The Icing On The Cake

At the start of my essay on my childhood memories I said that I will only talk about memories of events and of people that I encounterd in Mala, Macedonia; events that shaped my character and personality. Well, something happenned to me in Australia that added an extra dimension to my character and personality. It kind of enriched my life experiences and it made me to look at things from a different point of view, and I would like to tell you about it now.

This additional personal development was brought about by an amazing teenager who befriended me for no apparent reason and helped me to transition into the Australian way of life. His name was Ray Noble as I found out later, much later because Ray wasn't much of a talker and didn't even tell me his name at the first meeting with him. I knew Ray Noble for about one year and socialized with him at school during that time, but I remember three distinctive and memorable occasions with him that made a beneficial change to my life. Then as he had suddenly appeared in my life he quietly and unexpectetly left the school and disappeared, but his legacy lives on. The three memorable occasions with Ray are detailed below.

I first met Ray when I was about three years into Australia and I was in Form 2 (Year 8) at Richmond Technical School. It happened when I was walking around the perimeter of the oval in what is now Citizen's Park in Richmond on my way to school as I did every other school day.

When I reached the goal-post end of the oval where it meets Gleadell St and where there is a retaining wall made out of bluestone blocks and no fence (a retaining wall that can easily be jumped down on to Gleadell St) I felt something on my left hand side. It felt like a force field. I turned around and there next to me I saw a boy; at first I thought I saw myself. He looked like me except he had blonde hair and blue eyes, he was out of school uniform and dressed sharply, he wore corduroy trousers, a black and white striped shirt, nice desert boots with saw-tooth soles and an American style jacket with a large number embroidered on it. His hair was styled like that of an American G.I. which made him look "cool", in fact he looked as "cool" as Steve McQueen, the popular movie star at that time. I instantly liked him and secretly I wanted to be like him. At the point where the oval is closest to Gleadell St Ray spoke to me and said "Let's go and see a movie."

In less than a microsecond we jumped onto Gleadell St, walked the short distance to Bridge Rd, boarded a tram and we were on our way to the city to see a movie. As it was too early for the start of the movie we made our way to the Melbourne museum in Swanston St and entered through the Russell St entrance. We ignored the main display of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, mummies and other morbid looking things and walked into the general display area of the museum. I was attracted by the sound of machinery coming from a display of mechanical devices; I was in heaven for a moment. Ray on the other hand was drawn to a historical display nearby and was in his heaven. There I saw him standing still with his head bowed as if he was paying reverence to a god. I walked to the historical display, stood next to Ray and tried to make sense of the display. There was what appeared to be handmade steel armour, its helmet had a thin slot where the wearer's eyes would be and the front of the armour had dents that could have been made by bullets fired at the armour. The rest of the display was comprised of old photographs depicting bearded men with guns in their hands, several policemen, a train and some farm buildings.

Ray eventually spoke without wasting too much energy on sound; in a quiet voice he said "He is our national hero." I then quickly summoned some prominent facts about our hero "Alexander the Great"; on how he conquered the known world, pacified feuding nations, united the Greek city states into one country "Hellas" and gave the world the biggest library in Egypt. Armed with sufficient information to compare our hero with his hero I asked Ray "What did your hero do?" Ray said "He killed three policemen." Don't ask anymore questions Manoli, I thought to myself, find out more about this Ned Kelly character; Ray gave me another set of homework.

By now it was time for the movie; we made it to the cinema just in time to watch the "The Great Escape". The movie was great. We watched the entire movie without talking once (that's easy with Ray). The movie was based on the real life of prisoners of war escaping from a German concentration camp during World War 2.

I enjoyed the technical aspect of the movie; all the events and action seemed plausible. Ray must have been impressed by the leading actor Steve McQueen who resembled him in his physique and personality.

I especially liked the scene where Steve McQueen was captured after yet another escape attempt and was placed in solitary confinement. In solitary confinement McQueen was sitting on the floor bouncing a baseball when a guard asked him "You look too smart to be here, what did you do before the war?" McQueen replied "I was a chemical engineer." I wonder if that was a subliminal message for me to study Chemical Engineering sometime in the future, I thought to myself.

After the movie we went all the way home without talking about it; there was no need to say anything, we absorbed it all. Ray never talked about football or cricket or cars which is puzzling because the next memorable outing with him was about cars.

I found myself walking along Highett St, Richmond towards Burnley St, Burnley with Ray on my left hand side again. This time it was a Saturday morning. As we approached the "T" intersection of Highett St and Burnley St Ray said "I will take you to my Uncle's car showroom." Diagonally opposite the "T" intersection was a bright new building with a sign that read "Dutton's Cars" over its front door. We walked in and we were confronted with an amazing looking car displayed in the middle of the showroom. The car was off-white in colour, it was small, it had only two doors and minimal chrome work on it; it looked like it was shaped by the wind. Then we walked behind the car and I noticed the back of the car was sloping like the tail of a dove in flight. I was awestruck by the design and execution of that car. Ray then pointed to the vents at the rear of the car and stated that the car had an air-cooled engine and that this particular car was the best car in the world at that time. I didn't doubt Ray for a moment. I wanted to know the make of the car, but I couldn't see a name or badges that would identify the make of the car; even if I did I wouldn't be able to pronounce it or remember it. I was given yet another set of homework which this time I liked to do. The next time when I was in the newsagency for which I delivered newspapers in the morning I flicked through several car magazines until I found an article on that particular car.

The car was a Porsche 356 and the designer and founder of the Porsche motor car company was Dr Ferdinand Porsche. From that moment on I became an instant Porsche-car fan and Ferdinand is now my favourite automotive engineer, especially because he was a practical hands-on type of an engineer, he had no formal qualifications, he had an intuitive knowledge of engineering. Dr Ferdinand Porsche was awarded two Doctorates and one Professorship from various Universities in Europe in recognition for his brilliant work in automotive engineering; recently Dr Porsche has been voted as the greatest automotive engineer of the 20th century. I researched and read many articles on Porsche cars and found that Ferdinand was the designer of the Volkswagen Beetle, the Volkswagen was the mother of the Porsche car; as a result of this new found knowledge I bought a Volkswagen Beetle as my first car. I now wanted to be an automotive engineer, a car designer, a race car driver or all three.

The last occasion with Ray was different again, this time I found myself on a tram with Ray seated on my left and heading along Church St, Richmond towards St Kilda. It was a Wednesday afternoon and we were going to St Moritz in St Kilda for the first time to participate in ice skating as a school sport. Whilst in the tram Ray finally revealed something about himself, he told me that he played ice hockey for the under 16s Victorian ice hockey team and that he will teach me how to skate on ice. I was amazed to hear that and I was looking forward to a skating lesson from a competent ice skater. At the rink Ray helped me to put my skates on and he tied the laces making sure that they were as tight as possible, "The skates must fit tightly and must not wobble at all," said Ray as he stopped the blood circulation in my feet. Memories of Dedo Pavle appeared, because it was here in this very ice skating rink that he worked during 1920. I remember him telling me that people in Australia were very honest, because it was here that he left his lunch on the bench one day and when he come back the next day the lunch was still there, untouched ("This wouldn't happen in Macedonia," he said).

At the ice skating rink Ray took me by my hand and led me to the middle of the frozen floor; he left me standing there in the middle of the oval rink and then with one mighty swish from his ice skates he was gone whilst he shouted at me "Now get out of there, by yourself". As soon as I moved I fell on the floor, I tried to get up again, but my feet went in different directions and I was on the floor again. Now I realised how our cat must have felt with its half walnut shells on its feet. If the cat can scramble along a dry stone wall back in Mala with those unnatural things on its feet, I too can skate on the slippery ice with these unnatural things on my feet. With a lot of perseverance I made it to the edge of the ice skating rink and continued to skate around the perimeter by holding on to the iron fence around the rink until it was time to go home. Somehow I ended up with a pair of skates and continued to skate as a school sport until the end of year 11. I used to hang my skates from the rafters in Dad's shed so that the sharp blades would not touch anything that might corrode them as instructed by Ray. I think it was Ray who donated those skates to me; because I didn't have any spare money to pay for them then and that's because I was saving to buy a push bike.

As I mentioned previously, Ray suddenly left the school at the end of Form 2. I don't know why and he didn't tell me of course, but he left a legacy. His influence on me led me to pursue individual sports and interests such as surfing, cycling, snow skiing, sailing, long distance running and of course a strong interest in cars without me feeling that I had to conform with the herd mentality of my contemporaries; Ray put the icing on my cake.

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