Tag Archives: the 80s

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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