There Was a Time When Summer Was Different

What’s happened to summer?

There was a time where it stretched out endlessly across the landscape to a horizon that was so distant it quivered in the heat. It was so long that putting shoes back on your feet at the end of January was a painful experience. Such was its freedom that our summer days often resembled those depicted by Piggy in Lord Of The Flies; devoid of adults, rules, school books, and sometimes common sense. We played for hours in the paddocks opposite, running up to Mr Bartlett’s fence and throwing plums onto his veranda. This represented the pinnacle of boyhood bravery as Mr Bartlett was rumoured to have a shot gun and was apparently not afraid to use it on recalcitrant children. He was our very own Boo Radley.

There was a time where we would spend slow, lingering days at the Greensborough Swimming Pool catching flies and piling them up at our feet. We would unleash bombs off the big board and cop a lecture from the pool’s life guards, sometimes even being suspended from the water for an hour. We would watch Leanne Yumana (very closely) in her new brown bikini. Think Elle McPherson in the Big M ads. She was the first girl I saw who filled out a bikini as a woman should. And she knew it. We would stay well away from the ‘Boro Boys who lurked around under the trees near the back fence in their cut-off jeans. They had girlfriends who smoked and tattoos and some of them looked like Bon Scott. Every now and then a fight would erupt when the Sharpies came across from Watsonia in a show of strength. That was some entertainment. Despite the advantages of having girlfriends and ownership of the tree shade, I always felt sorry for these “toughs” because being in that club meant always having to wear jeans, even when it was 100 plus degrees. I made up my mind as a ten year old that tough wasn’t for me.

There was a time where we would take 5 days to play out our own Test matches in the back yard. The pitch would be swept of all the gum nuts that rained down from a gnarly old tree that was dying one limb at a time. Then we would water the pitch and have deep discussions as to whether or not it would take spin. Matthew might try out his “Bishan’s” (a spinning delivery based on the action of Bishan Bedi). And when the first few deliveries were blasted over the Del Din’s fence at deep square leg he would revert to his medium pacers that got a bit of kick and jump off the tree roots outside off stump. Mike would wind up the clothes line so as not to catch his delivery arm in its wires at the point of release. He would come in off the long run and aim at your head. Gerard, being a left armer, would have to bowl out of the shadows of the back veranda making him a tricky proposition. He was like Derek Underwood with long hair. Liam used the slow ball very well, often hitting the middle of the rubbish bin after the batsman’s false shot was well and truly played. And Tim? Poor old Tim. He was the youngest and the cannon fodder, though we did relax the catching rules to better enable him to take wickets. Despite this he spent many hours in the field, usually at silly mid-on or bat-pad opening his terry towelling bathers and peering in as little boys do.

There was a time, after the sun finally retreated, that we would lie on our backs in our beds with wet face washers over our noggins to keep cool. The house was like the inside of a pressure cooker. The gum trees that surrounded our little weatherboard hung limp and thirsty like the tongue from a farmer’s dog. The sounds of my brothers sleeping were strange gurgling, bubbling pops as water from the face washers was exhaled out of parched throats. And the sweat trickled down our temples and pooled at the base of our backs as we dreamed. We were all Greg Chappell or Thomo or Stacky in our dreams on those summer nights. And the heat of the days and nights made us feel alive.

There was a time when Mum would call us in to try on our big brothers’ hand-me-down school uniform items. She’d hold up a jumper or shirt against our chest and say,

“We should get another year out of that.”

When that happened we knew that summer was ending. Starchy collars and Hush Puppies replaced singlets and thongs. The ‘Boro Pool would empty out the crowds and the colour and the squeals of summer, and the ‘Boro Boys and Sharpies would continue their war in the shopping malls rather than under the trees near the back fence. We would stop sweeping the pitch and would leave Mr Bartlett alone. Leanne Yumana disappeared into the fully clothed throng. When summer ended life changed, just as it did when summer commenced.

There was a time when summer was different.


About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Great yarn Dips. Lots of lines in here, but I especially like “There was a time, after the sun finally retreated, that we would lie on our backs in our beds with wet face washers over our noggins to keep cool.”

    And Leanne Yumana. We all remember a Leanne Yumana.

    Summer used to stretch endlessly, but I reckon now the cricket, and the school holidays are condensed, as if nothing’s allowed to be languid anymore.

  2. Hi Dips, this brings back a lot of memories and feelings. In younger days summer was just one long cricket game for Craig and I, watching and playing all summer long. Once we moved to Warrnambool and were a little older, my memories are of the pool and the beach. The endless search for summer for summer love with some of the tourist girls in town for a few weeks down at Surfside 1 or 2.

    Nowdays kids just don’t have the same freedom to wander. This with our greater connectivity with the world and sport as entertainment, summer just doesn’t seem to last forever as it once did.

  3. Mickey – spot on. Being languid these days is considered a waste of time. I would like to languid for Australia.

    G’day DJ – cutting a young tourist from the herd would have been a challenge. The freedom to wander is a great casualty of the modern era.

  4. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Captured the time, place and mood beautifully, Dips.

    After reading your piece it hit home how much fun it was to make your own fun out of the simplest of things. Also brought back memories of the ‘Sharpies’ around East Preston. The tight black T-shirts, dodgy homemade tatts, with the packet of Viscount or Winnie Red tucked in at the bicep.

    I was around 10-11 years old and these 15-16 year olds looked menacing as they rode down your street in their ‘Dragsters’. I didn’t know if they’d pull a switchblade or squeeze a pimple in my general direction. Both prospects seemed intimidating.
    Don’t remember Leanne Yumana. Tried Googling her. No luck. Suggestions welcome.

  5. Carmel Binaisse says

    Dips – I remember some of those long cricket matches especially trying to bowl you out. Its been great reading your stories and brings back lots of memories. Best wishes to mum, dad and family – Carmel

  6. G’day Carmel. Its been a while! Nice to hear from you. Hope all is well with you.

  7. The summer holidays is the time of jigsaw puzzles. In tropical north Queensland it is either too hot or wet to do much …thus the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle is dragged out.

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