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Monday, 30 January 2012

Bloody Hell. He's Pissed Himself.

Hello. You will all be glad to hear that the happiness of last week has not subsided, but also, I'm sure, equally glad that it's not going to stop me delving into the pit of misery that was my childhood. Yes, let's this train back on track.

I would be a horrible biographer; far too easily distracted you see. A few posts back I recounted the tale of my run ins with scruff. I told of my first meeting with him, and I told of our most memorable encounters. The thing I didn't make properly clear, was that there was a couple of years between those two points. Problem is, when next I discussed school, I stuck with the latter period, and gave you the story of Mr.V. All well and good, you might think, except that that leaves a pretty hefty gap in the timeline, and at least one major (or minor, if you're anyone else, but it'll stay with me forever) incident. Yes, the time my crippling shyness joined forces with my defective body, to embarrass me in front of my entire class. Oh joy.

To fully explain this little tale, we don't just need to rewind a year, to the incident in question, but much further back, to the days of the The Hallowed Flat. It was while we were living in The Hallowed Flat, that my parents had decided my wetting of the bed had become problematical. I was too old for such things, they said, and it had to stop. Sadly, their usual methods of physical violence and ritual humiliation ("YOUR SISTER DOESN'T WET THE BED! SHE'S YOUNGER THAN YOU! THE BABY WETS THE BED, DO YOU LIKE BEING LIKE THE BABY? IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE? ARE YOU A BABY? ARE YOU? WELL? Do you want cornflakes or weetabix?") failed to bear fruit and eventually the decision was made to take me to the Doctor.

Turns out I had a weak bladder; it wasn't developing as quickly as it should. It's a common thing, by all accounts, and not permanent. Eventually, it would 'toughen up' as it were, but in the meantime I'd just have to live with it.

Although to be fair, it did mean I got to wear the Electric Shock Buzzer Of Doom, so that was cool. The ESBOD, which is not, I hasten to add, the name the Doctor gave it, was a device that clipped to your pyjamas, and had a sensor that went into your underwear. If you started to wet yourself, it would detect it and an alarm would go off. Hopefully you would then wake up and be able to control yourself long enough to get to the toilet. You'd still need to go more than other people, but at least you weren't going in your bed. I feared that device like no-ones business. Irrational, maybe, but you see all those safety videos at school, and learn the whole electricity/water connection, and then attach something like that to your nethers? Frightening shit for a little kid.

Anyway, yes, I had a weak bladder. For the most part it was only really a problem when I slept; if I was conscious I was usually able to hold it until I got to the toilet. Usually. Sometimes though, the urge would be too sudden, or the distance too great, or some other factor would get in the way, and I'd pee my pants in public. This went on for years; the public incidents until I was about 10, the bed wetting until into my teens. Bad times.

And it's the last of those public incidents that prompts today's entry. I was in the class below Mr V's and the teacher; let's call him Mr R (because his name started with R, so, you know, it makes sense); was doing a bit of a roundup of the days events, as was his wont before he let us go home; what we had learned about, who had done particularly well at what, or what he wanted us to be thinking about at home; which rarely, if ever, included Turtles with ninja skills or muscle bound men waving a sword around while screaming about being in possession of large amounts of power; to my mind showing a disturbing lack of understanding of his audience. He was droning on and on and suddenly I could feel the familiar, desperate urge to go. This wasn't one of the slow builds; this was full on from minute one. I knew there was no chance I could hold it for long.

So I did the sensible thing, right? I put up my hand and requested permission to go to the toilet. Right? Er, no. That would be too simply. Instead, I allowed the crippling shyness that prevented me from doing anything, and I mean anything, to draw attention to myself, to take hold. Were this the middle of a lesson, and I could have gone to his desk and quietly whispered that I needed the toilet, I would have done that. To interrupt him while he was talking and say it in front of the whole class? Unthinkable.

Now, here's the thing; parents were arriving*, so I knew that he would have to be wrapping things up soon. I hadn't had a public 'accident' in a long while and I was adamant that I could hold it. I crossed my legs and I squeezed and I tried very hard to keep all of my concentration on the job at hand...

"Paul, could you come and hand out these homework sheets for me please?"


I looked around me nervously. People were looking at me. I didn't want to draw attention to myself by not doing what I was told, but at the same time... I stood up, I took a single step toward MR R. The floodgates opened. There was nothing I could do; I felt it happen and I just stopped, dead in my tracks, looked down, and watched as the biggest wet patch you've ever seen engulfed the crotch (and crotch adjacent) areas of my trousers.

I heard some strangled gasps from other members of my class but I think everyone was too shocked to react beyond that, although one of the mothers gave out a muffled "Bloody Hell, he's pissed himself." Mr R. just stared at me with this haunted look on his face; either he just really hated the sight of pee, or he was having flashbacks to a horrible childhood experience of his own, hitherto suppressed in the pits of his sub-conscious. Probably that one, yeah.

For my part I just kept quiet until I was sure the flow had fully exhausted itself and then I looked Mr R. square in the face and said, as calmly as possible in the circumstances...

"Sir." "I'm wet."

So there you have it. The tale of my very last public (accidental) urination incident. Although it very nearly wasn't. The following year, during a period of illness for Mr V (which we of course attributed to his rampant alcoholism) we had a lovely young substitute teacher. A lovely young substitute teacher with a heart of pure malice, that is. I requested permission to go to the toilet and she refused. I asked again and she refused again. She gave me a very stern lecture about how I was old enough now to wait until break time to go to the toilet. I wasn't a little baby, after all.

I returned to my desk (still not having mastered the art of asking from my seat, where others might hear me) and proceeded to mist up around the old eye muscles. I knew it was going to happen again. It was inevitable. And I knew I'd have weeks, if not months of torment and ridicule to look forward to if it did. Tears were forthcoming, I knew it. Then I heard a voice... "Miss, why can't Paul go to the toilet?" "Yeah Miss, you have to let him go." "He's got a weak bladder Miss, you have to let him go, it's not fair Miss, he'll pee himself."

Yes, my friends were fighting my cause for me. Admittedly they were fighting my cause with an argument I could have used myself if I wasn't a quivering coward who didn't dare speak back to a person of authority, but still... The teacher backed down, I was allowed to go for a wee, and the day was saved by the best friends a boy could ever have. Although personally, I think they just didn't want me to piss myself anywhere near them.

*Our school allowed parents to come into the school and pick you up straight from your class in Winter, to stop them having to wait in the cold. As someone who regularly collects a child from school, this is a policy I would heartily endorse the return of. I'm sure the security issues could be handled, right?

Sunday, 22 January 2012


Hello, and welcome once again to the blog I like to call MoaN (although that didn't occur to me when I named it; pure serendipity, or my sub-conscious at work? You decide.

The reason I'm pointing out the unintentional but nevertheless accurate double-barrel title in this particular post is, somewhat illogically, and therefore faux-intellectually, because I'm NOT going to be having a moan this week. No, this week I'm happy.

This post is also NOT about my childhood. Now normally, I only break away from the miserable memoirs when I have an equally or more miserable rant to offer about my life in the present, but not this time. This time, I'm happy.

Have I got a new job? Nope, still unemployed. And barring the standing 'we'll probably have you back March/April if you find nothing else' from my previous place, there's nothing on the horizon either. This state of affairs should probably depress me, but... I'm happy.

I'm still living, somewhat embarrassingly, at my Sister's place. A state of affairs which, for a man in his 30's, may seem slightly pathetic, but I don't care... because I'm happy.

In fact, there's not a great deal of difference between my life now, and my life a week, month or year ago. To the casual observer, I should be as miserable as ever. But I'm happy.

I know why I'm happy. It's something new; it's something I didn't see coming and it's something that could fall apart at any moment, though I really hope it doesn't. It's also something I'm not telling you lot about. But I am happy.

Just thought I'd let you know.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Mr V.

I talk a lot on this blog about adults who let me down, during my childhood; people who should have, and in an ideal world would have, supported me and nurtured me and looked to my best interests when I couldn't myself. I talk of my parents; the alcoholic bully of a mother and the absentee father; or the Granddad who beat us, or the dickhead pseudo-stepdad who shot me in the head.

There were others though, short in supply though they may have been, who did attempt, in their own small way, to put me on the right track. One such person was my teacher, in my final year of Junior School; 4th year we called it, but I suppose now I must refer to it as Year 6. His name will go unrecorded here, although he has the honour of being one of the few teachers whose names I remember. We shall simply call him, Mr V.

The thing about Mr V. was that everyone joined his class with a certain trepidation in their hearts.
I remember saying to my mate Chris, on the first day of our year in his class, "I say old chap," I said, "I'm feeling a good bit of trepidation about this whole affair, and I don't mind saying so, what!"
"Bally good call, old man, I was saying much the same to Mother, just last evening" he replied.
As you do. Anyway, the reason for everyone's trepidation upon entering his class; aside from the inherent pressure you felt knowing that this was the last year of junior school before BIG SCHOOL came calling; was that the man had a rep. A rep for strictness, short temperedness, over familiarity, and alcoholism. A terrifying combination.

Now, lets be honest here. As adults, it's plain to see that while, yes, he may have been strict and quite possibly short tempered; these are not unfamiliar traits in teachers. However, if he was 'over familiar' (read: a homosexual predator), or indeed an alcoholic; and to such an extent that the children in his class were actively discussing it and warning younger kids about it; you'd think that word would probably have reached someone in a position of authority, wouldn't you? Of course it would; the stories were nonsense. Logic isn't really a factor though, when you're 10. At that age you believe what you're told, and the kids in his class; the top class, the big lads; well, their words were gospel! So in we toddled, found some seats, and settled in to meet the ogre.

At this point, I'd like to explain a little about the rumours. Namely, the homosexual predator one. Now, I like to think that I'm a fairly right-minded, liberal person; I don't have much in the way of prejudices (although I do come over 'very' right wing on one particular issue, which we shan't go into here) but I come from a long line of people who do. Be it race, disability, or sexual orientation, the people in my family, and indeed the people in my immediate social circle, were not exactly known for their inclusiveness. People like the Scottish/Pakistani family who lived near us where constantly referred to as 'dirty bastards' and I was expressly forbidden from having anything to do with one of the lads in my class because he was black, while 'bummer', 'faggot', 'retard' and 'spaz' were everyday words. Such was my upbringing; so the thought of being taught by a gay teacher did, at that time, fill me with a degree of dread. I'm not proud.

The seats that we found, my bezzie and me, were against a wall, and behind our seats, near the skirting board, there was a hole in the floorboard. We discussed it between ourselves, and we decided that this must be where Mr V. would hide the alcohol. We never did look down the hole, to see if we were correct; we said because we 'didn't dare', but I suspect it was more that we just didn't want to be found wrong. The chance to add our own little bit to the Mr V. legend was too strong. Sure enough, by the end of the 1st week it was accepted as fact amongst all the kids of the school, that Mr V. kept bottles of booze under the floor in his classroom. Again, I'm not proud.

He was a great guy though, was Mr V. He had this amazing ability to have one conversation with a kid, and make them feel like they'd known him all their life, and that he understood them. He also had enough sense to acknowledge when people would not benefit from the prescribed curriculum; I participated in one group reading session, before being banished to a corner with a novel, and he never asked to hear me read again. It was this last that made him such an important figure in my life.

You see, I'm a reader. I'd always been a reader. I started school at 4 already able to read, which saw my mother getting told off by the teachers, because I was throwing off the level of the class. From that point on, not one single teacher had the initiative to say, 'you know what, he's beyond this, let's give him something more challenging.' The curriculum said that someone of my age should read at a certain level, that's the level they made me read at. Made for some pretty depressing and demoralising lessons, I can tell you. With Mr V. though, things were different.

He would ask me, have you read this book, have you read that book, and I'd say no, because I'd spent the last few years reading about pixies and unicorns. He introduced me to Jack London and Charles Dickens and Tolkien. He taught me that it was OK to read for pleasure, rather than just for school; a lesson I'd once known, but which had been beaten out of me by his predecessors (not literally, you understand; even then, that kind of thing was frowned upon. They thought it far more sporting to let the parents do it), and he entered one of my short stories into a competition, marking the 1st time anyone had ever considered anything I'd written as being worthy of comment. I didn't win; didn't even place; but he'd entered it. That meant something.

So, after all of that, you'd think I'd have a bit of respect for the man, wouldn't you? That I'd defend him from the slurs and the rumours and the accusations. Yeah, no. I respected him inside of course; worshiped the man, if truth be known, but on the surface, well, what can I say? He was a teacher and I was a pupil; there was no way in Hell I could ever take his side. So I joined in the jokes and I told my stories of his secret Vodka stash and I made sure that all the kids in the 3rd year were suitably warned of the predatory beast they were soon to encounter. Say it with me; I'm not proud.

I'm sure Mr V. knew what we said about him. I'm sure it grieved him. I just hope that my own, personal, involvement, after all he'd done for me, didn't cut too deeply.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Jigsaw Lady

As utterly fantastic and chock full of joy as most of my childhood was, (What?), there is one day that sticks in the memory as being a particularly happy one, above and beyond the others. I speak of my meeting, one fine summer's day, with Jigsaw Lady. Yes, that was her name. It was!

It was near the beginning of the summer hols. Ian was staying at Bob's and as was traditional I had gone up at about 9:30 to bang him out of bed; yes, back then I would actually get out of bed before noon when I didn't have to; it was a different world, to be sure. Anyway, I roused him from his pit, and we departed, eager to discover whatever wonders and delights the world had in store for us; we were young, and carefree and the world was our oyster; anything was possible.

20 Minutes Later. We are bored. All those who say that kids today are spoiled by games consoles and smartphones and whatnot; and that back in the day we had to make our own entertainment and were the happier for it; are, not to put too fine a point on it, talking bobbins. I'd have killed for a playstation that morning, I can tell you; if I'd known what one was, or they had actually been invented. Whatever.

We could have gone to mine, but I was in the bad books because of something or other and I wanted to keep my first shoe to the head for after lunch (I'm all about the delayed gratification), and we could have gone back to Bob's but, as was his way. he was spending the day in the betting shop. Our answer? Well, we decided that the only thing for it was to trudge around the streets randomly until we got tired and then lounge against a garden wall looking all cool, like. It was the only logical thing to do, really.

We ended up, by a very roundabout route, in the next street over from Bob's. Remember that; the next street over; it may be important later. There we were, doing our best ice cool loitering and feeling very proud of ourselves, when from out of nowhere comes "What are you boys doing there? What's going on? Who are you?" Panic Stations!

You see, so conditioned were we to always being moved on by adults; almost as if they had something against scruffy urchins trespassing on their property and hurling sarcastic abuse at them; our instinctual reaction was always to run. Which is precisely what we would have done here, if not for one small, but pivotal, point; my foot was caught in the railings of the gate and I fell over. Smooth.

Luckily for us, the words which we in our pre-conditioned states had assumed to be harsh had actually been intended as a friendly overture by the speaker, who turned out to be a lady of indeterminate, but most definitely advanced, years. She cooed over me a little as I picked myself up, unhurt but mortified, from the floor, and then said the one thing guaranteed to make us friends for life; "do you boys want some pop and biscuits?"

Now, I know what you're thinking here, and you're right. But I mean, come on, POP! And BISCUITS! I never said we were geniuses. I'd like to tell you that we ate the biscuits and drank the pop on the doorstep. I'd like to tell you that, but I can't.

Once inside the house, the old crone drugged us with spiked lemonade, stripped us of our clothes and hogtied us under the stairs while the oven pre-heated. Only by the judicial use of Ian's long fingernails (I used to bite mine, NO LONGER!) and a loose nail were we able to escape our bonds and flee, naked and sobbing into the street. No, hang on, we played Scrabble, yeah, that's right.

Now, it may surprise you to learn this, but my Mother and Maurice the dickhead pseudo-stepdad were not amongst the worlds great thinkers; we owned a scrabble bard, and occasionally actually played it, too; but we didn't own a dictionary and to argue with their spellin was tantamount to shitting on the couch, so games could be a frustrating experience. This woman had a dictionary, played by the rules and actually seemed to be enjoying herself, rather than wishing for it to be over so she could watch some soaps. All in all, it was a new experience.

After the scrabble marathon; several games, of which I won but one; we retired, as is customary (?) to the kitchen, where I was greeted by a sight to blow my tiny mind. A jigsaw; but not just any jigsaw; a bloody huuuuge jigsaw, that took up the entirety of her kitchen table. (It was probably just a 1000piece one, to be honest, but it seemed huge at the time and 20piece Thomas The Tank Engine ones were about our limit at home).

As it turns out, jigsaws were this woman's life. She had, no lie, dozens of them piled up under the table, and those were just the ones she hadn't done yet; she said she had hundreds upstairs. She toddled off and came back with an armful of boxes that she said we could take with us when we left and then we sat around eating and drinking her kitchen clean while we all pitched in and worked on the puzzle. It sounds daft, but I think I had more fun in that one afternoon than any other day that holiday.

When the clock started to tick around to tea time (going home for lunch wasn't the 'done' thing, although on this day we were well fed anyway) we made our excuses and left, laden down with jigsaw puzzles and promising to go back to see her again soon. Promises that we fully intended to keep. But didn't.

It's fairly obvious now that she was lonely. Maybe her kids/grandkids never visited, or maybe she just didn't have any; whatever the reason, she latched onto us that day and didn't want to let go. So I'm kind of feeling like a shit that we never went back. Mainly because, the reason we never went back, was all down to me. Ian wanted to go back the next day, but I talked him out of it. He wanted to go the day after that, but I made excuses. And after the 3rd day, he stopped bringing it up.

You see, me being me, the 'little voices' kicked in. They convinced me that, contrary to everything she'd said, and everything she'd done, she had just been being polite, and any further visits from us would be unwelcome. It's the same thing that stopped me from sitting at the same table as my best friend at school, unless we arrived together; if he was already seated, and talking to someone, I was convinced I'd be intruding and would sit elsewhere. Such were the insecurities of my youth (and to a fair degree, my adulthood), and I'm genuinely sorry that they stopped me from bringing a little companionship into a lonely old woman's life.

The only other (semi)encounter we had with Jigsaw Lady was a couple of years later, and is the part of this tale that relied on her house being in the next street to Bob's (remember I said that might be important, ooh yes, you know I'm a proper writerer-person, with subtle foreshadowing skills like that). The old saying though, about the best state to leave your audience and containing the words 'more' and 'wanting', means I must withhold that particular tale for another day. Don't blame me; blame whoever came up with that saying (Google tells me it was Steve Lombardi, but I'm not convinced).

Join me next time. I have no idea why you would, but, you know...

Monday, 9 January 2012


So, yes, I've done this.

Basically, it's me talking about nothing for 2minutes. I'm on my side, and in shadow, because I'm rubbish and don't know how to operate a camera. I'll try to do better next time.

Feel free to point and laugh.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Birthday Tunes

Not a proper post, as such, but there'll be one winging your way on Monday - prepare to meet The Jigsaw Lady - but what we have here is my entry in the 'What was number one in the charts when you were born' challenge.

If you want to find out yours, you can do here, assuming you're in the UK.

So without further ado, here it is (I'm quite pleased with it actually), Harry W himself, with 'We Don't Talk Anymore'.