Barry Beddome was the best friend I ever had, a friendship like no other. Even today although Barry has left this life and I had only seen him a handful of times since the early 80’s, my family, his family, school friends from back then, all still remark on the bond between Barry & I. I consider myself blessed to have been his friend.
Barry was inquisitive, a trait encouraged by his parents, Clive & Claire. I don’t remember for sure, it was too long ago, but I’m guessing that it was Barry that instilled that inquisitive streak into me. Barry was also a daredevil, even at age 10 he was more daring than I ever grew to be.
I was raised in East Malvern at 1 Downer Street, it’s gone now, swallowed by a freeway but it was a stone’s throw from the Glen Waverley end of the Darling Station platform, on the Glen Waverley rail line.
Barry lived at 36 Baird St Ashburton and to get to each other’s home we had to cross Gardiners Creek, near my home. That fact came to play a central role in our adventures over the years.
The bridge we mostly used could be seen from my front lawn, many times I would sit out there waiting to see Barry crossing the bridge on his Dragstar bicycle.
We were not always together, we both had other friends, but we were together more often than not.
Sometime around 1968.
The first real adventure that I can recall, started when Barry discovered a burnt out house in Nairn St, Ashburton, actually closer to my house than his. On the way to my house he’d had a quick look from the street and continued on to get me. So off we went on our bikes.
At this point I have to say that Barry was probably a little smarter than me, he was certainly far more knowledgeable due to the huge volume of books his parents bought him. He was also a very very quick thinker, something that would save a life but that is yet to come.
We explored the house and while exciting for a couple of young kids it was fairly uneventful, the house was semi gutted and would later be demolished however the adrenaline pumped as we explored while trying not to get caught. You have to understand that life was different back then, colour TV was not yet invented and Australia was not the land of over-protected punces* that it is today. Houses burnt, or even being built, had no barriers to keep people out, people were expected to show common sense. Kids were expected to be kids.
It must have made an impression on me as almost 50 years later I can still visualise small glimpses of that day. In my mind’s eye I see the burnt, faded green weatherboards, carefully stepping from one charred floor joist to the next, Barry collecting the old copper light fittings in case he could turn them into pocket money, above all the smell – the smell of damaged lives. I don’t mean death, just the heartache of losing so much.
I can’t do it anymore but when I was a volunteer firefighter, every time I wandered a burnt house, I recalled that day with Barry.
One thing is certain about that day, it set the scene for similar little explorations again and again.
*Most won’t believe this and I don’t care, but the word “punce” was created by Barry & I way back when we were young. I don’t recall which of us said it now but it was actually a mispronunciation of something else. We liked the word so we kept it and over the years we developed a definition of a punce.
If you want to see common use of punce you’ll find it in scattered urban dictionaries, today’s youth would say the same person was a loser. While that’s not entirely incorrect, it is not truly accurate either as a punce is so much more, it’s attitude and mentality too. the word punce should always be used without capitals to enforce its very nature.
- The official definition as created by Barry and I – “A punce is someone who farts in the bath and tries to bite the bubbles“.