The Roller Rink of Destiny

Behind the Coles supermarket and next to the train line is a house. It’s small, run down and swamped by everything around it. To call it modest would be immodest. Clearly, it has seen better days, a quite a number of them too. In front of the house is a small, blue plaque that states one fact and one fact alone: that this is the house in which Graham Kennedy grew up.

Behind the Coles supermarket and next to the train line is a house.  It’s small, run down and swamped by everything around it.  To call it modest would be immodest.  Clearly, it has seen better days, a quite a number of them too.  In front of the house is a small, blue plaque that states one fact and one fact alone: that this is the house in which Graham Kennedy grew up.  I couldn’t say precisely when the plaque appeared, as I passed that house a thousand times before I saw it.  That one of the most renowned performers in Australian television history once resided in this tired, tiny house is certainly worthy of a blue plaque. 

As a species, we are hopeless at remembering.  Right next door to the tiny house in Balaclava is a retail building.  Currently, it is the home to a very trendy bar – the kind into which you gaze longingly as you pass and wonder at what kind of superb specimen of human being might be worthy of such a palatial, elegant surrounding.  It wasn’t always so.  For many years, this salubrious bar was, in fact, a Red Rooster.  Back in those days, I did not gaze with longing at the occupants as they lined up for their quarter of chicken and chips.  Most of the current patrons would likely be unaware of this.  Perhaps a small blue plaque should be placed near the bar. 

I’m not sure how far I’d have to travel from Tyabb to find a blue plaque.  Part of the problem was that our house was so distant from everything and transport options were limited.  You could walk to town, but that would take weeks.  Ideally, I might have roller-skated but, sadly, opportunities for me to skate were limited.  If you have a house in the suburbs, you can skate up and down the driveway to your heart’s, lungs’ and lower intestine’s content, if not on the footpath proper.  We, however, grew up in a world of gravel and grass, where any attempt to roller skate would have been futile.  There was, I suppose, the shed, which had a concrete floor.  Trouble was, it was stuffed to the gills with an exotic array of materials which – depending on whether or not you are my father – may still be of use at some unspecified point in the future or ‘Exhibit A’ for the television program ‘Hoarders’.

There was no roller rink in Tyabb.  In fact there were no rinks of any variety.  There were, however, two ovals, although to the untrained eye they may well appear to be two mud farms.  This meant that to fulfill any deep-seated desire to strap on some skates required that you travel to some far off exotic location.  Specifically, you had to go to Seaford.  It was here that you would find the wonderfully named ‘Roller City’.  Not roller ‘town’ or even roller ‘suburb’, but ‘City’.  It was a richly deserved title.  In fact, setting foot inside Roller City was more like going to a different country rather than a new metropolis. The first thing you did after arriving at Roller City was rent a pair of skates.  These were brown and smelled as though a thousand other feet had been there before you, which they probably had.  For myself, I love any kind of activity that demands a special kind of footwear.  Whether it’s bowling or skating or….. skating or bowling, putting on the special purpose shoe is an important part of reminding you that, in Wizard of Oz terms, you are not in Kansas anymore. 

Nothing could compare to the giddy thrill that is the first tentative step from the carpeted changing area to the rink itself, right through to the first time that you collapsed onto your backside.  At Roller City they offered so much more than just the chance to skate.  There were games, such as spin the bottle and speed skating.  I can recall one occasion where, driven to a veritable frenzy by Queen’s ‘Flash Gordon’, I foolishly attempted to speed skate.  I may as well have decided to try and skate along the fast lane of the Monash Freeway.  I struggled to stay upright as pairs of Faberge jeans flashed past me at alarming speeds.

I knew my musical career had reached its peak when our band, 20/20 Vision was invited to play at Roller City.  Better still, it was not Roller City Seaford but Roller City in Bayswater, which as far as I was aware at that time, was the city.  These were, of course, in the years before I had a Melways.  We arrived at Roller City Bayswater with high expectations and most of our musical equipment.  The stage, such as it was, was a thin strip of ply board on the far side of the rink, meaning that we had stand side by side.  Kind of like a chorus line.  It felt a little unnatural, as did the sight of our audience whizzing past us as we ploughed through the set list.  The middle of the stage had, at some point, suffered some kind of collapse, the hole having been covered by a road sign.  It meant that every time I moved, the microphone stand would be propelled forwards at speed and I’d get a smack in the chops.  Try as we might, the crowd remained indifferent.  Things were getting desperate.

Without warning, my brother took his guitar and put it behind his head where it remained for much of the night.  It proved a masterstroke.  The crowd, if not for their forward sense of momentum, would have otherwise stopped dead in their tracks.  They’d never seen anything like it.  Our bass player, Marcus, will soon be returning to Roller City.  I doubt there’ll be any evidence of the night 20/20 Vision astounded the locals all those years ago.  But there should be.  Statues and shrines are all well and good, but I’d gladly settle for a blue plaque.

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