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Monday, 20 December 2010

Air Hockey, Caravan Avoidance and Anne

Right, 'tis Christmas week. Since my TV blog and my book blog are both going to be (ever so slightly) themed around the season I figured, why not go for a clean sweep and have everything I post this week be Christmas based?

I quickly ran into a problem. That being, try as I might, I can't remember any Christmases from my early childhood. Not any particularly memorable gifts, not any specific family get-togethers, nor any major Christmastime fallings out for that matter. Seriously, I'm sitting here racking (wracking?) my brains but it's like Christmas never happened when I was a kid. Now I know I've made things sound pretty bleak on here in the past but I'm fairly certain things never got so bad that we canceled Christmas. Maybe I'm repressing, I don't know.

So I'm going to tell a story about my birthday instead. It falls in August, which is nearly Christmas, right? And it has presents too, so it's practically the same thing. Also, it's pretty much lacking in misery, depression and domestic violence. I don't have many of those in my arsenal so the festive season seemed like the time to bust one out.

On this particular year, my birthday fell during the fortnight that my father had booked a caravan at the coast. This would be the first year ever that the family would have an actual holiday ( i.e, going away from home) during the school summer holidays. As it turns out it would also be the last. Anyway, I wasn't going with the. I'd like to say that this was yet another example of those terrible parents, grr, excluding and neglecting me, but in truth (at least as far as I remember) it was my idea that I not join them.

I was to stay with my Aunt Michelle, known to one and all as Micky, and her boyfriend Maurice. The idea of staying with them was a novelty that I got very excited about. After all, seaside or not, I would be with the same people I saw every day if I went with my parents. At least this way I was getting to spend time with someone different.

The night before we were due to depart I was allowed to open a birthday gift, so that I could have at least part of the birthday experience with my parents present. I have no memory of what the gift was but the rest were all packed into my uncles car to be opened on the day and the next morning I (and my gifts) headed off in one direction and my family headed off in another.

Nothing particularly special happened during those two weeks. I'd get up, tun to the shop for a pint of milk, have breakfast, go to the park which was right outside their front door for a couple of hours and -whenever possible - sneak down into the woods that bordered the park. In the afternoons we'd watch TV, I'd read a little (yes, I was already a swotty little bookworm who *gasp* read for pleasure) and then we would receive the Royal Guest. Anne, Maurices niece.

Anne was the same age as me and, well, she was really loud and annoying and an attention whore. And pretty. In short, all the things that little boys profess to hate in little girls but actually wouldn't be without. Anne was my first love, no doubt about it. I never told anyone - though the adults made constant jokes about it, much to my embarrassment, I always denied - and I certainly didn't act like it towards her, but I'm man enough to admit it now.

We made the most of the time though. In between bouts of arguing and announcing that we hated each other we spent many long hours climbing the Everest like slide at the park. Remember them? Massive things they were. You'd get to the top and you could see over houses. You could have used them for Para training. Gone the way of the Viking Ship see-saw and the Witches Hat roundabout/climbing frame. And swings that you can actually get a bit of momentum on. Anyway, we'd take turns trying to impress each other by climbing the steps without holding on, or coming down backwards or whatever. How do pre-pubescent kids show off to their crushes these days? Get to 8 years old and you're taller than most of the stuff on a modern playground. Anyway...

Half way through the fortnight my birthday came and amongst other gifts that I can't remember I got one of those miniature air hockey table things that were all the rage before Jim Nintendo invented the Master System. Maurice would kick my arse at it, because letting a kid win on his birthday would have just been silly, wouldn't it? Then I'd play Anne, and kick her arse at it, because letting her win would have been nice, and I couldn't do that. Happy times.

The fortnight ended and I had to go home. Anne came to say goodbye, which was nice of her and in my head meant that she loved me as much as I loved her. Never mind that she came every day anyway, this time she'd come for me, dammit. Waving goodbye to her broke my ickle heart. But wave goodbye I did,and left, never to return.

For a while anyway. In truth, Mickey, Maurice and that house, park and wood (though sadly not Anne) would come to feature very heavily in my future. Then though, the novelty would wear off and the experience would be slightly less exciting. And a lot less pleasant.

Saturday, 11 December 2010


Check them out.

Beautiful creatures aren't they?

I never used to think so, mind you. When I was very young I went through a phase, which seemed to last forever but which in reality was probably only a couple of weeks, where I dreamed every night about snakes coming out of the wall above my bed and dropping on to me. It got to the point where I didn't even have to be asleep; as soon as I closed my eyes I'd see them. I was, not to be coarse, absolutely fucking terrified. The trek up to my room at night was torture and there wasn't a lot in the way of sympathy from my parents.

Then the snakes went away. It's not like I confronted my fears and drove away my subconscious demons or anything. I just went to bed one night and didn't dream about snakes. A few months later, I would have given anything to have those snakes back.

You see, they were replaced by the Big Woman. Essentially, a woman. A tall woman, but still, just a woman. Now, I know that you can't dream about something or someone whom you have never seen, so presumably I must have encountered her at some point but I have no idea where and I have no idea who she was. She just showed up in my dreams one night and wouldn't leave again.

It's not as if she did anything particularly nasty or anything, when I dreamed about her. In fact, she never did anything at all. A typical scenario would be me walking along the street with my mother, I'd see the Big Woman and start to panic. I'd be gripped with a paralysing fear and wouldn't be able to go any further. I'd beg with my mother to turn around and go back the way we'd come but she would laugh and say I was being silly and start to drag me closer to the Big Woman. The nearer we'd get I'd start to cry and scream and it would usually end with me peeing myself (literally, the sheets were always wet when I woke up) and collapsing to the floor, limp. Then I would watch as the Big Woman came closer and closer and when she got right up close to us she would... say Hello to my mother. And then I'd wake up.

What the hell was that about eh?

These dreams, unlike the snakes, which only seemed to go on for ages, actually did. 3 years or so in fact. Maybe the only reason they eventually stopped was because I got so used to them that the novelty wore off and I wasn't afraid any more. Whatever the reason they stopped, they did, without me ever discovering who the Big Woman was or why I was so scared of her.

Sadly, the bedwetting didn't stop with the nightmares. Apparently there was a physical reason for that; my bladder wasn't developing properly and I had the bladder strength of a 3yr old until well into my teens, which meant wet sheets and school accidents for almost as long. But that's another, even more embarrassing than being scared of a random woman, story. And one that will no doubt crop up again at some point.

So there's something for you to look forwards to eh?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Sweeties and the price we pay for them.

The beating my Dad gave me after I locked him in the toilet because he wouldn't let me go and steal cake from cricketers was the worst I'd ever experienced at that point in my life. It was not, however, going to hold on to that record for long.

My mother had a job at the local Co-op. This often meant working nights. My father also had a job that involved a lot of night shifts. Often, the two would clash. At times like these my parents would do the only thing they could do in that situation. They both went to work and left me in charge. Now, yes, I was far too young and they were terrible parents for doing it and yadayadayada but at the time it was a huge thrill. I didn't feel deprived or neglected or any of that good stuff; I felt grown up, trusted, and cocky.

One night, I had been left in charge; of myself basically because my sister and little bruv were both asleep. However, a coughing fit in her sleep by my sister woke my brother, who started crying, which woke my sister, who started to shout at him, and pretty soon, in an effort to calm them both down I had allowed them out of bed and was putting on a puppet show for them in the living room, using cuddly bears and plastic soldiers. As you do.

Now, I'm quite proud (maybe too proud) of my ability to spout improvised bullshit at the drop of a hat, but back then I was still just beginning to hone this most noble of arts and after an hour or so my puppet show was beginning to flag somewhat.

The well was running dry and I needed something else to keep them entertained. It was then that I spotted a little pile of change on the sideboard. Aha, I thought, this is it. I took 30p from the pile (10p each), wrapped my Sister and Brother in their dressing gowns and slippers and off we headed to the shop. The shop beneath the flat that is, we weren't off on a mile long trek or anything.

And so it came to pass that we all came home with 10p mix-ups each.

What luxury. You have to remember that this was in the days when 10p would get you 10 sweets. Penny chews were not yet trading under false pretenses. So we scoffed down our sweets, I sent the pair of them back to bed, which they resisted until their heads hit the pillows, at which point they were out like lights, and I returned to the living room to read a bit. It was here that my Mother found me when she came home. And then all Hell broke loose.

Actually, it didn't. She came home, I went to bed, we all got up in the morning and went to school, everything was hunky dory. Then we came home. And that's when all Hell broke loose. My mother had been to the shop during the day, gotten into a discussion with the owner and he had mentioned our having been in the night before. Busted!

We stole 30p. This I'm not denying. I'm not so old though that I grew up in a time when 30p was any massive amount of money. I honestly thought, when she confronted me about going to the shop, that the big no-no that she was upset about was the fact that we had gone out alone, however short a distance, in the middle of the night, in our pyjamas. Not so. This bothered her not a jot. But the money! Oh, she was very upset about the money.

My little sis and bro were not punished, and nor should they have been. It was my decision to do what we did. Not that it would have mattered anyway, the oldest is responsible, even when they're not. That's the rule. She didn't hit me often, my Mam, in those days (she made up for it later though), but when she did she hit hard. So hard that she didn't have to hit you many times; just 2 or 3 precise, clinical, cold blows that pretty much wiped you out. I didn't do PE the next day at school.

Why is this a worse beating than the one that my Dad gave me earlier? The coldness. His was a wild, angry affair, with lots of shouting and many blows. He was mad and I knew about it. My mother didn't shout, or even speak beyond the initial confrontation. She just hit me. Then she hit me again. Then she hit me again. Then she told me, very calmly, to go to bed. Which I did, doubled over from being winded, unable even to cry properly because I couldn't get the breath to sob.

In the years that followed that coldness went away from my mam. She became much more violent towards us kids, but it was violence like my Dads was. Loud and wild and uncontrolled. As bad as those times were, I was glad of them, in a way. When we got wild Mam, we didn't get cold Mam, and that was a blessing.

So there you have it. Another story from my early years. Cheery little tale wasn't it? It's no wonder I can't get anyone to read this bloody thing, with downers like this every week. Anyway, until next time, when The Big Woman I promised you will finally make her appearance.