers. Simple as that! And all the ‘Little Mary’s” were happily doomed to be beehive hairdressers, or tight laced, low heeled steno-secretaries, and on and on the Great Australian Dream trod. Stereo Goodies. And then there was Edd and Myrt’s little girl always away with the pixies, dreaming of being a racing car driver, of winning consecutive Grand Prix’s, or up in the cockpit with Kingsford Smith flying high over the Never Never. A lovely kid.
Pity about the daydreams, ‘they’ said. While ‘they’ thought the trouble was she went too fast, and thought too much she always thought ‘they’ went too slow, and ‘the world’ didn’t think enough. While God and the god hearted Aussie folk all dipped into the well of goodness, there to wallow in the mythical ideology, Ruby did not. An avid mind, already leaving home, even then, even at the ripe age of ten, she seemed to have shot out of the womb in an 8 cylinder commodore, waited impatiently till high school was over, grabbed a bottle of whisky, and a packet of fags and headed for the naughty side of life. From the beginning, this kid was different. A tomboy, our rubygirl.