Don't want to turn into my own agony aunt, but some stories seem to need to be told ... about this time last year I took my sons to Luna Park. They had a ball, as you'd expect, except that Liamh, the younger one, when he had a go at steering the Dodgem we were in, received a whack on the face when he cannoned into the wheel.
And I completely freaked out when I accompanied him (he's too small to go on his own) on the Wild Mouse - which is the roller coaster there. I also lost my glasses but, by refusing to leave until they'd looked properly for them, got them back when one of the guys went into the bottom of the superstructure and discovered them lying unbroken in the fairy floss dust down there.
So when, a few weeks ago, they announced they wanted to go again, I was dubious. I suggested that they save up their pocket money, thinking the idea would probably fade in the face of a real financial commitment. Well, I was wrong. In no time at all they'd accumulated enough to make it impossible for me to refuse them a visit; but I made one condition. I said I wouldn't under any circumstances be going again on the Wild Mouse.
On Friday night, off we went. All the fun of the fair. The Laughing Clowns. The Fun House. Coney Island. The Dodgems. The Spider. The Ferris Wheel ... when we took a break for a Coke and a Fanta, Jesse, who'd earlier said he wanted to go off on his own for a bit, left us. But before he did, I asked him where he was going? To the Wild Mouse, of course. He'd gone on it 7 times on the previous visit. Liamh didn't make a murmur, so I figured he'd accepted we wouldn't be doing that this time.
But, much later in the evening, after our second visit to the Fun House, he looked imploringly up at me and asked, quite quietly, if we couldn't after all go on the Wild Mouse? Please? And I just didn't know how to say no.
Once we were strapped into our little metal car and had been pushed around the corner to where the conveyor belt that whips you round the track begins, we found ourselves face to face with the vaguely malevolent vaudevillian whom Liamh had enjoyed taunting earlier during our Ferris Wheel ride. He snickered and leered, holding us back for a few seconds then launching us viciously into the abyss.
The Wild Mouse is a typical Sydney experience: nasty, brutal and short. It's over in about two minutes but for that two minutes you think you're going to die. I decided to cope with it this time by not looking ahead to those abrupt ninety degree turns over the void; instead, I concentrated on the structure itself, letting my eyes play across the abstract mass of rivets and steel, as if roaming across a Léger painting perhaps.
And it worked a treat ... until we came out of the last bend, into the last dip, before the end. I'm not sure how or why it happened. Perhaps I relaxed slightly, knowing it was almost over. There was one last massive jolt and Liamh, who was sitting in front and between my legs, cannoned back into my chest. His head hit me just below my heart. There was an intense jab of pain. Afterwards, I could barely get out of the car.
It's a rib injury - a crack of bone or tear of cartilage, I'm not sure which. It's at its worst when I lie down, of course. Can only find one position - huddled on my right side - in which to sleep. After six hours of sitting last night in the cab, I felt like my entire chest had caved in. Laughing is a mistake that I can't remedy. Otherwise, I'd weep. And through it all, I keep seeing the ri jaune of the vaudevillian and hearing, faintly, the maniacal mechanical cackle of the Wild Mouse.