In the 1950s, Saturday afternoons used to be family times. Not rushing kids off to sporting venues but spending time on all-in-together activities, usually involving gardening or home-improvement exercises or the occasional picnic. Not very exciting fare, maybe, but pleasantly memorable times nevertheless. Our family’s five children’s level and type of involvement in family Saturdays varied in accordance with our age and ability. My older sister and I were more likely to be occupied “working” with Dad, while the younger ones puddled and muddled in and around the house with Mum. One particular autumn Saturday afternoon, when I was about eight years old, Dad decided to have a big clean-up in the garden. Sis and I were given the responsibility of getting rid of the mountain of prunings and general garden refuse that resulted. In those days you didn’t worry much about the sensitivities of the environment, and any rubbish that you didn’t burn, you just dumped on the nearest bit of vacant land. So the two of us were having a great time. Into a box mounted on our billy-cart we piled branches of hacked privet, prunus and hydrangea and trundled noisily with it down the hill to the sloping piece of blackberry-infested waste-land at the end of our street. Trudging back up was a bit of a hard slog, but there were few complaints. On each downhill trip the noise increased as the billy-cart’s need of oil and mechanical attention joined our increasingly exuberant voices. But the fun came to an end when, on about the fourth trip down the hill, our terrible racket upset a blue heeler dog belonging to a neighbour. The dog rushed out the gate and sank his teeth into my leg. In that split second the whole day changed. Like the striking of an auctioneer’ gavel or the pressing of an “off” button - the noise, the exuberance and the fun stopped. Bang! Someone turned off the sun. Sis ran home, with me staggering after her bawling - the billy-cart abandoned. When Dad heard what had happened and saw the neat canine hole in my leg, he picked up the gardening shovel he had been using and marched down the street. Just inside their gateway, a nervous looking couple with their now equally nervous looking dog, watched his approach. “I ought to put this shovel through that dog’s neck,” was my father’s introductory comment. The poor people tried to excuse their dog’s action. hey pointed out that billy-cart wheels with worn ball-bearings and no oil could make a fairly frightening noise; maybe even more frightening to a dog’s sensitive hearing. Dad was hearing no excuses, but, luckily for Bluey the dog, decided against using the shovel as a guillotine and stomped off home, hauling his two kids and the still full billy-cart behind him. It might seem that a lovely day was ruined. But, strangely, it is the aftermath of this incident that remains fixed firmly in my mind as one of the beautiful times of my childhood. How well I still remember the softly lit doctor’s surgery. I remember the warm comforting sensation I felt as my father and the gentle, quietly spoken doctor discussed treatment for the small wound in my leg. The serenity of the situation, together with Dad’s concern for me and the closeness I felt towards him made it a rare and precious occasion. It had been an almost perfect autumn Saturday after all.