My first bicycle belonged to someone else. The old man had picked it up from a mate at the pub. A pressed steel framed Cyclops brand tricycle, with solid dished, one piece wheels and rubber peddles. I fell for the rough fire engine red rusticated paint job. Sure it wasn’t a ‘big kids bike’ but it was mine.
I was 6 years old ‘Red’ was my first bicycle love.
We went everywhere together; having adventures, past the gravel road, down to the creek, where the red back spiders, blue tongue lizards and tiger snakes lived.
At home in the kitchen, I would stare endlessly into the Albert Namatjira landscape print of Central Australia. The vivid colours running off over the horizon. For the first time I could hear Australia calling me. Singing out across a clear shimmering vastness.
Australia is so far away, to get there you had to go a long way in the car with Dad. Out past the flat paddocks where we went mushrooming. It was further even than where the trains stopped!
Australia was always ‘out there’, thousands of years and hundreds of miles away; past the Black Stump, out Back of Beyond, but Never Never where we were. It was always somewhere else.
Elusive, just out of reach and beyond understanding.
I would ask my father if we could go there one day. “One day” he would say. We never did. He died and I grew up.
Cycling through the years, I have answered the call, heard the songs, whispered the secrets, wrapped in the love of my country.
Now Therese and I are going cycling once more, looking for Australia. Cycling gently out through the city into the countryside and then further, following the voices that say “surrender to me and I will tell you all my stories”.