A particularly weedy looking child. Like someone had planted me, and I’d sprung up in the back yard – a little bit of water, and there I was, fully-formed. I didn’t function as shop-bought children should. No start button, no running around the playground, up and down the slippery dip for no particular reason. I was the child who stood watching the other children, saying, ‘What’s the point of that?’ My mother telling me it was fun, I should try it, before I shrugged and went inside to escape the sun. My world became a strange, threatening place full of big people called Bazz (who coached the Under-13s) and Gwenda (who ran the dress shop with its leering mannequins). The world, I decided, was a bad, bad place.
So it didn’t help that when I came home from school our glowing Magnavox always seemed to be screening episodes of Land of the Giants. Because, in a sense, mine was a land of Aussie giants. And like everything bad for you, I liked this show. Who’d had this idea? Who’d made this world of giant cats with K-Tel steak knife claws threatening people a twelfth their size? Did they know what children were thinking, how we’d carry the fear of decapitation by crab claw through life? Still, I sat glued to the green screen, eyes burning from plutonium-strength phosphorus, mouth open (and aghast) as Don Masterson struggled to escape the giant hand (always the same one) while warning his fellow stranded travellers: ‘One squeeze of its fingers is all it takes.’ To six-year-old me, one squeeze was more than enough. I was struck dumb by the 1983 (although it was nearly that now) giant phone, the hungry ferret left over from some nature doco. The message was clear: if you were small and weedy and susceptible, the world was coming to get you.
Proof – between the Hungry Jack’s and Pea Beu ads, as Don Marshall struggled to escape the giant spider (that was really Trevor, my most loyal bully) – that life was coming for me with big, venomous fangs. I wasn’t scared of the redback in my wardrobe, but I was scared of this world of horse-sized Colt 45s and mutant turkeys (as I wondered, do they actually eat people?). As the baritone in the background explained: ‘There can be no sanctuary in the Land of the Giants.’ Really? And if that were true, where did it leave me? I could, I thought, lift bricks to develop muscle bulk, or start playing actual, you know, sport (although was I that desperate?). And anyway, would this really protect me from these big things (real and fictional)?
So I tried another option. I took up making models. If the world was big, and I was small, what better way to cope than building a world of small things? Then I, by definition, would become my own giant. To my pre-pubescent mind, this made a lot of sense, so I started building a 1/72nd scale Wehrmacht (I mean, if I could control Nazis!): Panzer tanks, 88 millimetre guns, little soldiers running around with MP-40 machine guns. But now, I was running things. People went where I placed them, and they stayed there. No Trevor, beside the incinerator, telling me I looked like the new Concorde, or Gonzo from The Muppets. Now, I got to decide. And anyway, what a stupid idea for a TV show. Giants? Who was this Irwin Allen idiot?
As a little man, even with my tomato stake legs, I learnt that all big things, all bullies, were as fake as (and smelt as bad as) the oversized turds in the giant zoo. My world was nowhere near as threatening (or, as it turned out, as exciting) as this world of (actual) spaghetti vines and chin-whiskered mad scientists who looked like Mr Truscott the woodwork teacher. Big people were generally as good as the small ones, sometimes better. Trevor would have to be tolerated, the nose jokes dealt with, but there was an easier way to deal with the Land of the Giants. His name was H.R. Pufnstuf.
The real world, I’ve found, in the intervening years, has been harder to change, but I live in hope. I have learnt to thrive in the giant egg carton in which all weedy, bookish kids are dumped in Australia. But I’ve found this place is nowhere near as bad as I thought.
Welcome to Datsunland! This is a second hand car yard of the speeches I've given, the columns I've written, the essays, microgrammes, micro-fiction and micro-thoughts that have passed through my small, shy brain. Also, stuff so strange no newspapers, websites or publishers want them.