It was weatherboard like the house, it had a pitched roof like the house and the roof was tiled just like the house.
It looked like a tall kiddies cubby house.
From the outside it was very cute.
Yet it was nothing like a tall kiddies cubby house.
Perhaps I’m exaggerating, I was a child at the time, but it was home to an eco system that would rival a small country.
I’m sure there are less living organisms in the Sahara desert.
And that’s without needing to venture into the toilet bowl itself.
But it wasn’t this way because of any kind of neglect.
My mother scrubbed, washed and disinfected it at least once a week.
It just wasn’t very well designed.
I think they called this type of waste management system a Septic Closet.
But it was really just a pit with a toilet placed on the top.
It was never emptied.
You weren’t allowed to use any chemicals in it to either reduce the smell or to kill the creatures that called it home.
They were an important part of breaking down the crap, so that it would flow from directly under your arse into the next closet, then off somewhere under our front yard.
There was always an odd smell when we played Rugby League in the front yard, especially when it had been raining.
And even till the day she died, my Mother’s front yard had the most magnificent lawn I’ve ever seen and had always been able to grow even the most fickle of plants.
So, using our toilet was always interesting.
It was always peppered with incey wincey flies with small spotted wings that just loitered like docile winos, drunk on a concoction of crap and a smell that would make even the strongest man weak at the knees.
Then there were the other breeds of fly.
These would change depending on what time of year it was, but summer was always the worst.
Summer brought the houseflies, the march flies and the blowies.
March flies have an almost rainbow coloured shiny green arse.
And they bite.
And they hurt when they bite.
But blowies are the worst.
They are huge and they leave maggots everywhere.
Maggots are these white to sickly yellow coloured pointy grubs with a tiny pointy black head. Just thinking about them makes my skin crawl.
Body fat doing a Mexican wave down the length of their translucent bodies.
Overfed and bloated they struggle to crawl even the shortest distance.
There was no shortage of creatures ready to eat the flies and their offspring.
Millipedes, earwigs, black ants, sugar ants, bull ants, all manner of wasps and of course; spiders.
I even remember a scorpion.
The Harrison’s were my next-door neighbours.
There were three boys, Raymond, Richard and Michael.
We were about four years old and my best friend Richard Harrison put the scorpion in the palm of his hand and insisted it was a crab; his dad used to take him fishing.
Only a child could get away with doing that and not get bitten.
Luckily my parents were never too far away and my dad knocked it out of his hand.
Poisons and insecticides weren’t widely used at the time.
The fly spray cans from this time were pre-historic.
They were like a bicycle pump with a can mounted sideways on the end.
You would fill the can with poison through a small screw top hole and then pump at the flies.
Pressure packs or the earliest aerosols had been invented, but I wouldn’t see any ‘till I was eight or nine.
It was a great time for invention.
You could buy a roll of sticky paper that you would pull down and the sticky sweet paper would attract the flies and then glue them to it.
Eventually they would look like bunches of curly hair hanging down from the veranda roof, each one covered in a hairy mass of dead flies.
And then there was the plastic bag of death.
It would start life as a plastic bag full of harmless looking brown liquid.
Before too many days it would begin to smell like death.
Once you’ve smelt the smell of death you never forget it.
My first time was a cow that had been washed into a tree by a flood.
It hung high in the branches and was bloated to three times its body size when I first saw it.
The second time I saw it, it had exploded, and there were bits everywhere.
I will never forget that smell.
When the plastic bag began to smell is when it began to work.
Flies would crawl in and never come out.
Until the bag was full of thousands of dead flies.
Flies were fair game, but it was considered bad luck to kill a spider.
Anything but the most evil spider, found inside your home, would justify some attempt to harmlessly evict it.
Usually you would just let the spider crawl onto a piece of paper and flick it off when you’d walked outside.
A famous song of the time had the lyrics “there was a red back on the toilet seat when I was there last night.” And never a truer word was spoken.
You would always check, always.
Red backs were everywhere.
So many of the spiders you see in Australia are a member of the red back family.
Some are white, some black, some look like fatter daddy long legs, but all of them are poisonous.
The red back is number three on the venomous spider chart and they are a beautiful thing to look at.
If you went anywhere in our backyard, behind any pot plant, you would find a beautiful specimen of a female red back.
They are picture perfect.
From the same family as the black widow they have a round black abdomen with a crimson strike of red splashed across it.
With graceful long legs they elegantly stand guard over their young.
A trip down memory lane or down dunny lane wouldn’t be complete without describing what our toilet was like for a small child at night.
I would always try to get my dad to come with me if I had to go in the middle of the night, but he would always say with a laugh, “If somebody took you, they’d drop you under the first lamppost.”
There was an outside light above the back door of the house that sometimes worked, it was often left on all night and it attracted hundreds of moths.
The only light that could be seen were flickers from between the moth’s wings.
The light looked like bats dancing around the backyard, which was made even worse because bats would often fly around our back yard in the dark of night.
From our back veranda it was a twenty-five-metre walk to the toilet.
A walk that was surrounded by impenetrable darkness only broken on clear nights by the moon and the stars.
You would hear the horrific cries of snarling possums.
I know that ‘a possum snarl’ sounds as scary as an angry Koala, but trust me, a snarling possum sounds like the devil itself.
When you finally made it past the four-inch long tiger slugs on the ground on the way to the toilet you had to switch the light on.
In the pitch black you would fumble with the old Bakelite switch, which always had some species of spider living on or around it.
You would swat it like a fly trying to flick the light to life.
Often, as you entered the toilet door a web of some kind would cover you because the light switch was inside.
The light globe itself was covered in web and always had a resident spider.
And any wonder.
The moths and small speckled winged flies called it home.
The light from the weak twenty-watt light globe fluttering around the cobwebbed interior of the toilet only seemed to make the shadows darker and scarier.
You would thoroughly check the seat always lifting it and checking underneath.
The beams in the roof seemed to stop the light flow to half of the interior.
This included the sink and the tap where you would wash your hands before making the long journey back to the house.
Excerpt from I SPIDER