My sister and her partner, they bought me a boomerang for my birthday, several months ago. On the box, as above, was a to-scale illustration of the object inside, and in the centre of the illustration were the encouraging words Super Return. Backing up this claim were the smaller words beneath: Flight Standard No.8. With no grasp of how this standard matched up against all the other standards – presumably there were other standards – I couldn’t tell how great my standard was. In all situations like this, when only a best guess can be given, I think of 1 being crap and 10 being brilliant. Conclusion: my boomerang was probably quite good. Better than average, at least. I mean…it was a Super Return!
Walking towards the local playing field, my new wooden boomerang in hand, ready to throw, I was excited. Deeply excited. I had always wanted a boomerang, but for some reason had never got around to getting one. Now, close to my maiden voyage, I felt slightly ridiculous for leaving it to my sister and her partner to make my dreams come true. Then again, I was happy, and nothing could mess my spirits up. Within me was growing an enormous sense of anticipation and a feeling of being part of something majestic which very few people had ever known about. Having studied the instructions on the back of the box, I was confident of what was about to happen, and this was all I could focus on. I was going to chuck the thing in just the right way, and it was going to power out in a straight line in front of me before curving round anti-clockwise in some kind of semi-circle, before making its way back in my general direction (I set this at around 30 feet. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that). Of course, I wasn’t getting carried away. I knew that the first attempt probably wouldn’t be very good, and the second and third and fourth and fifth and likely sixth and seventh and eighth throws wouldn’t be good either, but that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because, having studied a few YouTube videos, I felt confident that eventually, my Super Return Flight Standard No.8 would make its way back to me. It had to. That was what boomerangs were for.
Arriving on the playing field, I was chuffed to see that I had the place entirely to myself. A good thing, surely. I had read on a boomerang enthusiast’s website that an enthusiast – especially a beginner – should never throw their ‘rang with others present anywhere near. What constituted anywhere near varied enormously, depending on the boomerang enthusiast’s website. But for my first ‘rang experience, I was going to play it safe and keep a space clear of 150 feet square, and no less.
I’m going to stop saying ‘rang now, and just stick to boomerang. I feel somewhat ridiculous saying rang all the time. After all, at this time, I hadn’t earned the right to. That was yet to come.
It turned out that the right to was a very long, long way to come. The kind of long way where if someone gives you elaborate, endless directions in the street to get to somewhere and says you can walk, you don’t, you get a taxi, because you can tell that either they’re not good with directions and it’s fucking ages away, or they’re taking the piss and just a cruel person who gets deep satisfaction from sending strangers into a state of pure and utter despair. It was to be that far. The world can be so cruel.
The first ten throws went like this: I chucked the boomerang and it flew out in a straight line, just as I had imagined…before dive bombing into the ground, cutting into the wet ground like a dagger. I’d then run up to it, all enthusiastic and sure that the next throw would be loads better, and at no time would I give any thought to the fact that from behind their windows, residents living around the playing field might be judging me and making jokes at my expense. My optimism was dangerous, actually. I was sure that, by some miraculous event, the boomerang would curve properly on the wind on the next attempt, before landing not too far from me. But it didn’t happen. Ever. No matter what the hell I tried, it just refused to happen. Again and again the boomerang – sorry, the stick – landed thirty-feet away. Sinking into despair with every passing second, I refused to allow myself to stop. I had made a promise to myself when I walked onto that playing field and it was very simple and could not be broken: I was going nowhere until that bloody boomerang began to come back to me.
Suffice to say, it was pitch-black before I began the long but short walk home. I had almost lost my boomerang on the very last attempt, and although there’d been a small moment of ecstasy when I’d thought I’d lost it forever and might be spared the torment of future throwing sessions, there also existed an enormous rage that was building with frightening speed. Clutching my intricately curved stick, the walk was slow and surreal as the reality of who I was sunk in: I wasn’t a boomerang kind of a person. I never had been, and chances were I never would be.
Absolute fucking bollocks. That was basically what it was.
Then a few days later, a revelation struck me with some force. In one of those crazy moments I’d been consistently having – one where I imagined myself as a boomerang kind of a person, all smug on YouTube, saying it how it is and giving nonchalant instructions to all the boomerang thickos out there – I found myself Googling boomerangs. Like so many novices before me, I asked question after question. Why won’t my boomerang come back? What am I doing wrong with my boomerang? The questions led to a complex web of lies and sinister secrets which couldn’t help but remind me of the film Se7en, featuring Morgan Freeman. I began to wonder if, perhaps, the failure could have been more involved than I had initially given it credit for.
This one website was saying that not all boomerangs were true returning boomerangs. That some were labelled as returning, but actually never would. It was the design, said the website’s boomerang enthusiast author. And this was when things started to get really interesting. Spurred on by this shocker, I began to investigate the source from which my sister and her partner had acquired my boomerang. It wasn’t long before my searching yielded results. The news was not good, however. First of all, my boomerang was a cheap one, making it a strong contender for one of these boomerangs that might not return. But worse than that was what was yet to come: comparing the boomerang against other more expensive and specially crafted models, there were significant differences. Differences that could very well push a novice boomerang enthusiast well over the edge. The main problem was the boomerang’s thickness and shape – which, when you think about it, is more or less all a boomerang has got. Good boomerangs were supposedly thin weapon-like masterpieces which sliced effortlessly through the air. The bend and curve of the boomerang was the next big issue. Mine was only slightly bent, as if by accident like a not-bent-enough-banana, whereas the ones I was seeing where much more so, with each wing curved as much as 90 degrees to the other…
For a moment I felt a great weight lift off me. I was free! The world opened up and there was I at the centre of it, surrounded by new possibilities. I could be a boomerang kind of a person! It was at least possible! So now, the way I saw it, I had two distinct choices. Either I could put it all down to experience and keep myself from getting mixed-up in the grotesque web of deceit that boomerang enthusiasts certainly told their partners to get one more go with their boomerang – “I’m just nipping out down the shops again…” – or I could take a substantial risk. Buy a new and reputable boomerang from a trusted supplier and embrace what may be to come. No matter how dark.
Of course I chose the latter. I had come too far, and thrown too many failed boomerang attempts to just give up now. I told my girlfriend, Jen, and she said “great…here we go again.” I looked at her, smiled and said “I’m buying this boomerang from this Davro Boomerangs company based in Ireland, and it is going to come back!” Then she said what I said she said before, but with more force. I think she also may have sworn. That’s what boomerangs do to people, for good, for bad.
Davro Boomerangs based in Ireland looked like a wicked company. In the good way that teenagers say wicked, and that I recently had once again started saying, because the boomeranging was doing that to me, making me giddy, making me anxious and excited and elated and hard to be around. Unless you too also were a fan of boomeranging.
Or, should I say, the thought of boomeranging! In my mind whirred these crazy spectacles. Me almost catching it then…me, catching it then dropping it, but…so nearly catching it! In these mind spasms of joy I could so easily have exhaustively pursued the fantasy of catching my boomerang cleanly, like a pro, but I chose not to every time. I didn’t want to ruin the eventual feeling. I also didn’t want to get my hopes up. I wasn’t sure I could take it if the Traditional boomerang I had ordered from Davro Boomerangs did not come back.
The day my boomerang arrived in the post, in a long cardboard box, I ripped the packaging open and marvelled at it for a good ten minutes. Lovingly crafted by the skilled hands of Richard Oglivy of Davro Boomerangs in Ireland, the thing was nothing less than a total masterpiece. A masterpiece, I tell you! All I kept thinking, as demented and childish as it was, was This looks like a weapon! This looks a lot like it could kill someone! Putting the boomerang down, the thought registered in a troublesome new light. This looks a lot like it could kill someone…this seriousness didn’t last long though, it has to be said. I had business to attend to. That Traditional boomerang had to be thrown!
And this time, I actually wasn’t leaving until it at least looked like it wanted to come back.
Nerves were making a mess of me as I approached the playing field with my new Traditional. On the other side of the field, I soon saw something else that concerned me. A man walking his dog, impinging on my turf with not a care in the world. This was precisely what I had read on boomerang websites: passerby had not the faintest idea of their plain stupidity and closeness to death at the hands of a novice. Instead of seeing a boomerang and thinking Better not go anywhere near, it was almost like they were drawn to the sheer danger of it. I stood there on the playing field allowing the grass clippings to fall from my hand for a good minute while I watched the dog walker’s dog’s erratic movements (this is what you do to test the direction of the wind for boomerang throwing, don’t you know). When the man didn’t get the obvious message, I had no choice but to back away from him, finding myself in the opposite corner of the field with my deadly weapon. Five minutes later, with his dog now happy, the man left unscathed. It was time for me to make Pink family history.
And it was then, in that fateful moment, when it struck me full-force: this was likely the first time in the history of the world that my village had ever seen a proper hand-crafted boomerang thrown. I was not going to waste this opportunity.
Figure of speech, of course. Being a novice, wasting the opportunity was precisely what I was going to do, for at least half-an-hour. But at least I wasted it wholeheartedly and with a smile upon my face. The first attempt sent the lethal weapon flying up into the air, before careering sideways with a freak gust of wind, landing about fifty-feet away. Aided by my lack of skill, the same thing happened for the next 50 attempts, where my Traditional landed in every part of the playing field, taking in the local shrubs and bushes. It even landed on the cordoned-off bit where they’re trying to grow near grass for the cricket (I think). Until I began to get the hang of it. Until, amazingly, I threw the boomerang and it began to curve in front of me and started to head back.
Standing in a field with a Traditional boomerang flying towards you may sound like an enviable position for a boomerang enthusiast in his third decade to be in, but I soon learned it wasn’t. Twice, the boomerang literally came straight at me, and the only way I avoided it was to hurl myself out of the way. “How do I catch you?” I cried out in despair, sort of toying with the idea of catching it now, but knowing in reality that there was no way. I knew what I had to do, I just couldn’t see how the hell I might apply that logic. I had read somewhere that catching a diving boomerang is a very stupid thing to do indeed, and I now had first-hand experience of why. My next breakthrough, which saw the boomerang begin to hover-in on landing, came on my next throwing session, and with it the realisation that I was, definitely, a boomerang person. I knew so because, that fateful day, I ran towards it, looked up and saw it float down towards me, before clapping my hands around it (after about 10 other times where the boomerang had hit me in the thigh at 30-miles-per-hour, narrowly missed my head and whacked into my hands about a dozen times…).
I was a boomerang kind of a person after all. I had known so all along (sort of).