“My memories of a happy, safe and distinctly Aussie childhood will always be intertwined with the sound of ‘the voice of cricket’.”
There are Sara Lee croissants warming in the oven, a ‘sometimes’ food we look forward to every January school holidays. They fill the beach house with that delicious smell only hot buttered pastry can provide.
It’s mid-week, so there are still several days until the next ‘cleaning inspection’ of the bunk-bed room all the kids share, (after which our tidiness will either be reprimanded with harsh words or rewarded with lolly shop spending money). The result is an explosion of boogy boards, thongs, Snap n’Crackle bar wrappers, hair ties, half-finished friendship bracelets and collectable Tazos.
Mum and her girlfriends are at the kitchen table sharing the morning’s third pot of tea, while each tends to a different child’s needs. One is combing out a previously hidden, enormous knot of hair from the base of her daughter’s scalp; seven days of sea and salt build up making the task that much harder. Another is attempting to resuscitate a Tamagotchi cat toy – the current year six must-have item – whose demise has prompted a continuous electronic beeping that is driving us all bonkers.
I’m standing behind the couch, arms folded and my tongue poking into the inside of my right cheek. I’m dressed in my wetsuit, ready to go to the beach and hopefully grab an ice cream (waffle cone, please) on the way home. I’ve been begging to go for what feels like eternity but in reality is more like 15 minutes. No adult will take me.
Dad and his mates recline in arm chairs and on the big green couch, a couple of the younger children are sprawled on the floor in various states of half-dress. All eyes are on the television. It’s cricket season after all.
“Mela, I’ll take you as soon as they break for lunch” Dad says, his gaze never moving from the screen.
The other cricket-watchers mumble in agreement.
“When’s that?” I demand, not remotely considerate of how deeply my father loves this game and how painful my incessant interruptions must be.
“Nine overs” comes the unanimous reply from the couch.
I storm out, slamming the door behind me for dramatic effect. I throw myself onto the lower bunk in the fashion of a Disney Princess and contemplate this great injustice of my young life: Cricket.
Just like the 7 o’clock ABC news, it always takes precedent over me. Except cricket doesn’t last just half an hour, it goes on for days and days. In the summer holidays it becomes never-ending.
I roll onto my back and stare at the wooden base of the bed above me, wondering how many minutes nine overs translates to, as the dulcet tones of Richie Benaud hum through the crack underneath my door.