I was raised on a small dairy farm near Ulverstone, on the north west coast of Tasmania.
Many would consider this an idyllic childhood, and in retrospect it was. However, owing to a steady diet of American comic books I eventually longed to be anywhere else but there.
I wanted to drink double malted milkshakes and root beer. I longed to bound down our farm lane on a pogo stick, eating a Hershey bar. So powerful was my desire for escape that I imagined a line of hedges on the horizon to be a stationary train, waiting to carry me away. It was devastating when I eventually realized my mistake.
By the time I was about twelve I was full of pre-adolescent angst. One day I saw an advertisement in Pix magazine which read; DO YOU WANT TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE? ( Yes I did!) ARE YOU AS HAPPY AS YOU DESERVE TO BE? (No, I wasn’t!) I filled out the accompanying coupon and sent it off.
A couple of weeks later a large envelope arrived. Much to the amusement of my siblings it was incorrectly addressed to Miss P. All, instead of Allen. To my humiliation they demanded to know what was inside. It was a cheaply printed booklet with a sinister black cover. The text consisted of glowing testimonials and meaningless waffle. It provided no clue whatsoever about how to change my life, but requested a considerable sum of money for a course which would guarantee the fulfilment of all my dreams.
Well I only had about five pounds in my school bank account, and anyway it dawned on me that I had been very silly. I threw the booklet away and forgot about it.
Three weeks later my older sister collected the mail and appeared with another letter and a big grin; ‘ More mail for Miss All!’ Oh my hat! It was a second request to send money. Over the next couple of months the letters became more pressing. One read; ‘We know you are interested Miss All, or you would not have contacted us.’ Of course my sister was thoroughly enjoying the whole business and told me that someone would probably arrive at the farm to sign me up. Whether I sought reassurance from my parents I can’t remember, but her warning shook me to the core. I began to dread the sound of a car arriving. I also felt slightly sick whenever the mail was delivered.
In the end I sent the company a letter saying that everything had changed; my life was now wonderful beyond measure and I did not want to hear from them again. Thankfully they removed me from their mailing list.
Of course I was still a twelve year old full of dreams and feeling a bit miserable. I regret to say that the Miss All saga was not the end of my attempt at finding a new persona. A brief religious conversion the following year had even worse repercussions. My wretched siblings took advantage of my new found Christian kindness at every opportunity. Two weeks of sharing precious lollies and agreeing to do their chores proved too much and I hastily abandoned my faith.
NB: I EVENTUALLY VISITED THE UNITED STATES IN THE 1980’S. WAS IT ALL I HAD IMAGINED? CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT.
By the way, I did get to at least borrow a pogo stick, albeit in the UK. Perhaps I’m a little too close to the pool for a beginner. One misdirected bound and SPLASH! 😨