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Childhood memories

Until about Form 4 I was totally reliant on my own two legs for transport. Then my friend Skeeter, who had a bike, entered a competition on [commercial radio station] 3DB for a slogan, and won a brand-new bike, so he passed his old one on to me. It was an old and heavy roadster, with no gears, but it was still a great improvement on walking. I fairly soon learned to ride it, despite losing rather a lot of skin on blackberries and barbed wire fences, and then my mobility was considerably improved. I still had to walk up nearly every hill, but I could cover much greater distances than before.

Before long the frame gave up, presumably because of the appalling roads - it was certainly not due to my weight, which was minimal, and I bought a Master Sports three speed semi-racer. This was much lighter, and the gears gave a significant advantage, especially on the flat, but with only three speeds they were not much help on the hills, and the narrow tyres were not well suited the to the gravel roads which were so common then.

However I soon began to venture much further afield. I rode down the dirt road from Olinda to the Basin, through Bayswater to Ringwood and Croydon, and back up the mountain through Montrose and Kalorama. The road from Montrose to Kalorama was a fairly even slope, and if I rode down to the bottom and then straight back again, I could do it without getting off, but if I did any sort of excursion once I got to the bottom I would have to walk on the way back.

On a couple of occasions I rode via Lilydale and Yarra Glen to Kinglake and Toolangi, and home, and on one memorable occasion I rode to Healesville, up to the top of Mount St Leonard, and back again - a distance of 110K, and a total climb of more than 1000M - in the day.

My parents were not notably religious, but they did push us off to Sunday school, and Mr Dowling had steadfastly tried to encourage our faith. I had dutifully said my prayers (when I remembered) and I had occasionally asked God for special favours, especially when some calamity like losing my best pocketknife had befallen me. I had searched very diligently for it, and it would only have taken the slightest hint for me to find it again, but he was not interested. Mr Dowling had recently persuaded me to be confirmed, but despite all the promises I did not feel anything in the slightest special take place during the ceremony.

However there were substantial advantages to being a believer, so I had pushed my doubts aside. But then one day I rode across to Emerald on an off day in some exams, taking Grantulla Road from Kallista to the Emerald Road. This involved a long climb up from Kallista to Cooks Corner, and I walked up the old dirt road alongside the new road.

When I noticed a jumping jacks nest alongside the road I gave it an idle kick, and watched the ants come swarming out. Then I thought "To God we must look just like this swarm of ants. Can we really expect God to take any interest in any one of us, let alone every one of these swarming millions?" And then my logical mind answered "Of course not - and what a conceited notion." And with that careless thought my whole faith came tumbling down about my ears.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

My own transport - and a spiritual disaster!