Sunday, June 04, 2006


Over the years I've spent a small fortune on psychiatrists when all I had to do was, one, not get married and two, read other blogs. Thanks to Highriser blogspot mentioning dunnycarts, I had so many repressed memories float to the surface (so to speak) that I should sue the last therapist for saying I was sane.

Every day some health official or doctor is giving advice on how to avoid bowell cancer which is fine for the young but far too late for us oldies. Most of us can pinpoint the cause of any bowell problem and/or phobias in our memories of the backyard dunny. Throw in lung cancer as well if the BYD was made of Hardy's fibro and lord knows what carcinogens we soaked up through the skin from the phenol used to disinfect the wooden seat.

I can't believe how many terrors of my youth were caused by that small aromatic building. Our main house was built on sandy soil but a shortage of any drainage made the backyard a swamp which my mother tried to rectify by planting willow trees and my father undid by stabling a race horse there. The only light was on the back verandah which meant darkness halfway down the wooden path. Unless the moon was up, shining through the willow branches with the wind moving the leaves, talking to each other but it's okay mummy and daddy are here holding your hand. Yeah, right, back up, ma and pa are inside toasting their feet by the fire, "Just yell if you need us." I can't yell, the willow trees will hear me, if I pee myself, my mother will get me.

Now I see the beginings of the chronic anxiety that will keep shrinks and pharma companies in luxury for years.

We never had a light in the BYD, we were too poor to have that wonder of modern technology - a torch so the only chance was to hide a box of matches and hope no one found out. This led to more anxiety. Was it better to see where the spiders were and watch them watching me or stay in the dark and hope they stayed asleep. The only chance was to play Kipling's 'Great Game' and remember the exact location of every web in daylight. I don't know how they survived although flies were plentiful but it was the smell, not what you think nor the phenol but those dreadful, wrapped in purple cellophane, noxious de-odorant blocks commonly known as 'lavvy lollies'.

Then there was the horse. Dad built a fence using the BYD as part of it so the horse would use the wall as a scratching post or give it a bit of a wallop with a hoof. His best trick was to open the door and shove his head inside and that head and those teeth were enormous to a sitting child. How many times have I read in books about a horse's gentle snickering, forget it, this beast could smell fear, the snickering was sarcastic. No good banging on the walls for help, that dislodged the spiders and got the earwigs going. Even worse was making the big escape to find he'd done his second best trick, rolling under the bottom rail and standing on the path to the house. I was as glad as mum was, the night he jumped the front fence and trotted back to his old stable.

Now the wooden path was another hazard to negotiate to the BYD. My mother made it from wooden blocks dug into the sandy soil without cement. When it rained they floated away and I would hold to bursting point before tackling a swirling torrent. Water like that kills earthworms and they float and it doesn't matter how old I get, I will never walk through dead earthworms. It was a great day when Dad came home from the pub with a load of "hot" concrete blocks off the back of a truck.

Then there was the never-ending terror of being caught 'on the job' by the 'man with the can'. Dad bribed him to come more often, usually in the dead of night but never to a timetable. He actually had an apprentice. There were tricks to be learned. Never hoist a full one, tip a bit out son, but not where anyone can see. Our labrador dog was a digging type of dog and the DM's apprentice missed the hole by the gate going in but he certainly went to the bottom, with a full one, on the way out. A lot of workplace negotiations went with that incident and reparation in the form of a few dozen bottles of VB. One Christmas, unexpected visitors saw dad out at midnight digging a deep hole to bury a slight overflow, he'd have made a great parliamentarian.

In one of her beautifying moods mum built a wood and chicken wire fence, five feet high, to hide the BYD. My sister, the gymnast, would use the top as a practice beam until the day she overbalanced. She ended up hollering for an hour before dad could stop laughing and help her pull her foot out of the dunny wall. He left the hole there with her name underneath it. She and I would stand at the bus stop and watch in horror as the school bus and the dunny cart raced neck and neck down the hill. We had two options, pray the school bus would get to us first or run like the devil down the side road to the next street.

When we finally got the sewerage connected mum went crazy. The new toilet attached to the house was built to her specifications. It was half the size of my bedroom. It had two windows with frilly curtains, wall paper, full length mirror and a hand basin with running water. Dad put his foot down about an expensive light fitting so mum bought a cheap plastic one and put in a 100 watt globe. After it melted and dropped on his head, twice, he gave in.

I think this covers most of my idiosyncrasies and phobias, anxiety, dead worms, horses, dark nights, never shutting the door, 100w globes to shine in every corner and never, never run out of toilet paper. Thank you Andrew, your cheque is in the mail, use it appropriately.


JD Allen said...

That was a good 'un, ma'am. Took me right back to my great-grandmother Booth's farm.

JahTeh said...

JD, my grandfather dug a huge hole on top of a hill, cemented it and put a seat on top. He then told us not to fall in or we would never hit bottom. It was a 2 hour drive home from his place and we made it every time although sometimes it was a close call.

Ron said...

My father owned a small property on the Little River near Oberon, NSW.

It had a drop-dunny on top of a hill in one of the paddocks used as a sapphire mine. When it was originally built it had hessian walls and a metal roof.

Naturally, the hessian didn't last long in the winds and snow that Oberon experiences but we had a beautiful view! (Glad we didn't have any near neighbours.)

JahTeh said...

And there's the title of Ron's first novel "A Tail on BareBum Mountain".

Brownie said...

Fabulous post.
Is that spider a lady Redback?

My 1954 State School No 1667 had dunnies and for toilet paper there were squares of cut up newspaper threaded on string and hanging on a nail.


some teacher with a BA Dip Ed cutting up newspaper for 100 kids.

Andrew said...

Ta for the credit. Ours' on the farm was down a steep and slippery brick path and yes, no lighting. Copius amounts of phenol (was the brand name Phenyl?)meant it smelt of of it's normal smell and phenol. It was beautifully painted with kelsomite? White wash? and spiders were quickly hunted away by a pump action fly spray that was probably full of Agent Orange or something like that. DDT at least. There was the occasional snake to deal with though. The contents were buried in an individual pit dug maybe once a fortnight? A month or so later, the locations were easily identifibale by the very bright green grass that grew where it was buried. My grandmother had her own pot and she took the blame for the awful green slime that grew off the side verandah where she used to fling the contents. In actaul fact, I think we all contributed to seriously weird slime that grew off the side verandah.

Brownie said...

Urea. I have a very old Yates Garden guide which suggests a bit of personal liquid waste is just the thing for starting a good compost heap (and it is great for any lemon tree too).

Thunderbox! - that's the name for long drop dunnies and there is one still in use at The Garden Of St.Erth in Blackwood. It has a drop like Niagara Falls. Experience it for yourself in September when it is surrounded by massed daffodils.

JahTeh said...

Andrew, it was Kalsomine and it smelt like wet plaster even when it dried. Pump action flysprayer, oh how toffy, what about fly paper. My sister went to a bush 21st and got her hair caught on the fly papers hanging from the roof. You wait for my adventures on the red rattlers, coming soon.

Brownie, after this post I firmly believe man's greatest invention is indoor plumbing. I went to State School No. 84. and I used to read the toilet paper.

R H said...

I find the idea of academics cutting up shit paper very useful. Much more useful than other papers they present.

My old man's favourite story was when he was a kid in Swan Hill and some bloke after having a blue with his wife decided to disappear outside and repair the dunny. Apparently he got up on the seat with a smoke in his mouth, which ignited the hessian lining and burned the whole thing down.

I used to wonder about the relevance of the bloke having a blue with his missus at the start, but my old man always insisted this story was true, in which case I've eventually come to realise it belongs there.