There’s a Sequel in this…

Thirteen more facts about myself as a child

Some are memorable, some infamous, all fun to relate from a considerable distance—a follow up to Thirteen Facts About Me as a Child.

  1. PEI 1984I mistakenly stabbed the family rubber dinghy with a pitch-fork. Twice. My father almost hit me.
  2. I detested manual labour as a child (see no.1). Funnily enough I chose a career as a postman, a.k.a.“human pack-horse” for the best part of 10 years, deliberately disregarding my university letters.
  3. I set club records as a sprinter, topping my best friend’s times who was one year older and number one in New Zealand. Yet I never made it past regional finals. Unlike my friend, I never actually trained.
  4. I first discovered I could run fast in primary school and would delight in games of tag, sprinting as close as possible to walls and watching the bricks blur by. One day I ran so close to a wall that I collided with a tap, sprawling head over sneakers, cutting my thigh to the bone. Bundled into the back of a teachers car and sped to a doctor, I received all of six stitches, the nurse praising but not convincing me of a bravery I neither felt nor believed; I had blubbered despite myself and was very much afraid. Funnily enough, at the point of collision time slowed to a crawl, my brain—and pain—yet to catch up with sprawling body—an experience typical of accidents. When I first looked down at my leg, expecting to find only a scrape or a scratch, I was instead shocked to discover a gaping wound, through which it appeared I could see my breakfast. There in the torn skin, muscle and bone, it appeared as though milky cocoa and cheese toast were floating around.
  5. I did Cubs for a year, the junior version of Boy Scouts, and hated every moment, only going along because my best friend was. Let’s just say that being locked in a cabin for a night with a bunch of junior psychopaths was not a highlight. The only badge I managed to get was the one for being able to iron your own uniform.
  6. My favourite author for many years was Enid Blyton—a Secret Seven novel was the first proper book I ever read. Yet when, in my constant search for secret passages and hiding places, I discovered my yet to be wrapped birthday present—a Famous Five annual, my mother made me give it to a friend. Funnily enough, he wasn’t a fan of Enid Blyton. In fact he wasn’t even a reader.
  7. Apart from the year I spent living with him, I essentially grew up without a father—he missed almost every birthday and Christmas—none of which is particularly unusual for my generation. According to a psychic and naturopath whom I saw as a teen, I have“issues” with him, but in truth I regard cathartic navel gazing with as much enthusiasm as for the poetry I once wrote—in other words not very much. Unless it helps in the telling of an interesting story that is. Which is not to say that I didn’t try self-therapy once—not recommended.
  8. While living with my father he gave up smoking and drinking and became a vegetarian. He also was a Tai Chi instructor. I thought he’d lost his mind, and was highly embarrassed by his slow-motion prancing in local parks and backyards—always subject to cat-calls and mockery by the“provincial” locals in those parts. I now respect him highly for all of the above, and discovered years later that his life-style changes were a part of practising meditation. I am following in his footsteps despite my best intentions.
  9. According to various relatives, teachers and other assorted busy-bodies, everything“wrong with me” was due to being fatherless. I will refrain from describing what was wrong with them.
  10. I would get hyperactive if given food rich in artificial flavouring or food-colouring. Not normal kids-on-sugar crazy, but bouncing off the walls, human wrecking ball crazy, as in incidents that got talked about for years.
  11. I got sick at school once and threw up in the classroom. The school rang my mother at work and asked her to come in and clean up. And you wonder how school arsons are caused. Ironically I had told my mother, with all the sincerity I could muster, that I was not well that morning, but she insisted I go to school.
  12. Up to that point self-taught, my mother took me to a piano teacher once who happened to also be the mother of a class-mate. This young girl was there with several of her friends, one of which the word“gossip” doesn’t even begin to describe. Suddenly shy at revealing hidden talents in front of what was an unexpected audience, I refused to play, at which point my mother says I threw a very embarrassing tantrum. Whether this is true or not, the piano teacher declined to take me on, and in fact refused to talk to my mother again. I have absolutely no memory of this part of the story, and strangely it is one of the very few moments from my life that I can not remember. There might be one or two others but I’m keeping them off the public record.
  13. Meeting my Canadian grandfather for the first time as a five year old, the first thing I did was say“Hello GrandDad!” and then punch him in the stomach. It was apparently the best thing that I could have done. A tear in his eye he exclaimed,“At last, a real man!”, and from that point on I could do no wrong. Chocolate milk was sneaked in to my room after bed time, I got to watch TV secretly in his room, and on outings my mother and grandmother were banished to the back seat, the“men” sitting in the front. To the horror of my pacifist father and my own delight I was taught how to fire a gun, and would revel in target practise with an air rifle at any opportunity. What I didn’t know was that my grandfather had harried and teased my father, the eldest and only son of five daughters, for not being manly enough when he was a boy. Still, I only had love for my granddad.

Do respond with your own childhood recollections if you are inspired.

  • alf
    Posted at 01:23h, 24 May

    Well, the ability to use an iron can never be underestimated John and deserves a badge in my opinion.

    My favourite Famous Five book was where they went and hung out in their Aunt’s Lighthouse for the summer hols. I read them around the time they were thinking of banishing these works from our school library because of the fact that the girls were always doing the dishes while the boys had adventures or something! But I read all the Secret Seven and Famous Five I could get my hands on.

    You have reminded me of another story of my cousin (of the socks and sandals fame). This is kind of gross, be warned. We were like under 10. Once we went to the park together and someone had left a bag of fish guts etc in the bin after a fishing trip. While I watched mutely, my cousin proceeded to rip open the bag and throw this foul smelling stuff absolutely everywhere. God knows why. We got home, and he calmly said to his father, “Dad, someone threw fish guts all over the park again.” Without even blinking, his father, my uncle, furiously replied, “Why did you do that for?” I was amazed by his dad’s reaction, it still makes me laugh to this day.

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 12:54h, 24 May

    Thanks Alf, that’s an outstanding story about your cousin. By the sound of things I am guessing there are several more.

    Now that I think of it, I’m not too sure whether that badge was fully deserved. Long a purveyor of the“just out of bed” look as far as clothing is concerned, I used to take on jobs as a house cleaner in the afternoons, to supplement my minimum wage postman mornings. Clients, usually housewives (yes, I’m aware there is probably a more P.C. term), once they got over the surprise of a male cleaner, usually had me doing the usual spring-cleaning chores—dusting, scrubbing and vacuuming, but one in particular used to leave me their ironing to do. At home one day as I worked, or laboured for about 15 minutes over a single shirt, it quickly became apparent to this client that my ironing skills where somewhat deficient. I wasn’t called back.

    In my clime and time, Enid Blyton was also impossible to secure from the school or public library. Something to do with Noddy and Big Ears I believe. Don’t get me started on Political Correctness…

Post A Comment