Once the sun goes down I like to hide underneath my house until dawn. This may seem rather strange but I’m fairly certain you’d have a few dark secrets of your own that people like me would find weird too; the difference is, I’m not afraid to share mine. What I am afraid of, however, is staying in my house once the sun’s gone down. 

As far as I can remember, this nocturnal basement nesting started a few years ago, straight after I saw Bert Newton guest starring on Hey, Hey it’s Saturday. There he was, old Moon Face himself perched behind Darryl’s stand-up desk, grinning like an idiot as Dicky Knee kept popping up with some amusing quip or another, all at the expense of Bert, such as:

“Mr Newton, Mr Newton, is it true your head is made out of cheese?” Whip crack!

Darryl would laugh, John Blackman would make a smart arse comment, and old Bert would just grin gormlessly down the barrel of the camera, a joke or two behind and desperately trying to catch up. It was pretty clear Bert was zonked on the free grog he’d been guzzling in the Green Room, as every so often he’d lose focus and discretely shake his head in order to reboot his brain.

Anyway, that was about the late ‘80s and ever since then I’ve spent every night under my house, in the cellar. Fortunately, I’ve got one of those old colonial type places in North Perth – well, I say “colonial” only because I’ve got no other way of describing it. My house, which funnily enough is located on Patti Street, is made of white brick and has a huge rusty tin roof. There’s a big red-floored veranda out the front where a couple of white concrete lions stand sentinel either side of the steps leading up to the front door. Down the side of the house, to the left as you’re looking from the road, is a long, skinny driveway that leads to the backyard where I keep my trucks. If you stop halfway down the drive and turn towards the house, you’ll see a flaky-painted wooden door with a round, rusted knob. Beside the door knob, built into the metal plate, is a key hole. The key that fits into that hole is probably my most prized possession; it’s a classic, old school, scary movie, jagged-toothed skeleton key. Look up the word “key” in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of my key, assuming, of course, that it’s one of those illustrated dictionaries. Geez, it’s a bloody nice key. I once spray-painted its outline onto a brand new white Bonds T-shirt so other people could admire its form as well; I got heaps of comments about that shirt. Anyway, the door that key opens leads to the cellar underneath my house – you know … the place I like to go to once the sun goes down.

© Gary McHugh 2021

Gary McHugh is a journalist by trade who, after working at various WA publications, crossed over to the dark side where he worked for a number of WA Government departments. Gary’s writing is a hotchpotch of dark humour tinged with a dose of old school Australiana (think bad guy wearing Surfer Joe thongs and watching Hey Hey It’s Saturday). Gary hasn’t had much in the way of publishing glory but he puts that down to laziness. Instead, he tends to hang his hat on the couple of “highly commended” successes he’s enjoyed through various competitions, but vows the time has come to release his thinking on an unsuspecting world. “If I can just get off my arse,” he said. Along with Danielle Haigh, Gary is a coordinator of Freo Writers at The Meeting Place.

One thought on “THE KEY TO THE CELLAR: Gary McHugh

  1. I remember Bert, I remember Done Lane as well. Nocturnal Mysteries of what goes on beneath an old house during the evening hours.


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