31/3/1993 Boy time flies. Tomorrow we have netball. Today the Life Education van came. It was really good. I can’t wait for Friday. We are leaving school early to go to Melbourne. Then on Sunday I’m going to Emma’s party. I made a really nice broach in art yesterday.
The fact that I mentioned at least five unconnected topics in the same paragraph, of which the Life Education van was only one belies its importance to me. I’ve forgotten the broach, trip to Melbourne and most of Emma’s party but the Life Education van is clear in my mind.
What I remember is that the Life Education van’s visit came as a complete surprise to me and the rest of my Grade 5/6 class. We thought we were in for an afternoon of Maths when suddenly we were ushered up the steps of the most exciting van you could imagine (think mobile library, but better).
I remember that it was terribly exciting but the only bit of the presentation that I clearly recall is a hand puppet called Harold singing a song that went:
If you smoke you’re gonna choke
And if you drink you’re gonna feel real blue
Then a chorus of chipmunks said ‘Come on Harold, let’s go behind the dunnies for a smoke.’
Harold, you’ve got to make a decision
I think there must have been more to the Life Education van than that because the program made a big impression on me and my classmates. We all pledged to never try smoking. We were told there would be peer pressure at high school but it was hard to imagine giving in to it given the horrors of smoking and the fact that it was clearly a completely stupid thing to do.
When I got home that night I told my older sister, who was in Year 7, about the Life Education van and that no-one in my class would ever smoke. ‘Everyone says that,’ she said. ‘But it’s different in high school.’
I knew she was wrong.
Before I started writing Stay Well Soon I re-read my primary school diaries to help me establish Stevie’s tone.
Looking back on my diaries I’m struck by how much of it is unreliable. I used to write things because I liked the way they sounded, rather than because they were true.
This is a couple of diary entries from late September in 1991 when I was in Grade 4.
Today we saw the writers train. I liked Libby Hathorn But not the other writer. We went to the foot ball. It wasn’t as bad as uselal. I got a Milky Way. We were walking around with Don. He kept Chit chating with his friend. Felt like telling him to Shut up and lets get going only didn’t (note 1). Finely we went back to the car. Tomorro is Fathers Day. We are going to Echca to see Paddy and Loo(note 2).
(Note 1) I probably didn’t really want to tell Don to shut up. I was trying to sound tough like Penny Pollard, who was my inspiration for diary writing. Dropped a lot of pronouns to sound like her.
(Note 3) I had clearly heard an adult call someone a ‘holy terror’ and I liked the way it sounded. It’s possible that Paddy was a very well behaved six year old and I was just dead-set on using the phrase. Anyway, it sounds weird coming from a ten year old. Particularly one who can’t spell.