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Monday, 29 August 2011

Touch My Tiddler, I Dare You.

Hello there and welcome to another edition of Musings of a Nobody, the blog in which a nobody, that's me, muses on things; things that have happened to me in my life, for the most part.

It's been a little while since this blog updated actually and that's entirely down to me and my horrible mood swings that really aren't conducive to writing calmly about unpleasant memories. Hint: I tend to throw things. I'm hoping (and I'm aware that I've said this before without following through) that this will be the first of many and I can get back to a semi-regular schedule on here.

So, you remember Wayne and Lisa right? Sure you do, Wayne and Lisa. Yeah, them. Well, they had tents. Nothing unusual in that you might think. Lots of kids have tents. Some might say that sleeping outside sans parents for the very first time is something of a rite of passage. Not me, obviously, I likes me the creature comforts, but some might. Anyway, Wayne and Lisa had tents and come the summer months these tents would be erected in their back garden, where they would become the focal point of all the activity of the local kids. Boys in Wayne's tent, girls in Lisa's. (They were massive tents by the way, in case you were wondering. No uncomfortable squeezing necessary thank you very much. Never confused.)

Now, one fine summer morn we boys were sat in Wayne's tent, playing snap with a pack of those cards all our Dads/Dickhead Pseudo Stepdads seemed to acquire from nowhere (you know the ones, you know you do) and planning how we were going to invade the Girls Tent and mess up whatever they were doing. It was a favourite pastime of ours to plan these little assaults, although we rarely if ever went through with them; I don't think people do, really, outside of 1980's screwball coming-of-age comedies.

This time was no exception, and after about an hour we drifted over to see what they were up to and ended up joining in a game of Snakes & Ladders. Oh, the hedonism! Wayne went in and asked his Mam if we could all have some pop, which she supplied, and we settled in for the day, it being very hot out and the tent being nice shade. A connect four set was produced and later a cluedo board and we all had, as the yank youth might put it, hella fun. Until the fun ended.

Yes, it was all looking a bit charming and Enid Blytony there wasn't it? Can't have that on this here fountain of misery. No Sirree!

After a few hours, the tent was ripped open and Wayne and Lisa's Mam was standing there. I can't speak for anyone else in the tent at the time but my first thought, in the few scant moments before shit met fan, were that she had come to ask if we wanted more pop. Or possibly biscuits. Biscuits would be nice, I was thinking.

I didn't get any biscuits.

"Get out, now!" came the shrill scream. "All of you, get out of there."

This was interesting, I thought. Well used to my own mothers hysterical mood swings and violent temper I had not, up to this point, experienced it with this particular family. Now that the ice was broken, so to speak, I would witness many more such outbursts, but at this point, new experience.

"Get out and get in the house. You lot go home, your Mams waiting for you. Go on, move it." This last to me and mine, of course, and we wandered, blinking, into the blazing sun, confusion etched into our cute little puppy-fat-chubby faces. Ever the voice of reason, or 'cocky little bastard' as I've also heard it referred to, I tried to calm her down and get to the bottom of her hysterics. This did not go down well. Much swearing ensued, of so vile a nature I'll not repeat it on here because frankly I can't be bothered with the hassle of having one of those 'adult content' blocks on this thing; I get few enough views as it is.

Wayne and Lisa trudged into the house, looking bemused right up to the moment they got the smack from their Dad at the door; then they just looked in pain. For our part, myself and my sis and bro headed off up the street to ours, completely in the dark about what exactly we were supposed to have done wrong but wary, after what we'd seen happen to the others, about what kind of reception awaited us at home. We didn't hurry. Sure enough, as promised, our loving Mam was waiting at the door to greet us.

My brother walked in first. *Smack* across the back of the head. "Get upstairs, right now!"

Then my sister. *Smack* "Get upstairs..."

Then it was my turn. *Smack* across the back of the head and then "Get in the f*ck*ng living room, right now!". Not upstairs with the others then? This boded in the realms of the not well. Very much so in fact. In I trudged.

"What the bloody hell do you think you're playing at?" came the question. Followed by an open palmed slap to the face that, I'm not ashamed to say, hurt like pissing buggery. Now, I wasn't standing for that! I was used to being smacked around but at least I usually knew why it was happening, even if the reasons were often a little, shall we say, arbitrary; this seemed to be coming from out of nowhere. Unless some new law I wasn't aware of had come into effect banning board games, I was stumped.

"You're only kids. You never do that kind of thing. Never."

I was still none the wiser. I won't give you the whole conversation, or an accurate count of how many blows were struck, because the former would bore you and the latter might shock you, but suffice to say it went on for a very long time and it hurt. A lot. In the end though, I got to the bottom of what we had 'done wrong'.

It seems that we had been showing each other our privates and daring each other to touch them. This came as news to me, but apparently Wayne's mother had come out to offer us some pop and biscuits - so close - and had heard us doing it. At which point she had rushed in and stopped it. Except no, she'd come up to my house, told my Mam and then gone back to her own house and stopped it. Rather undermines the level of righteous outrage she was affecting right? I didn't think of that at the time though, which was probably just as well because I really didn't need another smack in the teeth. I denied everything, because it was a crock of bullshit, but the old 'why would she make something like that up?' was my Mums answer. Bloody good question, if you ask me.

I was grounded for a week (no big deal, I read a bunch of books, it flew by) and banned from hanging around with Wayne and Lisa when I was let back out. As if that was going to stick. It all blew over in a couple of weeks and by the last fortnight of the summer hols we were back to business as usual. Except the tents never went back up.

So, why did they make that up? I assumed at the time that they must have gotten the wrong end of the stick with something they'd heard but really, what kind of boardgame chatter can even roughly equate to "touch my tiddler, I dare you"? That and the fact that, as I say, she wandered up to warn my Mother before she confronted us, which I doubt she'd have done were she properly upset, makes me think on looking back at it, that she absolutely must have made it up.

Was she as doolally-tap as my Mam was? Or did she just want an excuse to stop all the local kids from hanging around in her garden? Although to fair, if that's your aim and the first thing you come up with is accusing them of sexual shenanigans, then that doesn't really rule out the mad as a box of.. argument either. I guess I'll never know the truth and it's just one more childhood experience I'll have to file away in the old 'parents are nutjobs'drawer.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


What's the worst thing you've ever eaten? I'm talking about something that made you absolutely retch your insides up, something so vile that it changed your diet forever.

For me, it was a cup-a-soup. Or rather, it wasn't.

Cup-a-soups were a staple of my diet when I was a child. Whenever my Mam was too 'busy' to cook for us, she would demand that we make ourselves a cup-a-soup and have some bread to dip in it. There were more than a few times that I went a week or more with bread as the only solid food I ate at home. Thank God for free school meals that's all I can say.

Anyway, there was a plastic tub in the cupboard in the kitchen - I think it had started out as an ice cream tub - that was always well stocked with sachets of soup. So one Saturday night, I come home from a long hard day of interfering with bowls scoreboards and pressing emergency stop buttons on ski slope rope pulleys, to find that I have to make my own meal. To the tub, grab the first packet to hand and we're away.

So I pour the contents into my mug. Then I boil the kettle. Then I pour the water into the cup. (And that's how you make cup-a-soups. It's like one level of difficulty up from Pot Noodles in that you have to transfer the contents from one container to another before pouring water on them. The hardship!)

The powder won't dissolve. The lumps aren't going away. There are floaters galore on the surface, and I can feel a claggy lump in the bottom of the cup with my spoon. Also, the stench is awful. What could have gone wrong? Well, I hadn't made a cup-a-soup for one.

It seems that the ice cream tub was now also home to some sachets of casserole mix stuff. In grabbing the first packet I came across I'd grabbed the wrong stuff and now I was trying to make, in a cup, something that was designed to form the basis of a casserole for a whole family. Wasn't going to happen.

Now, under normal circumstances, you'd tip it out and start again, wouldn't you? Except that would mean having used two things and money didn't bloody well grow on trees; or that was my Mams view of the matter. I knew better than to argue because when she was screaming directly into my face it was usually a pretty good sign that her mind was made up. Nor was it acceptable to throw it out, not make a replacement and just do without. Apparently that would be a waste, and we couldn't have that; I was to eat it, simple as that.

I tried, but... I mean, every time I raised it to my lips the stench itself was enough to trigger my gag reflex. Anyway, long story short (I know, I know) I drank a little bit, under the threat of a beating, then ran to the loo under the stairs and threw up. Then I went back to find she was still standing there, waiting to watch me drink the rest. 4 times I vomited, and 4 times she berated me, 'It's your own fucking fault, you should watch what you're fucking doing'.

I never did finish the whole thing, if only because she got bored. By this point my trips to the toilet were dry heave only and my tears were probably losing their novelty value so she wandered off and I threw the rest of the stuff away. And went to bed hungry.

Here's the thing though; for many years, I was never able to eat anything with a heavy meat smell, (I'm a vegetarian, and although this incident didn't prompt the switch, it certainly made it easier to stick to), or eat anything that I'd seen (or knew was) prepared from powder mixes; the thought would come rushing back of those claggy lumps and the gagging would start up straight away. I'm pretty much over it now, but...

So there you are, another pleasant stroll down memory lane. It's been a while I realise, but I'm trying to get the blog schedule back on track and hope to be here next week, though I make no promises. Until whenever, then...

Monday, 1 August 2011

Dangerous Games

One of the bigger problems you can have, as the oldest of a gang of kids, and therefore their de facto leader, is the pressure on you to always be the best at stuff. How embarrassing would it be, for example, to announce that you were all going to have a game of something, and then get your arse handed to you by a five year old? Exactly.

I had a massive problem then, in that when it came to sports of any shape, size or description, I was essentially, and I use the technical term here (I looked it up), absolutely f'ing useless. Ever the resourceful chap though, I soon came up with ways that I could capitalise on my inherent strengths and hide my weaknesses. Namely, by inventing games so that I could tailor the rules to suit myself.

I have a very high pain threshold. I say this not to brag, or to out myself as a masochist, but merely to state a fact. (I could get into why I had an abnormally high pain threshold for a little child but if you've read this blog before, or intend to again, it'll be pretty self-explanatory.)

This high pain threshold meant that if I invented games that gave the advantage to people who didn't fear pain, or could persevere through pain, I would be able to kick some toddler butt, no problem. So that's exactly what I did. It would come back to bite me.

Now, when I say that I invented these games, what I actually mean is that of course I didn't invent these games. At the time though, in the arrogance of youth, I thought I did. In truth, they were pretty basic variations of old staples.


Like the one where you had to race to the bottom of a bank and then back to the top. Except in our version we found the steepest slopes we could (some were practically vertical) so getting down was a virtual freefall and getting back up was like climbing Everest. Add in the fact that interfering with other participants was positively encouraged, in as violent a way as you liked, and it's a miracle no-one died.


Or the one were you split into two teams and one team had a codeword, with each member being responsible for one letter. The other team had to capture you to get your letter. We'd done this at school, in PE, but there it was a basic 'tag and you're out' deal. In our version they had to physically restrain you and you could refuse to talk, which meant they had to torture your letter out of you. I actually nearly died once, playing this game late at night, on unfamiliar terrain. I was staying at my cousin Ian's house for a couple of nights and we introduced his friends to this game. I was being pursued down a back alley in the pitch black, completely unaware that it was used by residents to hang clotheslines. One was hanging low, I ran into it at neck height and...well, you can guess. Good times.


Ah, the Daddy. In which we would all congregate in the big clearing at the centre of the woods and split into two teams, with one team having a headstart to scatter into the woods and the other team hunting them down to either capture or 'kill' them. What made this game such great fun was that we played it with guns. Actual guns, that actually shot you, with actual bullets.

Well, I say guns... What we used were air rifles and pistols that fired little lead pellets. They rarely broke the skin (only once on me, and that wasn't even while playing Hunters; it was a doped up neighbour firing blind across the back gardens) but they stung like mad if they caught you just right. Until you got used to them of course; once you'd been shot a few times you stopped feeling it so much and could often mask you're reaction and claim not to have been shot. Cheating, yes, but victory was everything, don'tcha know.

Most people wanted to be Hunters, because having the guns made them feel cool but I wanted to win and knew my strengths, so Hunted it was. I threw myself out of trees, down banks, over fences and through hedges...I came over all Rambo, with not a thought for how my body was going to recover. It's partly because of this that I'm so decrepit before my time now. Never mind though, I had a meaningless victory to last for an hour, that was the important thing.

My Mother knew about this game, as did most of our parents, and none of them tried to stop us for the longest time. Which, to put it mildly, was f*cking madness, now that I think back. Not the maddest thing about the whole affair though; no, that would be the fact that Maurice, responsible adult and de-facto Step Father, actually joined in! He regularly came down into the woods and took great pleasure (far more than the rest of us) in getting a hit on one of the kids. He even once tied me to a tree and fired over my head into the trunk; I'll freely admit, my bravado slipped that day.

We were finally forced to stop playing Hunters as a result of something Maurice did, actually. You see, as crazy as we were, in hindsight, to be doing what we were doing, we were actually careful. We shot at arms and legs (fleshy bits) and always aimed carefully. We were daft kids, but we were friends, and there was no way we were gonna risk hurting each other seriously. Maurice, it seems, had no such compunctions. During one particular game, I was being chased by him and after fording the stream and scrabbling up the far bank I hid behind a large bush. He knew I was there, but couldn't see me. Do you know what he did?

He fired blind, into the bush. Hitting me in the right temple. I'm not sure, but it's entirely possible that Maurice was an idiot.

I don't mind telling you, I screamed. I screamed louder than I'd ever screamed before or ever have again. Not even a drunken beating from my Mother at her most frenzied ever felt that bad. My vision was swimming, bolts of lightning were shooting through my head and I genuinely thought I was going to die.

We were never allowed to play Hunters again.