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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Shit Be About To Get Real, Yo!

Well, I promised you that with the arrival of my cousin Ian, 'shit be about to get real'. If we leave aside the fact that the phrase 'shit be about to get real' is not something I can get away with saying, ever, I was telling you the Gods honest. A lot of people came and went from our little group but none made quite the impact that Ian did.

Ians Mam was Sharon, another of my Mams many siblings. Together with her husband John she had three children; Ian, Neil and Wayne. Only Ian would really have that much of an effect on us because we rarely saw the others. You see, a few years before we moved to the village of Willington, Sharon and her family had lived there. They had moved out of the village a while previously but at weekends and on school holidays Ian, their eldest, would be brought down to stay at the home of their old neighbour, just a few streets away from us - literally a couple of minutes on foot or 30 seconds on your bike.

Bob was an elderly bloke that had formed a bit of an attachment to the family, having no close relatives of his own, and had been a regular babysitter for Ian and his brothers. After they moved away they kept bringing Ian back to stay with Bob so he wouldn't be too lonely. Looking back with todays more cynical eyes, some might think the situation a trifle dodgy looking. An old bloke, lives alone, has a young boy that's not related to him over to stay in his one bedroom home; oo-er Missus and all that. But phooey to the lot of you.

So anyway, Ian would stay at Bobs whenever we weren't at school and so was perfectly placed to join our little gang. I often wonder what he used to do with his time at Bobs before we moved in; certainly he gave no indication that he already knew any of our group and he didn't bring any other friends with him; close as they may have been I don't think it could have been much fun if it was just the two of them. Oh well.

Ian was almost the same age as me; I think there was about 5 or 6 months in it; and so we took on a kind of joint leadership role. I'll admit, he was much cooler than I was so we got a lot more active after he showed up than when I was calling the shots alone. What can I say; I'm a born loner, I wasn't cut out to be a leader. The others were tactful enough not to say anything - either that or they hadn't noticed anything and it was my paranoia convincing me that they liked him more - but I was always a little bit conscious at the start of every day of this lingering sense of being a hanger on to his gang. The feeling would fade of course, as each day wore on, but it always took me a little while in the mornings to properly loosen up and stop trying so hard. However, cousins or no, same age or no, I don't think I'd have been the one who, if asked, Ian would have described as his best friend in the group. That honour went to Wayne. The two of them became pretty much inseparable after a while. Of course, it didn't happen overnight. No, they had to scare the crap out of us all first.

I'm not the most empathetic person in the world (I remember the first time I heard a description of sociopathy and thought 'hmmm, that sounds familiar'; scary thought) so it took me a while to cotton on but there was apparently a lot of tension between Ian and Wayne from day one. Of course, it pretty soon escalated to the point where I couldn't possibly miss it; those two seemed to loathe each other with an absolute passion. I never learned the root of their antipathy but I was certainly present the day they got it out of their systems; the stains never did come out of my underkeks.

One Saturday morning we were all hanging around at the Speccy.

Spectrum Leisure Complex 'The Speccy'We were around the back of the main building, at the top of the huge grass slope that dropped down to the bottom of the ski slope.There was much laughing and joking and threatening to push the littler ones down the bank, when suddenly, from out of nowhere, BANG, Wayne had punched Ian in the face. Ian swiftly retaliated, a good hard kick to the back of Waynes leg to bring him down and then a punch to the side of the head. This wasn't wrestling around, this wasn't play-fighting; this was a proper full on fight. I was terrified; I'd never seen a proper fight before and these two looked like they were going to kill each other; at one point Wayne was smashing Ians head into the side of the building, lips were bleeding, clothes were torn; it was like something out of a Philoe Bedoe movie. Then it got really serious.

From out of nowhere, Ian pulled a pair of scissors. I genuinely thought he was going to kill Wayne. Luckily, the life or death-ness of the scene didn't last long. They wrestled for a bit, Ian dropped the scissors and they fell down the slope, punching and clawing at each other the whole way down. Then they stopped. Just like that, it was over. They both trudged back up the slope, Wayne left one way and Ian left the other and the rest of us were stood looking dumbfounded, before, as kids do, we got distracted by something else (there was a bowling match happening on the green and we ended up watching that).

We forgot about it fairly quickly, I have to say, but the that's what kids do isn't it? Looking back though, how close did I come to seeing one of my friends die? If Wayne hadn't wrestled the scissors away, would Ian have used them, and why the Hell was he carrying scissors around with him in the first place? Seems obvious that he came out spoiling for a fight, doesn't it? It's scary to think about.

As I say though, Ian and Wayne seemed to have gotten it out of their systems a bit with that fight. We were all one big group together but those two seemed to have a bond that none of the rest of us could quite get in on. I haven't seen either of them for years but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if they were still best mates today. So, you know, all's well that...

Next : My first ever run in with the police. I was innocent. Well, kind of.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Dreams of death

I talked here about the weird nightmares I had as a very young child. I don't think there was anything particularly special about about a young boy dreaming of being scared of snakes, although I flatter myself that the 'Big Woman' stuff was all me. After those instances faded it would be a while before I was troubled by bad dreams again, but when they came, they were doozies.

They weren't really nightmares. I think that's the strange thing that makes me remember them so vividly after all these years. I mean, snakes coming out of walls and evil women wanting to grab you off the street, those are nightmares, but this new batch were just, well, exciting dreams. Dreams about things that would have absolutely terrified me in real life, but which I wasn't scared about in the dreams. Except that when I woke up, the bed would be drenched in sweat and I'd be shaking like a leaf. So was I scared or not? My body was scared but my mind wasn't? Does that happen?

The dreams would start with me walking around the little village I lived in. Then a bunch of people would appear with knives and guns. I would run and they would chase me. It was as simple as that really, except I knew with absolute crystal clarity that these people would kill me if they caught me. I would run for miles, up and down back alleys and side streets, through the woods, along the streams, even into shops and through to escape through the back door.(Shops I'd never been through the back of in my life so I was inventing all those back rooms in my head). I would never get tired even though I would keep going for what seemed in the dreams to be hours and even days. The dreams were never the same twice, in that I would run a different route and bump into different people each time but they always ended the same.

I would reach my house. For some reason I would decide that if I crouched down behind the little wall down the side of my house I'd be safe. Then a shadow would loom over me, I'd look up and there would be one of my tormentors, pointing a massive gun at me. I would smile, look down at the floor and say "Go on then".

And he would shoot me. At which point I would, presumably, die in the dream but it was of course at that moment that I would wake up. Now here is the thing. I have a crippling fear of death; that world changing fear that eats your insides when, as a child, you first discover your mortality has never left me. It's why I try to avoid thinking about it, and is probably one of the causes of my borderline sociopathic inability to grieve when others die, in as much that allowing myself to think about their deaths can only remind me of the inevitability of my own.

Yet, in this dream, I was never, at any point, afraid. I knew they were going to kill me but it didn't bother me. Even right at the end, when the moment came, I was all stoic and accepting of my fate. Now, you're probably thinking it was a dream, it doesn't have to make sense; or it was a dream, you were making yourself braver than you really are. If those theories are true though, and maybe it really is as simple as that, then it doesn't explain every other nightmare I've ever had. Because in those, I've been absolutely bloody terrified.

So there you have it. A child dreaming about being murdered by strangers every night for weeks. Pleasant reading, I'm sure you'll agree. Next : You've met my bro and sis, you've met Wayne and Lisa, now it's time to bring in the big guns. My cousin, Ian. Shit be about to get real, yo. (I'm so very sorry)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Animal Cruelty

Right, a short one this week, because frankly the subject matter makes me sick when I think of it. No, no, come back, it's nothing like that.

Depending on who you are, and what kind of person you are, the story I'm about to tell might possibly not seem all that bad but to me, it's a moment in my life that I feel utter shame for. I can't remember ever feeling worse than in the moments right afterward and even now, literally decades later, I sometimes dream about it and wake up feeling like, well, like shit.

It was shortly after we'd moved into the new house. We had pretty quickly gotten to know all the neighbours, because this was, after all, the worlds friendliest street, and the man up from us (technically the first house in the next street but he was an honorary member) had the cutest little puppy you've ever seen in your life. I don't remember the breed - I'm hopeless with this stuff, if it's a dog it's a dog, I can never remember the different types - but it was quite small and very excitable. All of us kids loved that dog with a passion, mainly because none of us were allowed one and it was the only one in the street.

So, the geography; we were the last house at the top of our street. His was the first house in the street that went up at a right angle from ours. On the corner where the two met was a quite large - to a childs eye - patch of grass. This grass had a couple of trees at one end that were perfectly spaced for goalposts and would one day save my best friends life, but that's another story.

We would play on this grass often, and if the weather was nice my Mam would bring out a chair and sit at the front door watching us. Our neighbour would also often sit outside his door, and allow his puppy to run around with us. (Not to mention crap all over the place. I can't remember if their were laws about dog waste back then but if there were they weren't as stringently enforced.) On this one particular day, a crowd of us were kicking a ball around on the grass, with this little dog running between our feet and chasing the ball. All good fun. At one point, because it really was a warm day and I didn't handle heat any better then than I do now - slightest hike above sub-arctic temps and I'm sweating like a missionary in a crock pot - I headed inside for a drink. AND INTO HELL!

Sidenote - We had a Pop-Man. Did anyone else have one of those? Do they still exist today? He came around once a week on a milk float type thing filled with crateloads of cheap pop. Big chunky glass bottles they were, and you got a discount if you returned the bottles. (I know shops gave pennies for empties but this man came to your door) We'd never had a pop-man at our previous homes, and never had another one after we moved. I miss having a pop-man.

Ahem, well. So I was on my way back out with my glass of generic cheapy lemonade when I heard my Mam moaning from her little stool at the front door. As was her wont - she was always a miserable cow, even before she hit the deepest depths of her drinking - she was moaning about something; but what? Yes, it was the dog. She was getting all worked up - under her breath, never one for confrontation when sober - about how the dog wouldn't leave us alone and 'the little bastard better not fucking bite any of them' and, well, you get the idea. The fact that the dog was having the time of it's life, so were us kids, and the thing had never shown the slightest inclination towards violence never entered into the equation; she wasn't happy.

Shall I tell you what I did? I put down my glass, pushed past my Mam, ran onto the grass and... kicked the dog as hard as I could in the belly while screaming at it to "get back you little bastard." The squeal it made broke my heart, I swear to God. It's owner went ballistic - and can you blame him? -, my Mam went apeshit, screaming at me to get inside and all my friends were just shouting at me, "what'd you do that for?", "pack it in dickhead" and "behave, you fucking nutter".

I just looked at the dog, curled up at his owners feet, giving out little yelps. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I felt, in all honesty, like scum. Because let's face it, that's exactly what I was.

That's the end of the story. I could make a bunch of excuses about how I was young and impressionable and was just following my Mams lead but, well, that's no excuse is it? I've done a lot of pretty reprehensible things in my life, but none, when I look back, make me feel as bad as this one does. The dog was soon frolicking at my feet again having, as dogs do, forgiven me. I'm not sure the owner ever did.