High School Horror

This tale, repressed for many years, finally surfaces.

It is a true story. Every school teachers nightmare, to the student, incomprehensible.

I am dropped off by my Mother, on her way to work at Holy Cross Primary School Helensburgh, at the Hindu Temple situation on the outskirts of town.

It was 7.26am, the morning mist heavy, parts of the temple and surrounding bushland were cloaked in soft white. At the entrance to the holy site, were numerous pairs of shoes, neatly lined up.

Alone, on the outskirts of town, mist and fog, pairs of shoes without owners, at a temple in Helensburgh, a place so ungodly it was considered ‘ Other’, not part of the South Coast or Sydney. As a Catholic student I was out of my depth. I knew very little about Hinduism and rarely left my beachside residence for a suburb 200 metres above sea level.

Just as my craving for company that morning reached fever pitch, the two buses, containing the entire contents of Year 11 arrived.

The group of 80 plus 16 and 17 year olds entered the temple on mass, lead by Head Teachers and coordinators of Religion. We were here to learn first hand about diversity and devotional practice.

I don’t know about the rest of my class but all I could think about was the paired shoes at the entrance. Who owned them? Why were they left unaccompanied?

I remember sounds from the surrounding shrubbery, the birds songs, the trickle of water from nearby streams, the crunch of the sand beneath feet as we walked around the temple, with its unsealed surface.

I remember a small crowd of students circling a ‘ statue’ which lay face down, seemingly having fallen from its base the night before. Could wind really be that strong to uproot concrete fixtures? Had the temple been vandalised over night?

Students that had been busying themselves at the far corners of the shrine, ogling over points of interests began to flock back to the scene of the fallen ‘ statue’.

Camera flashed, chatter escalated, tears formed, nervous laughter.

The ‘statue’ was a person, a real person, a young women, not much older than my school comrades.

In that moment, lives changed. Our innocence ( if there was any left) shattered, we had witnessed the brutality of life, the hardship, sorrow and levels of desperation and despair.

Teachers ushered us back onto the bus, doing their best to dispel rumours that has begun to circulate ‘ I think I know her?’ , ‘ Did you see her face?’. They made the collective decision to proceed with the itinerary of the day, cathedrals and synagogues. We drove of in the direction of Sydney.

As for me and no doubt others, my mind stayed well and truly in Helensburgh, that day. 22 years later, the imagery of shoes, countless pairs of shoes still haunts me. And the overwhelming sense that morning, as an early drop off excursion goer, of being horribly alone.


The story made the Illawarra Mercury the following day – but in an age before digital print, one must ask themselves, Did the really happen at all?

I kept the letter that my School distributed to our parents / guardians the following day – it makes for an interesting read and some what supports my memories of events ; February 23rd 1995

The Taste of Childhood

Wednesday night tv got me thinking….What were the tastes of my childhood?

The show, Myf Warhurst’s new doco titled ‘ NICE’  celebrated just that… not the fantastic or the life changing…but the nice… things that had a presence in your life story, played a small role, and to this day continue to bring a smile.

In the short, the show was about  simple foods that prompt childhood memories. The show focused largely around items sold in local milk bars and fish and chips shops, and the two food types that evoked the strongest memories were the chicko roll and deep fried dim sum.

Chiko Roll-is an Australian savoury snack, inspired by the chinese egg roll and spring roll. It was designed to be easily eaten on the move without a plate or cutlery. The Chiko roll consists of beef, celery, cabbage, barley, corn, onion, green beans, and spices in a tube of  egg, flour and dough which is then deep-fried ( Wikipedia)

English: Low quality Hand holding a Chiko roll...

Chicko Roll (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deep Fried Dim Sum– a  Chinese- inspired meat dumpling-style snack food popular in Australia. The dish normally consists of a large ball of pork or other meat, cabbage and flavourings, encased in a wrapper similar to that of a traditional dumpling.  Usually deep fried ( Wikipedia)

The show explored the phenomena that despite both foods playing an important role in Australia’s  culinary history, they are often overlooked…You won’t find these food types in fine dining establishments, they are cheap to make and cheap to buy…in other words, they aren’t cool.

Myf’s show gave both the humble chiko roll and dim sum is rightful recognition…She celebrated both, interviewing top chefs and food critics, who spoke ever so highly of both foods as being both ingenious and tasty. Her guests gushed as they recalled scrapping together loose change as children, walking to their local fish and chip shop, and indulging in a bag of deep fried goodness.

It prompted me to act…All the joy surrounding the deep friend foods was contagious….Having never tried a deep friend dim sum, with lashing of soy sauce and a sprinkling of salt, the following evening I indulged in a serving of four.

Whilst it was not the taste of my childhood, I grinned from ear to ear from the moment I took my first bite….The crunchy, salty goodness…the calories…the soft pork centre….soy sauce oozing down my chin

The show got me thinking, the taste of my childhood? The first of many things that came to mind…

Tinned Beetroot Sandwiches

My first year at Primary School. I was 5 years old and allowed to order my lunch from the canteen once a week. Don’t ask me how this came about, but somewhere along the line I developed a taste for tinned beetroot sandwiched, on white bread with butter.

I remember one of the canteen ladies explaining to me that they had to make my sandwich as close as possible to the lunch bell ringing, as the tinned beetroot would soak through the white bread, if they made it too early.

And I loved the canteen lady for it,  I NEVER ate a tinned beetroot sandwich that was soggy from beetroot juice.

I do however remember feeling of embarrassment associated with this food type…Perhaps that is an Australian quality ever-present when something is deemed’ daggy’!! I would eat my sandwich quickly, careful not to get any of the content on my face or school uniform…. I did not want to be known as the girl who ate tinned beetroot sandwiches….on our playground only peanut butter and vegemite sandwiches were tolerated.

I don’t know when I stopped eating tinned beetroot sandwiches…the indigestion I got from eating at such fast pace probably began to outweigh the joy I felt on eating the crimson red centred sandwiches..

But to feel like a kid again, perhaps I should have forgone the dim sum meal, cracked open a tin of beets, and put them between two slice of bread!

What is the taste of your childhood?

I’d love to hear which food evokes memories of your childhood…..The good, the bad, the ugly…heaven forbid…. the embarrassing


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