Mr Roberts, 22 December 2022
Mr Roberts was our Sunday School teacher, kind and gentle.
One Sunday, us Year 6 and 7 boys from the Gladstone Methodist Church trooped out to the demountable behind the church, and were confronted by the largest huntsman you've ever seen, which was sitting on the blackboard and uncomfortably close for anyone planning to enter the room. We stood in a bunch in the doorway. Eddie McEvoy said, "I'll fix it, Mr. Roberts!" He hurled a blackboard duster at the spider, missing it by exactly .5 of a millimetre. There was a communal squawk as it fell off and skittered across the room. This was followed by a shocked, gesticulating silence on the part of us boys.
Mr Roberts looked back at us. "What?"
A couple of us managed to gasp out, "It went up your trousers!"
He made a disbelieving noise but then concluded from our horrified faces that nobody was kidding. He was a very tall man, and had what seemed to be Ian Thorpe sized feet, but managed to whip off his trousers over his shoes almost instantly.
Let me be clear: This was 1967. We were farmer's sons. If we saw our father in underwear, it was blue Y-fronts. Mr Roberts had the longest snow-white legs any of us had ever seen, and they were covered with dense black hair. But most momentous of all that was revealed, were a pair of mid-calf long-johns.
A ruckus of disbelief mixed with fascination began to erupt in the room, and it exploded in shrieks of laughter and terror as the spider popped out the end of one trouser leg as Mr Roberts was peering into it. He dropped his trousers... again.
The room next door was ruled by Mrs Pierce, known for a strict Methodism which refused even to eat port-wine flavoured jelly, and strong opinions about almost everything. She had the Year Six and Seven girls. Her voice, querulous and terrifying, silenced the lot of us. "What's going on in there?" We could hear footsteps.
Mr Roberts' face turned whiter than his legs. "Don't let her in," he begged. And out of fear of consequence, not any care for him, a couple of us threw themselves against the door to block her entry. Someone managed to convince her that all was under control, and Mr Roberts was able to restore his trousers, if not his dignity.
In all this, the spider made its escape. And after we had escaped Sunday School, each little boy told his parents on the way home.
It was windy this morning; choppy, buffeting, and cold. Both of us have bad memories of wind. I once spent a week on the remote Barkly Tablelands riding into howling wind. On one of those days I was moving for 10 hours and covered only 70 kilometres. A couple of weeks later I wrote of another day's ride, "But today, going past the big gums in the wind raised deep non-rational discomfort in me; I was afraid. This was safe ride, well within my capabilities, with a motel at the end, and lots of farm houses on the way. But in the growing cloud over the range -- at 12:30 it was darker and it is now at 5:30-- and at other times, I had to fight off moments of panic. If a week of headwinds can do that to me, no wonder months or years in a war zone, or refugee camp, or violent marriage can cause triggers that make people meltdown. It was a sobering experience. I knew exactly what was going on... and that knowledge made no difference at all!" ... Read on >>>>
This ride was a part of my training for a 1200km audax. I'm unlikely to be able to do the whole 1200 inside the 90 hours; I'm a bit old. But there is no harm in taking as little time as possible. I set up a 300km loop which includes my audax route through the Adelaide Hills. I was especially interested in keeping down the time lost to stops, which can easily bloat out to 25% of a ride. I aimed at no more than 6 minutes stationary per hour, and was really pleased to pull that off.... Read on >>>>
When I was about ten, my Christmas Day was brought to a stunned physical halt by a wave of feelings which took me years to articulate. It was as though a congenital melancholy had forced its way into my attention. It bubbled up every few months for years, a kind of sub-clinical depression, which I finally understood as an inability to see any point to life. Some instinct kept me walking and running, which probably prevented my being overwhelmed. And for my final three years at university, I rode a pushbike, often hundreds of kilometres a week, and this seemed to drive the whole agony underground.
About a decade after that first onslaught, I stopped taking the direct route from my university college out to the Waite Institute. Instead, I would ride up Greenhill Road each morning, speed down from Mt Lofty to the Crafers exit on the new freeway, and then ride down the freeway to The Waite. This involved a short climb out of Crafers, after which I was on competitive terms with the rush-hour traffic. I used to count the number of cars I could pass between the Eagle on the Hill, still a pub in those days, and the Old Tollgate at the bottom. My record stood at 24 cars.
I raced into the Devil’s Elbow one morning, a well-deserved name, holding way above the recommended speed, with cars all around me, and both the front and back wheel began to aquaplane. I was... Read on >>>>
The first trip included a gravel loop out from Angaston through the high country to the east, coming back into the bottom end of the Barossa near Lyndoch... Read on >>>>
When the frame on my Blade4 died in early 2017, its replacement was sitting on the floor of the local bike shop: a beautiful Scott Sub 30. The Sub30 has also succumbed to long miles on the road. Replacement was not so easy this time. Steel frame bikes are scarce due to Covid shortages. Eventually, I visited a shop in Adelaide to inspect a very expensive Curve Kevin, which was not my first choice owing to its carbon forks. I discovered a Bombtrack Arise Tour next to it, even though their website said none were in stock. I bought it on the spot! ... Read on >>>>
Somewhere out past the Victorian border a bloke had delivered a load of superphosphate to a farm. He had a boy with him, five or six, and they sat in the paddock gateway for a minute or so, watching me ride towards them. When I was a hundred metres or so away, the semi turned on to the road and slowly began to build up speed and pull away. Perhaps that's why I didn't hear the other semi-trailer, the one behind me. It rocketed past, well over any speed limit, and barely a foot away from me.
They say time slows down when something like this happens. Perhaps it's that so much happens in a second or two that it takes much longer to replay it in the mind, let alone write it down. A few hundred metres ahead of me, the second semi's driver suddenly realised he was about to drive up the back of a much slower truck. He jammed on the brakes and began to slide on the bitumen.
Perhaps the first driver had seen him coming, but misjudged how fast he was travelling; I could understand how that could happen. Or perhaps he'd not even seen him in the setting sun, and was looking in his mirrors to see where I was. Either way, he managed to get his rig off the road with all the speed and agility of a trail bike, which meant the offending driver skidded past, straightened up, and roared off. The second semi pulled back onto the road and followed him as I breathed in burning rubber, and heard my tyres swish in the still molten skid marks.
I thought the second driver must have fallen asleep. Or perhaps he was sending a text. Then I realised that if he hadn't seen that big semi until those last seconds, he probably hadn't seen me at all... Read on >>>>
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