Close encounters of the Roo kind
Thud! Swish! The kangaroo appeared to be playing hopscotch across the bonnet of my car. I appeared to be in some kind of bizarre Nintendo game. Six miles of open road, bushes on both sides - and suddenly, an object appears before your console. Kanga attack! I swerve to the left. Ten points. She hops to the right. The gentle thud on the road, then a swish of the tail across my car aerial. Ten points. Match drawn. No fatalities.
This was really all my fault. The last time I was in Australia, I never saw a kangaroo. Admittedly, it was probably because I spent most of the time in Sydney and on the coast, but this was Australia, after all.
I'd even seen a kangaroo in north Wales, for God's sake. When I was a junior reporter in Colwyn Bay, one escaped from the local zoo and was seen bounding down the main street. It was all a bit of a do in those parts. So this time, I was sure I'd see one. After all, I was 250 kilometres north of Perth in the Outback (you have to use a big O because the Outback is vast.)
But seeing one right in front of my windscreen came as a bit of a shock, I can tell you. With so much open road, it was pretty obvious that this Roo hadn't read the Green Cross Code. You know, stop, wait, listen, cross. Hers was more Hop, Hop, Be Damned, Woops. Phew! How did I know it was a 'She? It was only when I glanced in my rear view mirror that I noticed a second, quarter-sized object appear in the road - a baby kanga, a joey. Somehow, I'd managed to dissect the two. Twenty points, but no cigar.
I had seen a dead kangaroo on the roadside on my travels so I had received a warning, and not just the yellow triangle sign with a black kangaroo on it. The poor thing was on its back, its legs and paws pointing skywards. It reminded me of those Italian tourists who hit a kanga, and thinking it was dead, put a pair of Gucci sunglasses, an Armani suit and a hat on the creature to get a snapshot for the folks back home. Unfortunately, for them, the kanga was only stunned and bounced off into the bush, with the guy's wallet still inside his jacket. They had to be Italians to get the fashion line in. They made a Hollywood film about it, for Chrissake!
People assume Neighbours was Australia's first televisual export, but long before Kylie and Jason, there were a few pioneering programmes. As a kid, I avidly watched The Flying Doctors, which involved medics flying huge distances to save an Aboriginal boy down a well or a bushwacker in agony from a venemous snake bite whilst he was on the lavatory. I also have a vague memory of a turn of the century stagecoach drama involving the actor Peter Graves.
But the biggest draw was Skippy. Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo.
Basically, the premise was the same as The Flying Doctors, but in this case, the catalyst to a happy outcome was Skippy. So when an Aboriginal boy fell down the well (this happened all the time, apparently), Skippy would bound into town with the hot news. But the local Sheriff or Ranger couldn't really understand the mumbling marsupial as he seemed to be communicating whilst chewing a bumble bee.
"What's that you're sayingm Skippy?" the hapless marshall would ask. Old Skip repeated his message, but it fell on deaf ears.
Enter a ten year old blond white boy who seemed to understand the beast.
"What - a boy's down a well in Barker's Creek - and he needs help?" he would say."Jeez" And Skippy would nod and mumble. I always had the feeling old Skip resented the fact that he did all the work and the boy got all the glory. But that's public service for you, even for a kangaroo.
Anyway, I doubt whether Skippy could have saved the subject of the headline which greeted me as I arrived in Australia. " Wife set fire to husband's genitals", it proclaimed across the front page. It appears the man had been unfaithful, so the woman poured petrol on his nether region as he slept and lit a match. The man died in agony, the woman faces a murder charge.
" I didn't think it would go so far. I just wanted him to teach him a lesson" she was quoted as saying.
"What's that, Skip? " Yes, enough said....