Rich people have family friends, we didn’t have any family friends, we weren’t poor though, in my suburb most people had two cars, both of which were on besser blocks in the front yard.
Instead of family friends, I had Dad’s bikie mate Donk who was missing a finger. Donk was ‘a character’ as my mum would say, which means he’d ask things like, ‘can I crash here while I get sorted?’ Then mum and dad would have a whispered fight in the kitchen, while Donk showed me how he could stab his pocket knife between all of his fingers quickly as they were splayed out on our kitchen table.
Saying someone is ‘a character’ is a polite way of saying that they tell tall stories and probably need to shower a bit more often. Donk had a story that he’d tell after a couple of sherberts, as he called them. He insists that whilst on a camping trip in the Northern Territory in the 70’s he’d seen foreign soldiers on patrol sussing out a good spot to invade. A this point, mum would roll her eyes and watch The Bill too loudly, so Dad would know it was time to ask questions about Donk’s motorbike to get him outside and on his way.
Donk was one of those people who seemed scary when you’re little, he wore a leather jacket covered in patches. ‘They’re for things he’s done’ Dad would say with a look in his eye that said, definitely don’t ask what those things are. Donk was a man of mystery, Donk wouldn’t tell you why they called him Donk, ‘don’t push him on it’ mum would say squeezing my wrist too hard.
Often Mum would be coerced through Donk’s sob stories into cooking him dinner. Donk would moan, ‘I haven’t had a home cooked meal, since my ex walked out’. Soon enough we’d be off to Coles to buy a lamb roast for Donk. ‘He’s a bit of a no hoper’ mum would say repeatedly as she attempted to break the Guinness World record for longest ever visit to a supermarket.
Donk was always ‘going through something heavy’, last time Donk phoned he was living in a caravan park in Mt Isa. Apparently, his ex had gone crazy and Donk had to get away, which most probably meant he’s in trouble with a loan shark. Dad’s eyes would widen when he was on the phone to Donk and mum would do that annoying mix of mime of mouthed questions to try and find out the gossip. Dad would flap her away with his hand, mum would return and shove a note under dad’s nose which read, ‘he’s not coming here is he?!’
Mum had a limited tolerance for Donk, so she created the following rules, Donk could only come over in the daytime when she was at Weight Watchers, no alcohol was to be consumed and Donk had to leave by 2pm. Somehow Donk could tell when he was on thin ice with mum, on these occasions Donk would show up with a small bunch of flowers and a bottle of budget sparking. As mum opened the door, Donk would say, ‘for the most beautiful lady ever’. Mum would smile and say, ‘you scrub up alright yourself’. This goodwill didn’t hold over for future visits though, as the very next time Donk would pull into the driveway mum would screech, ‘I don’t want him here today, I’ve got a migraine’. A migraine was the best way to get out of things in the 80’s when you’d drunk a bottle of sparkling by yourself whilst watching The Bill.