by Ross Sharp

This post also appears at Groupthink

The last day of high school in 1976 was cancelled on account some reprobate hoons started muck-up day early by throwing flour bombs up and down the corridors of the school about 9am, having already tossed eggs over the roof of the canteen block and onto the heads of the crowd who were lined up for assembly earlier that morning.

So whatever had been planned, the Principal canned it, and we all went our various ways about eleven o’clock in the a.m., and that was the end of all that.

A few days later, five of us met up. We thought we may as well take advantage of this brief window of freedom and liberty between the end of schooldays and the beginning of our working life, what was to be the beginning of almost fifty years of time where every hope, every ambition, every fleeting fancy of the future as a fantasia of ever stunning marvels would gradually be ground down to irritating grits of devil dust forever to be flung into our dim and weary eyes.

Or, in other words, our young lives had yet to be moulded by the onerous demands of modern office life and its infinitely stimulating rigours.

“We could go camping”, said one, “My brother has a campervan and a tent, we could take that.”

“To where?” asked another.

“There are some nice places on the south coast”, said someone else.

“I don’t know how to put up a fucking tent”, said another, very probably myself, “I’ve never been camping in my fucking life”.

“It’s easy”.

So we all went camping, five virgin boys fresh out of high school, being men in the world and looking for adventure.

Where we wound up I have no recollection, but there was a beach, there were roads, and there were some shops not far away, so it must’ve seemed a good idea to just pull up and pitch our pole there, wherever the fuck it was, and so that is precisely what we did.

Knowing nothing of camping, none of us, it did appear to take an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to erect a tent, but we finally did, so beamingly proud of ourselves at the very modern marvels of adult self-sufficiency that we had become in such a short span of time.

On reflection now, it may have been a better idea not to pitch a tent on a patch of scrubby brush sitting atop naught but sand, for as night fell, a storm blew up, it started pissing down with rain, and we all took turns for a couple hours running outside to bang the tent pegs back in, and no sooner had someone done that they’d pop right out again, and it was the next guy’s turn.

And yes, we did consider taking refuge in the campervan, but were a little terrified the tent would blow off if we did, so we made the sacrifice to comfort and braved the terror of the elements as men should be prepared to do.

We had beer.

None of us were really drinkers of any stripe, but we were men now, therefore we had beer, and beer was the thing men did.

My own familiarity with alcohol up to that point in my life had been limited to a sip or two of my father’s beer on one or two occasions. Yet, as a man, I felt it my manly duty to persevere with this fucking horrible stuff and so, over a period of about three hours, I managed to consume three entire cans of beer, by which point I felt fucking horrible and it wouldn’t have surprised me in the least if I began to hallucinate about bats crawling from out the walls.

We were all a bit like that, and I think someone had to go out and throw up at one point.

By the time the storm had subsided and the wind had dropped and we had exhausted ourselves from doing fifty laps of the tent and blind drunk on three beers each, we all wisely decided to call it a night and collapsed into unconsciousness, only to be woken not long after by one our number yelling out at the top of his fucking voice, “SOMETHING IS EATING MY EARS!”.

At which, we all jumped from our beds and stumbled about blindly in the dark trying to figure out what breed of bastard beast had infiltrated our snug, if somewhat shaky abode.

“Where’s the torch?”, someone asked.

“I don’t fucking know, I can’t see any fucking thing you stupid bastard”, someone else said, very probably myself.

Torch located, no ear-nibbling beastie could be found, so we all returned to our slumbers convinced that our friend had simply gone off his face in his sleep, his Mike Tyson nightmares no doubt fuelled by the depraved indulgence of three entire cans of demon drink.

Next morning, we welcomed our first hangovers.

Some food was in order.

Knowing nothing of cooking or basic food preparation beyond the buttering of a slice of bread, none of us, we had stocked several cans of stuff, some meals in a tin, things like “Meatballs and peas in delicious gravy” and “Frankfurts and beans in delicious gravy” and “Delicious gravy with random bits of unidentifiable gristly meat-like shit swimming about in it”.

Being the wild bunch of “all or nothing” types we were, we decided to dump them all in one big pot, heat it up and just tip the whole gray, lumpy, gloopy mess over some bread on five separate plates.

We all survived and no one threw up.

Then we all went for a swim which lasted all of about three minutes as it was very fucking cold and it began to piss down raining again.

Lunchtime, a few of us drove up the shops for some fish and chips, brought them back to our soggy little base camp and sat on the beach until it started pissing down raining again.

So we repaired to the campervan, and watched the rain piss down in sheets, and we ate our fish and chips, and one or two of us may have had a beer, and then someone asked …

“What do you want to do tomorrow?”

“I dunno”, came a reply.

“Should we stay here, or go somewhere else you think?” another asked.

“There’s not much fucking point staying here, is there? We should at least move the fucking tent somewhere solid, for fuck’s sake”, someone said, very probably myself.

“This fucking weather”, another said.

“We could’ve just stayed the fuck home and gone to a fucking movie or some fucking thing”, someone said, very probably myself, “We could’ve just gone down to fucking Bondi for a day you want to see a fucking beach.”

“What do you reckon?”, someone ventured.

“Yeah, fuck it”, we all agreed.

“If we leave now, we can all be back before dark”, someone said.

Very probably myself.