Columns

Better ‘very’ late than never

LATE again! It’s always been a bit of a running theme at our place, despite my best efforts.

When our kids started high school they discovered that there was a Late Book in the Head’s antechamber. All entries had to be signed off by an appropriate adult. Their school was located far from here, and excuses that were standard fare in Warrandyte were decidedly novel in suburbia.

My eye ran down the page of preceding entries.

“Dentist … headache … optometrist … dentist …”

We soon changed that.

“A tree fell across our drive, and we had to wait for somebody to come with a chainsaw,” was a reason for missing the school bus on more than one occasion. I suppose I could’ve phoned somebody to ferry the kids to the bus stop but we were invariably cutting it fine and of course we didn’t find the fallen tree until we were leaving. No, we were just late. Sometimes very late.

“I slept in because I was out all night on a platypus survey.” An excuse to be used only sparingly, admittedly, but one of undeniable originality.

“I slept in because Mum’s car was being repaired and we had to get the bus home.”

That took some explaining. In those days there was no bus along Research Road after 7 p.m. so after a late finish at school we ended up having to walk several kilometres from the bridge. I seem to recall a black moonless night, too dark to see roadside puddles.

By the time we’d trudged up the last hill it was very late and we were wet through with squelching shoes. I did consider hiring a car, but doing without seemed so much more adventurous. And it was educational. I can vouch for that.

“One of our budgies started attacking the other budgies. We had to get another aviary so we could separate them. It took ages to catch her, and there was blood and feathers everywhere. I had to go and put a clean shirt on.” I remember some amusement at work as well when I phoned in late with that story.

“We got snowed in and missed our flight home.” Entirely true, Your Honour. On the last morning of a long weekend getaway, we awoke to find our car covered by a foot of snow and the only road out impassable. It took hours for the snowplough to get through. I didn’t realise that nobody at work had believed me until I took my photo album along a couple of weeks later. “Oh, you really DID get snowed in!” they exclaimed, looking amazed. I was a bit miffed by that. We seem to have excuses enough through natural causes – I can’t recall ever having to invent one.

“We had to find the baby Tawny Frogmouth and put it in a safe place.” It had fallen out of its nest. The parents fed it and looked after it at night, but we couldn’t leave it flapping helplessly on the ground during the day or the neighbour’s cats would have made short work of it. As it got stronger over succeeding weeks, the little beggar got harder and harder to find.

“We were in Queensland competing in Nationals and the beaches got shut down for two days because of sharks.

After that everything was running behind schedule …”

Well that was all over the TV news, with spectacular aerial footage of packs of sharks hunting a thick black cloud of sardine-like tiddlers along the shoreline. Nobody could argue with that.

But the excuse that I’ve had to use most frequently over recent years – an excuse that everybody understands, even those unfortunate enough to be buried in the wilds of suburbia – has just struck again.

“My computer won’t work – Windows keeps crashing! Damn!’

It’s obviously time to go right to the top for help.

“Dear Santa …”