One of the first things I remember about the new place at Appleton Crescent was meeting Wayne and Lisa, who lived down the street from us. Wayne was around the same age as Suzanne and Lisa was about the same age as Andrew so of course, once we all started 'knocking about' (do people still use that phrase, I don't think I've heard it in a while?) with each other there was much joking amongst the adults about them pairing off and being boyfriend and girlfriend. Oh the hilarity.
In fact, it was a joke that very nearly backfired on them when one fine morning my mam went out into the back garden to find Andrew and Lisa, who were about 4 at the time, cuddled up on the bench together and talking about 'sexing'. Much panic ensued.
I met Wayne and Lisa on the Sunday of our first week in the new house. We'd been at school all week and had to 'help' unpack on the Saturday - a process which involved wandering around aimlessly while my Mother shouted at us - so Sunday was our first chance to really explore our new surroundings. Having gotten up early, as was my wont in those days - young me was weird, we all know it's not natural to be awake before noon on Sundays - and after eating my hot weetabix paste and watching a few cartoons I was on the starters block ready for 9am, which was the earliest time that we were allowed to leave the house on weekends because, well, I don't actually know why but that was the rule.
Our first port of call was the Spectrum Leisure Centre, or 'Speccy' as pretty much everyone called it. The Speccy was comprised of a sports hall, adventure playground, weightroom, snooker/pool room, dry ski slope, bowling green, tennis courts and a mythical function room that we kids never, ever saw in all the time we lived there. In all, a pretty impressive facility to have on your doorstep when you are a small child. It has to be said though that the biggest attraction very quickly became the woods that the centre was set into, which very quickly became a home away from home for us. It became our 'home turf' if you like, as my uncle Darren would find out to his cost later on. (Check out my last post for the thrilling details of that little adventure)
Anyway, we head on over to the speccy on that fine and lovely Sunday morning and we find, swinging about on the playground apparatus, Wayne and Lisa. Suzanne and Wayne already knew each other, being in the same class at school, and Andrew and Lisa, in that way that the smallest kids have, accepted each other instantly and were playing like they'd known each other their whole lives within minutes.
At first I hung right back. My 'little voices', while not yet the socially crippling nightmare they would one day become, were by no means absent at that point in my life and they were making their presence known here in a big way. The others had paired off so quickly, and so naturally, that anything I said and did would, I was convinced, be an unwelcome interruption. I was an outsider; a distraction. What I had failed to take into account was the fact that I was the oldest one there and at the ages we're talking about, 2 years is a big deal. To the others, I was cool, purely by dint of the fact that I was older. Looking back, it's obvious that while I was terrified that this little group of kids would never want to play with me, they were constantly showing off to try and impress me and earn my approval. Poor bastards; when I'm the coolest role model in your life, you're really in trouble, let me tell you.
Wayne became my best 'home' friend for a long while, purely because he lived closer to me than any other boys I knew. We didn't socialise at school of course, because the rules were different there. You socialised with your own age at school; the younger kids weren't cool enough and the older kids, well, they thought the younger kids weren't cool enough.
Others would come and go from our little group. My cousin Ian, who had a very tumultuous relationship with Wayne, as I'll go into at a later date; Philip, who tried (or his parents did) to get me in trouble with the police for theft; the twin girls whose name I can't remember for the life of me (despite one of them being my first post-Anne puppy love); Aisha and Lee (she was gorgeous and he was the coolest person I'd ever met, and gave me my first ever proper nickname); the twin boys, Mathew and Richard, one of whom was borderline psychotic and would scare the life out of us on his 'bad' days, and numerous others. Until the day we moved out of that street though, myself, Suzanne, Andrew, Wayne and Lisa were the core; we never fought - well, there was that one time - and we never drifted apart. It was us against the world and we loved every second of it.
So far as I know, Wayne never 'sexed' Suzanne, nor Andrew Lisa. Although years later I met Lisa again and I have to say, I don't think either one of us would have turned down the chance then. She grew up absolutely beautiful. Sadly by that point any lingering hero worship had long since worn off. Never mind.