Tag Archives: Memories

Completely True Memories From My Birth

4 Jun

Allow me to reminisce briefly about a funny thing that happened to me one early morning thirty years ago. I was born! I climbed out of another human being’s body! Mental, right? Now I’m not going to claim that I remember any details from the day of my birth, because that would be an obvious lie, wouldn’t it? but I do clearly remember this: that when the midwife put me on the scales for the first time in that delivery room, she turned to my knackered looking mum and said, ‘Your son weighs 6 pounds and 2 ounces, which is quite tiny. Also – and I’ve never had to tell a new mother this before – half of that body weight is made up of thick, dark hair.’

To which my mother responded chirpily from just above the rim of her cup of tea, ‘Yea, that’ll be the Indian in him.’

Everyone gathered round was just about to chuckle politely, when a moment of silence descended for them to quickly ask themselves whether my mum’s little quip had been politically correct or not, everyone coming to the same conclusion: that this was the early 80s and we were in South London, so who really gave a shit? Also my mum’s granddad had been an Indian immigrant to Britain, so she was allowed to make comments like that, alright? Also, she never really said it, did she? This whole scenario up until now has been, if I’m truthful, made up as I go along. Why? Who knows? So yea, once everybody in the room had realised all of these things, they each allowed themselves a grin, before stopping what they were doing for a moment to enjoy a biscuit, picked from an assortment atop a plate that a passing ambulance driver had carried in to the room just seconds earlier.

‘I was just on my way home with this tray of biscuits, when I heard the screams of a newborn and followed my instincts (and my ear) to deliver this celebratory selection to the welcoming party! Congratulations!’ the nice man said.

A hospital orderly then handed everyone a fresh cup of tea, for biscuits to be dipped in. My dad politely turned down his offering, however, preferring instead to dip a Custard Cream in his beer. Each to their own. And then the hairy newborn baby in the room (the hairy newborn baby that was me, remember) raised his tiny little finger into the air, cleared his tiny little throat, and asked in a voice that shocked people by how deep it was for a baby, ‘What about the welcomee? Doesn’t he get a biscuit, too? I could murder a Bourbon.’

Everyone looked at each other confusedly, saying nothing, before their minds were put to rest by the calming words of one of the doctors in the room, who said, ‘Don’t worry; he’ll grow into that voice one day.’

There was then a period of silence; a silence that was broken by my mum asking, ‘Can the same be said of the hair, doctor?’

The doctor’s words on this occasion were less reassuring: ‘Even if your son grew to the size of André the Giant, which he won’t, he will never grow into all that hair.’

This cultural reference worked better then that it would today because in 1983 everyone on the planet (mostly) knew who André the Giant was. Today, not so much. Today in a similar situation the doctor might say, ‘Even if your son grew to the size of Wikipedia, which he won’t, he will never grow into all that hair.’

Everyone just smiled silently at the doctor’s knowledgeable input; everyone except for the passing ambulance driver, that is, who broke the silence for the second time to say, ‘Hang on a minute! Is that what everyone thought was weird about the baby asking for a Bourbon – that he asked for it in a deep non-baby like voice? Not one of your confused expressions was brought on by the mere fact that the newborn baby just spoke? I thought we were all on the same page back then! Obviously not!’

My dad then uttered his first words of the occasion, saying, ‘Runs in the family, that. I been speaking since about three weeks before birth. Nothing weird about that.’

The ambulance driver was lost for words, literally, and so just shook everybody’s hand and left the scene.

‘I never knew that about you!’ my mum said to my dad, after the ambulance driver had shut the door behind him.

‘That’s because it’s not true!’ he replied, ‘How could I have been talking from before I was born? I can’t believe that worked!’

The midwife then tapped my dad on the shoulder and asked, ‘What was the point of making that up?’ to which my dad uttered his now infamous words, ‘I just said it without thinking first.’

‘Genius,’ said the hairy newborn baby, ‘Genius.’

The hospital orderly collected up everyone’s empty mugs on a tray – she also took my dad’s empty can and said she’d find a bin for it – and then the midwife picked up the hairy newborn baby (aka Me) and said, ‘Right you, you’re coming with me!’

‘Where’s he off to, then?’ my mum asked.

‘Remember I said that he weighed 6 pounds and 2 ounces, and that that was quite tiny? Well it’s very tiny; probably down to the fact that he wasn’t meant to be born for another three weeks,’ the midwife explained, whilst giving me a little beanie hat and telling me to put it on; which I did obediently.

‘Is that why he’s a bit blue?’ asked my dad from across the room.

‘It is, yes.’

‘Ah that’s alright then, for a while I was secretly wrestling with the suspicion that my wife had been having a Smurf round the house while I was at work,’ my dad said. ‘So where’s he going then? You still didn’t tell us.’

‘Oh yea, sorry, I’m a forgetful thing sometimes,’ said the midwife, giggling, ‘He’s going to live in an incubator for a while.’

‘Oh. Okay then,’ my mum said, ‘Can you turn the light off on your way out, please, I’m about ready to pass out.’

The midwife picked me up and we headed to the door together. Just before she switched off the light she said to me, ‘Wave goodbye to your mum, if you don’t die then you’ll see her in a little while.’

‘Wait! What?’ said the hairy baby.

I didn’t die, and a week later I was taken home to meet the family dog.

me baby

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Toilet Trauma : My Earliest Childhood Memory

23 May

‘Did not need this,’ I sighed to myself. ‘Really did not need this.’ My likely-soon-to-prove-fatal torment was accompanied temporarily by a soundtrack, one that brings me out in a cold sweat and the kind of rash that has people around debating the potential need for quarantine, each and every time I hear it, right up to the present day. And you’d be surprised just how often that mocking sound worms its way into my life, even now. Even now….. in my 30s. The taunting repetitive mechanical wheezing audio accompaniment to what I was sure were to be my final moments as a living human was coming from Thomas. Well, I called him Thomas, we were mates; but to those not on familiar terms, he was Mr. Tank Engine. I once heard The Fat Controller call him Tom. Thomas just muttered, ‘Don’t call me Tom, you fat controller.’ ‘What was that?’ ‘Oh nothing, I was just saying ‘choo choo!’’ And then he slid off along the tracks. But that had been then, and this was now. And now, Thomas was staggering around my kitchen floor, like a hairless hamster on ketamine (as a sidenote, once many many years later I found myself in the uncomfortable position on a stranger’s kitchen floor where I believed whole heartedly that I was a hairless hamster, only not one on ketamine. Turned out it was just me on ketamine) bumping occasionally into the skirting board. I couldn’t see him – I am having to trust the information my ears provided me to make this observation – all I could see was the top half of the mirror on the wall above the sink; the gap in the door to my left, on the other side of which Thomas mooched about aimlessly. (He would tire soon, his current burst of energy had been provided him by the turning of the key in his side, which I had taken care of just a couple of seconds before pausing our joyous play session, leaving the room and finding myself fighting for my life); and my knees. I could see my knees. I couldn’t really miss them, they were at eye level, a few inches from my face. I tried to move myself; to wriggle free. My knees were now above eye level. My feet were pointing up at the light in the ceiling. If I had been religious (or a moth) instinct may have driven me to attempt to go into the light. Who knows; for fortunately I was neither. I was also unable to move. Worse than all of this, the bottom of my arse was getting wet. I was sinking! I was going to get flushed away like a turd. A little, hairy turd. Again I sighed to myself, ‘Did not need this,’ (I had quite an understated and dry way of looking at the world as an infant) before shouting, ‘Help! Help!’

I may have blacked out for a moment, such was the traumatic nature of this episode, because I have no recollection of any moments passing between those cries and what I experienced next. I managed to open my eyes (which had both been closed due to fear) and there, standing over me, looking down with love in his eyes and a warm smile across his face, stood my granddad. He had heard my pleas and arrived from the living room to save my life. I would owe him for the rest of it. I was overcome with a feeling of complete love and gratitude towards this 50-year old man. He was clearly overwhelmed himself with the powerful bonding that was taking place, so overwhelmed in fact that it rendered him motionless to free me from my predicament. The realisation then hit that I had misinterpreted my granddad’s warm smile. He was laughing. The silent kind of laughing, induced by looking at something so funny it disables your voice box. I just looked at him. He looked at me. Nobody doing anything that could be considered productive. And then my granddad cleared his throat in an attempt to find his voice. ‘Janny, come and see this! It’s funnier than anything I could’ve imagined!’

‘Well then you are clearly the owner of a very poor imagination, Granddad. Would it not be funnier, for instance, if you had walked in here to find my head stuck in the tap? That’s just one example off the top of my head. I could think of loads,’ I said in my head.

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Remember That Time We Contacted The Dead?

24 Mar

Do you remember that time when we was about ten or eleven years old, it was the spring time, and that kid that everyone was a bit afraid spent the morning telling us about how he was able to speak to the dead? And do you remember how he told us it definitely worked, cos he’d done it at home the night before, so he knew? Remember the looks on our faces? I definitely remember the look on yours. And then when he told us that we could do it too. All we needed was this thing called a Ouija board, even if we never woulda known then that that’s how it was spelt, if forced to hazard a guess we would’ve probably spelt it weedgie board, and a coin. That was all we needed, he told us, to talk to the dead! Man, I remember the look on your face. But wait, shit, we haven’t got a weedgie board. What’s that? It doesn’t matter, you say, because we can make one ourselves on a piece of A4 paper? And it just so happens that we’ve got a photocopier in our classroom with a tray full of A4 paper. Remember the excitment when he told us that? Breaktime couldn’t come soon enough that day, could it? Even if deep down inside we knew that what that weird kid was telling us couldn’t possibly be true, we knew that we’d make our weedgie board, form a circle around it, put our fingers on the coin and nothing whatsoever would happen, even if we knew all that really, we still couldn’t fucking wait for breaktime, could we? What if it was true? It couldn’t be though, could it? Why we were even entertaining the idea? Roll on breaktime!

We didn’t have to wait til breaktime though for our juices to really get flowing, did we, cos remember how fifteen minutes before break that kid told the teacher he was going to the toilet and when he returned five minutes later he only produced a weedgie board from his pocket, that he had made in the cloakroom! Yes! Remember that? Course you do! You don’t forget those days. Ever. Everytime the teacher went over the other side of the classroom he whipped it out on the table for us to marvel at. Remember how big he had written the words ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ up in the corners? And remember the alphabet and numbers written in the circle? And remember how that weedgie board looked absolutely fuck all like any Ouija board you’ve ever seen since? But it was the only weedgie board we’d ever seen, so it had to be proper, and besides, this kid had done it at home the night before and he knew what he was talking about, alright?

Remember how at the time the obvious question never crossed our minds, ‘What sort of weird home life has this kid got if he’s conducting séances at night?’ And that kid didn’t even have any brothers or sisters, man! So I wanna know who the fuck was introducing him to this stuff? His parents? ‘Hello, Childline?’

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TEACHERS – Looking Back On The Mid 90s (with the help of my school yearbook) (Part 3)

12 Mar

I turn to the pages reserved for portrait photos of all of the school’s teachers. There are 83. Coincidentally the year of my birth. 46 are women, 37 are men. It’s a pointless, juvenile and sexist thing to do, but I do it anyway; I go through each of the 46 female teachers, counting the ones that I would sleep with now if they appeared exactly as they did then. Five. Two taught foreign languages. At school I never saw them as anything other than stuffy, boring women who I imagined had no life outside of the school. Nothing attractive about them. Now though, through my 30-year old eyes, they look alright. And interesting. Like they’ve got more to talk about than the process of conjugating irregular verbs. And we could chat in different languages if I met them today. About life. But back then I was more concerned with drawing Hitler moustaches on every face in the course book. Brilliant.

Also in the list of five is my Year 8 form tutor. She taught drama and food tech. All us boys knew she was hot, even then, but she was also extremely annoying. Always bollocking me for something insignificant. And in a pretentious voice. But she did look good. Probably the most attractive of all our teachers and the one we all fancied was the English teacher with the Italian name. Her reputation was tarnished though, at least outwardly, among all the boys, when it was discovered that she didn’t regularly shave her armpits. Never bothered me one little bit though. And wouldn’t now either. The fifth teacher I don’t remember what she taught or anything about her. I was never in one of her classes.

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THE 90s LOOK – Looking Back On The Mid 90s (with the help of my school yearbook) (Part 2)

5 Mar

90s hair was cool. But in a really shit way. 1996-97 was the transition period from curtains hair and the bowl cut, or as we called it, ‘I’ll have the number one high step, please, Norm.’ Norm was the barber. Everyone called him Dodgy Norm, which eventually just got shortened to Dodge. This affectionate nickname alluded to the fact that if you went into his shop in the morning you got a fairly decent job done on your Barnet. However, if you happened to pop in in the afternoon, after he had enjoyed his liquid lunch in the pub across the road, you were met by a somewhat more dodgy Norm. And naturally as school kids the only opportunity we got to go in there was after school; in the afternoon. Ah, the Step. If you wanted the bowl cut to go in a straight line around your head you asked for the ‘high step.’ If you asked for just a step, the barber shaped it into a wedge at the back. It looked like a duck’s arse. You had to have the high step. And towards the end of Curtain Hair’s reign not even the number one high step was enough. No. For your hair to get any sort of respect during the final days of the Bowl Cut Empire you had to throw in an undercut. ‘A number one high step undercut, please, Dodgy Norm.’

Then at the back end of 96 the changing of the guard took place. The curtains were closed for the final time. ‘I’ll have a number one French crop, please, Dodgy Norm.’ And by 1998 it was no longer the number one French crop, it was the ‘Nought point five French crop, please, Dodge.’ The 0.5. Basically, bald. The guard off. Shaved down to the scalp round the back and sides and then blended in to what little bit of hair you have left on the top of your head after it’s been taken as short as scissors will allow. It’s essentially the Forrest Gump cut. And then the best part, plastering it down with a fistful of sticky Happy Shopper Wet Look gel. 59p a pot. Bright blue stuff. Or bright green. They were both the same product, just with different names. One was Wet Look. The other was Firm Hold. Both made your hair look wet. Both held it firm. Both made the top of your head feel like a barn floor. And both stung your eyes when it rained and it ran down your forehead and into them. But it was a price worth paying for the right look. You had to look hard as a kid at the end of the last millenium, and that meant looking smart. Short tidy hair, yes. Floppy curtains, no.

Dodgy Norm passed from cancer a few years ago. He is still talked about by everyone as a local legend. The bloke everyone knew, everyone talked to and everyone liked and respected. A great bloke.

Me in the summer of 96. I only agreed to pose for the photo cos I knew that some time about eighteen years later I'd be reminiscing about Curtains Hair on the world wide web, and I thought a snap would come in handy

Me in the summer of 96. I only agreed to pose for the photo cos I knew that some time about eighteen years later I’d be reminiscing about curtains hair on the world wide web, and I thought a snap would come in handy

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Looking Back On The Mid 90s (with the help of my school yearbook) (Part 1)

5 Mar

A couple of weeks ago my mum gave me something I had totally forgotten she’d kept. Something I had totally forgotten even existed. My school yearbook from 1996-97, the year I started secondary school. I was 13. I spent the next week or so taking a trip down memory lane each night, hours and hours of reminiscing. Whilst smoking a lot of weed. And writing down whatever memories and thoughts were conjured up in my mind by the pictures. Here’s some of the shit I wrote in the notebook:

Sitting in the front row of her class photo is the first girl I ever fell in love with. I remember when she moved to our school. I was 11. She was 12. An older woman. Way out of my league. Was never interested. But we would walk home from school together sometimes. She lived round the corner on the estate. Either in the grey block of flats or the house opposite it. I can’t remember exactly. I used to see her knocking about with boyfriends older than me. Hated it. Until I just looked at this picture I hadn’t seen her face in about fifteen years. I remember vividly her South African accent. Strong it was. At first, anyway.

I’m pretty sure that girl, my first love, ha! settled down almost straight after finishing school and started a family. I seem to recall seeing her pushing a pram. That first child she had can’t be too far off the age that we are in these photos. Man, time just disappears. Blink. Gone.

—–

On page 54 there’s the kid who I had my first fight of secondary school with. And who I continued to fight with about once every three months in the middle of the field at lunch time for the next few years. “Fight! Fight! Fight!” The whole school’s formed a circle around the action. Better fight like you mean it! In about our third tear-up that kid gave me my first ever pummelling. He was in the year above, but for our first two fights he was near enough the same size as me. Then he had a growth spurt. I could be heard gulping, cartoon style. Fight three toughened me up for fight four, though, so it wasn’t a bad thing. We were sworn enemies for three years, constantly throwing punches at each other. It must have been over something fucking important. Must’ve been, right? Yea. One day a mate of mine threw an apple core in the direction of his group of mates on the field at lunchtime. It hit him in the head. He mistakenly took me for the culprit. He shoved me. Then he shoved me again. I threw a punch. In my mind that would be the end of it. He’d go down like a sack of spuds. Like on the telly. But my mind overestimated my power. He punched me back. We exchanged blows. He threw a lot more than me but didn’t land a single one. By that time I was into my third year of Korean martial art Tang Soo Do. Fuck yea! Who’s laughing?? I was a blocking machine! Wax on, wax off. Too busy blocking to remember to throw many, though. The kids in my year shouted for me. The kids in his year shouted for him. Two teachers dragged us by our collars inside. Detention after school.

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