That's me on the left in the fair isle jumper
Being a teenager can be awkward at times; oft times; particularly in the early to mid-teen years.
At the beginning, being a teen is akin to a fish out of water. One thing is certain about the water analogy; there's a lot of dipping toes in H2O happening amongst adolescents as they enter the slippery stage between puberty and maturity. There's much metaphorical closing of eyes and pinching of accompanying nasal protuberances by juveniles as they, sometimes blindly and misguidedly, jump into the deep end.
It's obvious and you've no doubt discovered by now that I’m no longer a teenager! Don't worry...I'm as disappointed, even more so, as you are at this bleak discovery!
I'm probably what you call a "premature baby boomer"...I missed out by a year or two, unfortunately, to fit into the "BB" mould! I refuse to divulge a more detailed description than that, so you'll have to be content with doing the math yourself. A clue - I was a teenager in early Sixties.
And remember those words of wisdom: "You're only as young as you feel"; a misleading statement, I do declare! Sometimes I feel as if I'm 100! But, there are many more times I don't feel I'm much older within my mind than I was way back then!
All that aside, my memories of the enlightening times of my teenage years remain vivid even after all the years in between then and now.
Gympie, a regional town in Queensland, had a population in the Sixties of around 10,000 - give or take; more likely "take".
Back in those days of innocence there was a feeling of freedom and security. Rarely did anyone lock their doors. I know we, in my small family unit didn't. The door locks didn't work! If our family was going anywhere for an extended length of time (of more than two or three days) padlocks had to be found and placed on the doors.
There was no fear about walking alone at night, no matter what the time. I, for one, always walked to and from the dances, record hops, parties and all other social activities alone; perhaps sometimes with a girlfriend, but more than often, alone. For most, to be a teenager living in Gympie in the early Sixties was to be footloose and fancy-free. It certainly was that way for me and my circle of friends. Employed within a local law firm as a legal secretary, I enjoyed my job and I worked alongside people I liked. Life was good.
And on the subject of water as I was in my first paragraph...I spent a great deal of my spare time immersed in water.
Never one who cared for dating just for the sake of it, I preferred to spend my leisure time with my group of friends. Weekends were spent at the beach; with the local public pool second choice if the surf was inaccessible.
Friday night dances were ticked on my calendar and unfailingly attended - come Hell or high water (see, there's that liquid stuff, again).
For the first couple of years after I started working, my Monday evenings were taken up with basketball. Casual gatherings listening to vinyl discs of folk, blues, pop and jazz with some rock 'n roll music thrown into the mix for good measure while battling bowls of Spaghetti Bolognese or picking over experimental mixed platters of tasty tidbits, and regular rehearsal or play-readings at the Gympie Drama Club took care of the rest of my week nights! (And I wrote all of the above-mentioned without taking a breath!)
Dating wasn’t part of the equation; not my equation, anyway.
There was a particular young fellow who, at one point, thought he had a “crush” on me. At the time, I was 16 going on 17 years of age.
Whenever I was at Gympie's Olympic pool, he’d sidle up, keen to chat. He was a bit of a “nerd”! I wasn’t interested in him or his efforts at conversation. However, I did do my best at all times to be polite; to not hurt his feelings; but I never encouraged him. My hopes were my restrained responses to his overtures would help him understand my unspoken message.
While preparing to head off to the pool one day, a knock on our door announced an uninvited visit from “The Nerd”.
As large as life he stood at the top of our front stairs, smiling, looking like a long-lost friend or relative who'd just returned from a lengthy overseas sojourn. Speechless from shock, I froze on the spot; I was lost for words. Finding no humour in the moment, I was incapable of returning a smile to match his own. My mother and grandmother came to the rescue when they noticed my stage fright! Greeting my unexpected caller, Mum and Nana ushered him inside. Undisguised mischief danced merrily in their eyes; their amusement at my discomfort patently obvious to me, but not to “The Nerd”.
Graciously, he accepted their offer of a cold drink. Without hesitation, he set about making himself comfortably at home.
In quiet desperation, I tried to catch either Mum or Nana’s eye - or both - eyes and persons! However, Mum and Nana, like a well-rehearsed duo, purposely ignored my attempts. They were thoroughly enjoying my uncomfortable predicament.
Just to clarify the situation - my family had a weird sense of humour!
Still in shock at the surprise visit, I’d only uttered a word or two, but that was no deterrent to my unwelcome would-be-if-he-was-given-an-inch-suitor!
Full of bravado, he conversed with my mother and grandmother as if he’d known them all his life! Meanwhile, ever so slowly he sipped his lemonade, sarsaparilla or ginger beer - whatever the chilled refreshment was that day. He had all the time in the world. It was blatantly apparent he was in for the long haul!
And then, he spied our piano!
My mother was an excellent pianist. She could play any melody of any genre; from classical to pop and all those in between; she executed all genres brilliantly, with or without sheet music. The piano was an extension of her heart and soul.
The conversation swiftly turned to piano playing.
The last I saw and heard of “The Nerd”, he was surrounded by sheet music as he thumped away on the piano; oblivious of all others!
'Twas then I took my leave.
He could be still there sitting at the piano for all I know!
To the beat of a barely-recognisable version of Fats Domino's “Blueberry Hill”, off to the pool I stealthily escaped, leaving "the piano boy" to Mum and Nana!
“That’ll teach them to think it's all a big joke!” I thought.
I was certain “The Nerd” was a duck in disguise! All hints to get rid of him ran off his back!
On reflection and with twenty-twenty hindsight; and all other similar cliches - his youthful bravado was probably a ploy to disguise his lack of confidence in the world of wooing.
Ours was an age of innocence. And I, like "The Nerd" was just as naive and unworldly as he was; and I, no doubt, just like him, had my own ways of disguising my inexperience in the ways of the world.
Oh! The joys of youth! I wouldn't mind jumping into a time capsule to recapture some of those carefree days and years....
Duck Bolognese: Sauté 5 whole garlic cloves, 3 sprigs rosemary, 3 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs marjoram, 3 of sage and 1/2tsp nutmeg in 1-1/2tbl x-virgin olive oil, 1min; add 1 finely-chopped large carrot, 3 finely-chopped celery stalks and 1 finely-chopped large onion; sauté until softened; add 1 large, quartered duck, excess fat removed, skin side down. Increase heat; sear duck, making sure vegetables don’t burn; add 1c red wine when duck is browned; stir until wine evaporates; add another cup red wine; repeat process until duck is dark brown. Reduce heat; add 1tbl tomato paste and 2 cups chicken stock. Cook 7mins; remove from heat; remove duck from sauce; cool duck; cut flesh into bite-size pieces. Remove herbs and garlic from sauce; return meat to sauce; place over med-heat; add 1 can crushed tomatoes; season; simmer until sauce reduces and thickens, about 10mins.
Blueberry Duck: Combine 2c port, 2c water, 1/4c sugar and 1/4c honey; boil. Season cavity of 1 large duck, minus wing tips; truss duck. Remove sauce from heat; add duck; marinate at room temp 20mins; turn occasionally. Remove duck from marinade; place on rack in shallow roasting pan; bake in 175C oven, 1-1/4hrs; stand at room temp 10mins. Heat 2tbls olive oil in skillet; add 1/3c diced shallots; cook 3-5mins; add 1/2c sugar; stir over low heat until sugar is dark brown; add 1/2c cider vinegar, 1/4c brandy, 1c blueberries and 1-1/2tsp chopped tarragon; cook on med-high, 5mins; add 2c chicken stock; bring to boil; reduce by half. Serve sauce over carved duck