by Blake Dawson* <>

From the Preface to Chapter 1:

If you like to read this kind of story but are concerned about possible legal implications, work to change the law! If you don’t, why are you here?

*Blake Dawson is the person the otherwise anonymous author would be if “trading places” became magically possible.

Chapter 10: Bowlers

While mum had originally acquired her computer and printer so she could do a bit of work on the side to supplement her income, she more than encouraged my interest in using it for school projects and even the odd game, being prepared to stay up later herself to get her work done any time we both had things to do on it. But, before the end of even my fourth grade, in part thanks to Mrs Freeth’s continued encouragement of my writing after my essay about choosing a cricket coach, the times when we both wanted to use the computer were threatening to become a problem, until one night when we had just finished dinner and I was about to rush off to get my turn, mum asked me to wait so we could talk about some new options she had found: “I have always made my number one priority keeping a secure job with a reliable income so I could guarantee you had enough food and clothes and somewhere reasonable to live, even if that has never left us much over to go out and spend on extras. But, while most would not think you are old enough, I certainly know you are bright enough, and you are the only other person whose opinion really matters, so I wanted to ask you what you would think about me taking a risk that might backfire and leave us struggling for a while, but which also might pay off and give us a few more choices in life?”

I rather bluntly insisted that I expected her to talk to me about such things, and that she had better talk a lot more so I could find out what she was really talking about. The place she was working saw tight times ahead as we slid deeper into recession and wanted to cut their ongoing fixed costs and liabilities by making all but key staff redundant, while keeping quite a few on as contractors for as long as business held up. Mum had been told privately that she could be confident in getting a contract, and her payout would enable her to buy another computer for home and pay out the car that she was still paying off, leaving a little in reserve for emergencies. I may have been partly influenced by the idea of becoming a two computer home when most people I knew were still thinking about their first, but was more than keen she should go for it because I had started to recognise in my own life that things were more interesting when they lacked certainty.

The next Saturday morning, it was cricket that lost what was starting to feel like an excess of certainty as the other strong team in the competition showed they had the bowlers to put us under a lot of pressure with even Hayden struggling and us failing to get enough runs for our not quite so strong bowling attack to defend. Hayden talked a bit during the game to some of the opposing kids who he knew from previous seasons and learnt that they practised twice a week and emphasised tight team discipline, so while the game was slipping away he talked to a couple of us more about whether we should start doing likewise than about the state of the match, and finally raised it with Peter Wilkins. Peter did not want to move away from the expectation that everybody train on Wednesdays, but was happy for us to make Mondays optional for those who wanted to do a bit extra, and Peter’s caution did not hold back his by then very keen son Troy which also guaranteed Joey would be there. That Monday we were also joined by Jordan North who lived cricket almost as much as Hayden and me, plus two of my age mates from the previous season’s tackers, Rusty and Aaron. It also meant Troy and Jordan’s mothers and Aaron’s father sitting in their cars right through the hour and a half it took us to give everybody a bat, while a very sticky late November Sydney Monday left all seven boys rather tired by the end.

But beyond the extra training, it was decided that team selection would need to be looked at a bit more carefully as one or two older but newer players in the tackers were starting to really stand out, while we seemed to have too many young players in our side. Aaron was swapped for one of the older boys the next week and when Rusty failed and I got runs, he saw the writing on the wall and the two of them let us know they didn’t want to bother their parents with an extra night’s running around. Living a lot further away than the rest, Jordan really was reliant on his mother for transport and she had a lot on in the lead up to Christmas and dropped out after the second week. And after two weeks in which she figured we really were not going to get into much trouble, Mrs Wilkins was more than happy to encourage Troy and Joey to find there own way there and home as Hayden and I had done automatically from the start. And in the absence of any of our older team members getting themselves organised, by week three we had a settled group of four, and no parents, which was to persist in spite of ourselves for almost three seasons. And while we all managed to squeeze as much batting and bowling as we could handle into an hour, from the outset there was a lot more emphasis on Joey and Troy’s bowling and on Hayden’s and my batting.

My two weeks at Bermagui was only memorable for the amount of time I spent out on the ocean, riding in the substantial fishing cruiser that had been a prominent landmark a few sites up from ours for longer than I could remember. I had been out in it the odd time during previous summers, but always as a little kid along with one or more bigger kids. The boat’s owner was an older but still sprightly and well presented man who everybody at the camping ground knew as Captain Purcell and addressed simply as “Cap’n”. He had started coming to Bermagui as a kid, met his late wife there and continued to bring their children down each Christmas. By the time I knew him, their kids’ kids were starting to grow out of their family camps and were less and less impressed by their memories of all day fishing expeditions up and down the coast, or in ideal conditions, far out beyond Montague Island. So in the summer of 1990-91, this precocious “nearly ten” year old was the only kid in camp willing, able and allowed to join the Cap’n’s expeditions, for which he even forgave me my disinterest in fishing.

Almost every day was a similar ritual. He would tow the boat down to the ramp and launch it and I immediately had to learn enough about driving the thing to be able to pick up the Cap’n after he had parked his car, and more and more I became the driver for much of the expedition, whether it be along the coast or out to Montague, while the Cap’n was mainly happy to just soak up the atmosphere and recycle grand memories, some snippets of which he would share along with the odd instruction about headings. Sometimes he would trail a line, but I don’t recall landing more than two fish for the whole summer, which suited me just fine. Much of the time it just seemed he wanted to admire his image of me reliving his dreams, and in the privacy of the great expanse of Pacific Ocean, I came not to mind that in the least. And those chances for real relaxation left him enough energy and strength to give me a hand if the sea chopped up, as well as doing the hard parts involved in launching and recovering his still lovingly maintained vessel. Those memories every so often provoke me to indulge myself in the lesser but still pleasant experience of riding Sydney Harbour ferries. And while the Cap’n and his boat were both back the following summer, there was always something that needed to be fixed, or something else to be done, or the weather was wrong, or the forecast, ... and we never again got around to putting his beautiful boat back in the water.