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Bitter Sweet, 1986

Page 5

Gillian Barnett

For some reason, Max’s parents decided their annual drive to the Peninsula was a good time for his mother to brush up her driving skills. So he and his brother, in a fever to arrive at the seaside, endured a creeping progress along the Nepean Highway while their mother tried to act on terse instructions issued by their father. The boys took out their frustration on motorists behind, making faces and gestures. “So unfair of us.” Max grinned. “Other drivers must’ve suffered more. She kept going slower and slower then suddenly speeding up every time Dad told her off. She’d start indicating half a kilometre before we had to turn. At every cross road she’d start-stop, stop-start in case someone trying to break the land speed record came bursting through. It was a miracle no-one rear-ended us.”

Oliver’s Hill’s was his mother’s undoing. It did not reassure her that there was a stone balustrade between ascending and descending traffic, and the drop into the sea was on the far side of that. The family car hopped and groaned and threatened to stall. Max and his brother rolled round in rear-seat hilarity as their father shouted, “Gas! Gas!”, his Austrian accent intensified by the stress of the journey. “Ach, mein Gott!” as the car threatened to run backwards. “Gas!” They heard his foot pounding the passenger foot-well as he tried to inspire their mother’s limp ankle to accelerate sufficiently.

Gas…gas!!” Max’s brother squeaked between gasps of laughter while tears ran down his cheeks.

Gas!” Max and Claire always chorus now as they hit Oliver’s Hill. They smile and exchange a rueful glance. The days when his brother could laugh at anything are long gone, as are any journeys that reach much beyond his childhood bedroom.


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