The Victa and Male Rage

 

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Gerard Oosterman

Gerard Oosterman

No greater blight could possibly overcome mankind than the suburban sprawl. Why do we choose it?

This blight takes over hill after hill, dale after dale and paddocks too. Like locusts they devour everything in their path and leave nothing but the skeletons of hollow architecture that we call ‘our dreams’. The nothingness of our lives spread out in mind numbing and despairing slabs of lightweight concrete and matchstick walls held up with a pastiche of plaster walls and aluminium windows.

The sound of whipper snippers and petrol mowers giving comfort to those that might otherwise think that all is lost and all is gone. A moment of clear-sighted despair quickly banned from mind’s eye. Better to concentrate on sounds of summer.

Mr Victa really is King out there with the Husqvarna batch of related garden equipment fighting a relentless war against growing grasses, those pernicious weeds, and fallen leaves. An ill wind blows relentless over those lonely paddocks of zincalume and pebblecrete…

I remember years ago; dad on his bony knees and in shorts, with spark- plug and spanner on the grass. Those early Victa’s were notoriously slack in starting. The electric ignition system was so unreliable and flies did not make the multiple pulling of the starting cord any easier. The trick was to set the spark plug to the exact specified gap which dad measured with an array of thin little metal blades that pivoted out like a Hohner concertina. The next thing was to make sure that the petrol was actually flowing to the spark plug and that nothing was blocked.

Dad tested the actual spark next. This was done by asking us kids to pull the cord while he held the spark plug in its lead against the body of the motor to see if it sparked. Sometimes, if the Victa mower was in the sun we had to roll it in the shade so that the spark could be detected better.

In the meantime those rotten sticky flies were getting dad all worked up. He did his best, and lawn mowing and weeds were totally different from what he had grown up with. He was just one of thousands of brave migrants battling with lawns and Victa. This could never have been predicted just a few years earlier living amongst the well ordered neatly laid out streets of Dutch cities. Flies were rare, and strictly controlled as well.

No matter how he pulled the cord or how quiet the kids would stand back to watch the ensuing spectacle of ‘starting the Victa’, the only thing working was the relentless attack on my father’s face by the Australian fly.

No one will ever come close to understanding how circumstance of leaving home and hearth but now in Australian suburbia, battling flies and obstinate Victa, came that this poor dad, driven to picking up the screwdriver, used moments before in prising the gap of the spark plug to its exact aperture, got up, and in a fit of absolute fury and despair lashed out at the fly.

Now, he reared up and followed the fly with murderous intent, swaying his screwdriver wildly around the back yard. Alas, even the murder of a single fly eluded him. A madman running around, venting an unnamed rage. My sane dad.

Why do men, who appear so in control and dominant, come to losing their grip so convincingly and so easily? Is this why they fight wars or fly into road rage or glass girlfriends?

Catch a train and I bet not a single window is left unscratched with unintelligible jabbering. A fair bet also that this uncontrolled gauging of train windows is carried out by the male species and again proof of the male losing sanity, fly into a rage without provocation or reason. The same goes with all those overhead bridges that are now being encased with sturdy wire netting. I suppose to prevent rocks or bricks being hurled at cars or trucks passing below from totally out of control males on a rampage.

Is this out of control male rage something of recent times? Is it all getting too much for all those ‘normal’ males?

My dad was always the Mr Magoo of the Outer Western Suburbs. He was a dreadful driver. He once stalled his car so many times up a hill with traffic lights going red and green so often that one infuriated driver followed my dad all the way home to Revesby. He got out of his car at the same time as dad and asked him to ‘put them up’ taking on a boxing position. My overwrought dad noticed the Victa and screwdriver still on the lawn, raced over and picked up the screwdriver. My mum’s timing was impeccable. She rushed towards my dad and took the tool out of her husband’s hand. She averted a possible murder (And not for the first time).

The angry driver muttered ‘you are mad, you f**k*ng reffo,’ and drove off.

Perhaps male rage has always been there but only just dormant, until some slight provocation triggers it off. Are all males mad?

Who knows?

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