Strange Goings On…

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The subjects I loved the most at secondary school were Art and History and despite having an English teacher who disagreed with me for a majority of my school life, I did enjoy writing poems and short stories in my spare time. During the holidays, when I was bored I would create my own cartoon strips inspired by the books I loved to read which included Asterix and Garfield the Cat. My love for History came from my Dad, I remember visiting many of the London Museums and I will never forget the time when Dad announced he fancied a trip to the Tower of London. Mum had made plans that day so it was just Dad and I, I was so excited. Now, this journey which should have been straight forward, turned into a bit of a comedy… which was the story of our lives. We managed to arrive at Paddington Station with no bother at all, but after that we had a ‘carry on’ moment with our attempts to reach Tower Bridge. Dad was adamant we were on the correct tube but we ended up on the wrong side of the Thames every time. Dad got himself into a right state, effing and blinding. We ended up asking a ticket tout how to get across the water without actually having to swim. Finally, after a whole morning of going round in circles, we finally made it across with only an afternoon to cram everything in, including the tour of the Crown Jewels… Dad made sure we got our moneys worth alright.

I was a teenager when my Mum told me about the history of our housing estate. As well as farmland with an orchard, which funnily enough was the same area where Mum used to ride her bike and go scrumping… it also happened to be an archaeologists triumph. When they started to build the foundations of the houses the builders discovered what turned out to be the remains of a Roman Villa. I was amazed, what an exciting find! The whole area had to be excavated before the building work could commence. I used to dig around the back garden in the hope of finding my own treasure and I was lucky enough to find fragments of pottery as well as animal bones… my sister even found a tiny compass. I remember taking a piece of pottery to show my History teacher and he confirmed it was part of a Roman vase, I was so chuffed you wouldn’t believe.

Mum also told me about the strange goings on both herself and my sister experienced in the house during the early 1970s. Some would think, ahh they’re crazy, but I honestly believe what they experienced actually happened. They would often hear digging outside in middle of the night and when Mum would look out of the window it would stop. This happened for a number of years, along with the man who would appear in my sisters bedroom… this man appeared fairly often, up until one day when Mum came home from shopping. She noticed a figure at the top of the stairs looking down at her, Mum said he turned quickly then disappeared into my sisters bedroom. Thinking somebody had broken into the house, Mum said she ran up the stairs and looked into the bedroom only to see a head and torso but no legs… she told me he had looked around at her and then literally went straight out through the window. They never saw him again. I remember Mum also telling me about our next door neighbour running out of her house screaming after witnessing some strange goings on, this basically verified their own sanity. They weren’t going crazy after all.

My sisters room ended up as my room once she had moved out and even though I never really experienced anything unusual, I did feel uneasy sleeping in there sometimes. The room was directly above the shed, so it was always cold and if I heard any noises in the night, I would automatically think back to what Mum had told me. My heart would start racing then I would bury myself under the covers with the hope it wasn’t the return of the legless man. Even though I was a bit unnerved by Mum’s revelations, this did not stop me from becoming increasingly interested in the paranormal and to this day have experienced many unexplained occurrences of my own…

I hope you’re enjoying my blog so far and I can’t wait to share more life stories & experiences with you all. Thank you so much for reading and please do feel free to comment, like and share! 

What’s Up Doc?

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My teenage years, what can I say about them. Well, I can’t honestly remember if I was a ‘typical’ teenager or not, I’d have to ask my Mum that question.  I remember being fairly quiet at school but I wouldn’t say I was shy.  I would occasionally speak up when I felt like I had something important to say but I would never talk for talking sake. Sometimes my brain would shut down if I have to listen to monotone, uninspiring and uncharacteristic monologue. I couldn’t help it, that’s the way my brain was wired I guess. If something didn’t interest me, I would act as if it did but I could never remember what was said… the words would end up being stored to the very back of my brain along with all the other information which didn’t serve me at the time. I do love a good conversation, but it’s got to have some meaning to it, bring something to the table… have a point, you know?

My style during the early part of my adolescent years was metal braces, short hair and Doc Marten shoes… oh and Dunlop trainers. My eating was still out of control and I was fairly large for my age, my idea was if I looked like a boy, nobody would come near me or cause me any grief.  I suppose I was a little bit rebellious, not only with other teens but with a few of the teachers too. There was one particular teacher I remember who was referred to as the ‘Doctor’ of English. This teacher happened to be my English Language and Literature teacher for a number of years and for some reason he took an instant dislike to me. I had no idea why, maybe it was because he couldn’t work out if I was a boy or a girl.

There were many occasions when we had to take home a book the teacher had chosen for us to read and then for homework we had to write down our thoughts and feelings about it. Of course, I was honest… maybe too honest because there were a fair few books I couldn’t get my head around no matter how hard I tried, the words just didn’t sink in, instead they would escape into a distant corner of my grey matter, never to be disturbed again.  ‘Doc’ wasn’t happy and whenever it was marking day, my workbook would always return looking like somebody had suffered a severe nose bleed all over the pages… bright red pen marks, scribbled comments with huge question marks and ‘see me’ written in the margins. I never did see him about any of his comments, he obviously couldn’t cope with my constructive criticism.

I remember one morning before school, I was eating my breakfast in front of the TV when there was a news flash with regards to the Poll Tax riots. The footage was shocking, people pushing and shoving each other, shouting at the cameras and what I witnessed next made me almost choke on my toast. There was my English teacher amongst the rioters, red faced, shouting and shoving with the rest of them. Well, that confirmed my thoughts about him, this was a man with major anger management issues. Rather than to address the issues he was experiencing in his life, his way of coping was to project his anger and frustration out onto others.

I felt sorry for ‘Doc’ but our relationship never did change and he carried on marking my work down. So the outcome was… yes, you guessed it… I failed my English GCSE, along with Maths. I was never any good at Maths, even though I had lovely Maths teachers, I could never get my head around it all and I found it quite boring. Thankfully, on a wing and a prayer, I managed to pass both subjects the second time around. I also had a different English teacher, who at first, gave me the impression that he didn’t like me very much either… maybe because I used to skip most of his lessons due to my A Level commitments, or maybe it was because I managed to achieve the highest grade in his class…  ‘I can’t believe you got a B!’  he had announced, with a half smile. I felt a little guilty for not making the effort to attend his classes, but I did thank him for his help and support, he was a good egg.

Swings & Roundabouts

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Occasionally, I would escape to the local playground which was opposite a parade of shops and a garage block. This playground was half park and half grass area, the park area had a huge metal slide which, in the hot summer months would give you third degree burns, there was a roundabout which use to spin out of control and I remember once being so dizzy I was physically sick. Then there were the monkey bars which were so high off the ground, if you did fall you knew you would be straight down A&E with a broken arm or leg. Thankfully, this never happened to me but I remember a few kids who had injured themselves quite badly… there was nothing below the equipment to cushion your fall, apart from tarmac. Even on the swings, kids would gain such a momentum they would go flying off head first, or over the bars.  Health and safety didn’t appear to be a priority back then and I swear to this day there was a conspiracy… a way of trying to reduce the population.

The Sound Of Music

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The music of my childhood was mostly what my mum, sister or brothers used to play. When my Dad was around, I remember his record collection consisted of Dolly Parton and other famous country singers. Mum would usually have Radio 1 playing with the latest chart sounds or she would play one of her singles on the gramophone. Our house would be filled with music to a point where it would become the battle of the bands along with who could play theirs the loudest. In the hot summer months, I would escape to the garden and sit on a deck chair away from the madness… but then the neighbours would often join in and pollute the air with their choice of music. That’s when I used to plug myself into my Walkman and pretend I was somewhere else, whilst listening to my own little selection of cassette tapes.

 

What a ‘Carry On’

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From my experiences of being raised on a council estate, there were many good times which I liked to believe, balanced out the bad… I have many fond memories, not to mention comical ones and some you literally couldn’t make up.

My eldest brother loved cars, well, he loved anything which had an engine and moved extremely fast. One of his hobbies was drag racing and there were many times, before he set off to one of his weekend events, he would be outside, tinkering with one of his pride and joys… his head would be under the bonnet, then he would be behind the wheel, foot flat on the pedal. His mates would gather out front with their Kit cars and our street would be alive with the sound of beefy engines. The fragrance of oil and diesel fumes would fill the air…  I used to enjoy  watching all the commotion.

Our garden was like a graveyard for car parts, there was an engine in the back garden and various other bits and pieces like tyres, tools and tins of Castrol oil. One morning, I woke up to find a speed boat in our front garden… a real life speed boat. Where it came from, I had no idea, but I knew my eldest brother was responsible. I used to love sitting behind the wheel and I would let my imagination run wild. Dad had gone crazy, this boat was almost as big as the front garden and Dad absolutely cherished his garden. So the boat had to go… my brother managed to sell it eventually, to a politician.

I was only eight years old when I had another slightly traumatic experience, well, I think my Mum was more traumatised than I was, so here’s what happened…

One hot summers evening, my brother was out the front with his mates as per usual, with his car jacked up at a precarious angle, obviously trying to fix something or another. Music was blasting out from the car stereo and I was running up and down the garden path without a care in the world… up until I tripped over my own feet and fell head first. Slightly dazed, I managed to stumble to the back door and into the kitchen shouting and screaming for Mum.

My Mum came running out from the sitting room thinking someone had been murdered. She took one look at me and then shouted for Dad…  Mum grabbed some clean cloths out of the airing cupboard and wrapped them around my left knee as tight as she could while Dad stood there not knowing what to do for the best. Then the next minute, I remember being carried to my brother’s little white work van… a van he used to borrow occasionally and thank goodness he had borrowed it on this particular day. My sister was out and his other car was still up in the air with most of it’s parts scattered all over the road.  This van was a two seater, so I had to sit on my Mum’s lap with no seatbelt, whilst my brother, drove like a lunatic to the hospital. Mum suffered with terrible car sickness back in those days and my brother’s driving skills certainly didn’t help, he had to stop several times on the way, Mum did suffer terribly, bless her.

Once at the hospital, to our relief and our surprise, we were seen almost straight away. A lovely Nurse asked Mum what had happened and then we were led into a little cubicle. I hadn’t realised the extent of the damage until the Nurse unwrapped my Mum’s impressive bandaging skills… and to my horror, my left knee had been sliced open from one end to the other, the perfect slice, there was hardly any blood at all. I started to panic, the Nurse chatted away and made jokes, she did her very best to calm me down. I had eight stitches altogether and I was told not to put any extra pressure on my leg for at least 4-5 weeks. Thankfully, because this occurred during the school holidays, I had enough time to recover. The journey home from the hospital was very similar to the one going, my brother tried not to drive like a maniac… but Mum still suffered. We were in and out of the van like a Jack-In-The-Box and because I was sitting on Mum’s lap with my bandaged knee, I had to manoeuvre myself out of the van as quickly as I could before it was too late, so you can imagine what the outcome was. We were so happy to arrive home.

The following day, Dad went to check the garden path to see what could have sliced my knee open. After scanning it throughly, he found one flint stone slightly raised… one single flint stone was to blame for my poorly knee and I happened to fall right onto it.

The 5 weeks went by fairly quickly and it wasn’t long before a lovely Nurse visited our home to see how I was doing and to remove the bandages and stitches. The Nurse asked me if I wanted to keep them… so I did, in a little plastic container. Sadly, overtime, they turned a shade of green so Mum decided to throw them away, but I will always have the scar to remind me of that day.

Looking back, I can only compare this moment to a scene from a ‘Carry On’ film… chaos and comedy all rolled into one. Little did I know at the time, there were many more of these comedy moments to come…

Growing Up

 

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From my experiences of being bullied and from losing a parent at a young age,  I became a quiet child and I rarely let others ‘in’. Even though I had a one or two friends at school, I never had any close friends.  Occasionally, I would make the effort to socialise, I would go out the front on my bike and play games with the other kids but I didn’t always feel comfortable in the presence of others, I was quite happy in my own company.

Some of the neighbourhood kids were quite troublesome… often, there would be fights, shouting matches and general disruption in the street.  I will never forget the time when a brick came flying through our kitchen window.  Mum was washing up and I was in the front bedroom listening to music. I remember hearing a group of lads arguing loudly directly outside of our house, then all of a sudden a huge crash,  I remember running down the stairs two at a time…  I’m surprised I hadn’t slipped and gone down head first.

Our windows were not like the windows we have nowadays, they were just single panes of glass.  In the cold winter months, our house would be absolutely freezing and the glass, as well as being frozen on the outside, would often be frozen on the inside too.  We had a single coal fire in the sitting room and it was only during the mid 1980s when Mum stopped using it, due to the maintenance and the fact that coal was becoming increasingly expensive. Instead, Mum would fill up hot water bottles and place them under our many layers of sheets and blankets. When it was time for bed, I would be all wrapped up like I was ready to go on an expedition to the Antarctic… wearing a vest, my flannel pyjamas, thick socks and massive dressing gown.  Mum realised we couldn’t carry on like this… the winter months became unbearable, so with the help from my sister, purchased a couple of electric convector heaters… now that was luxury.

Mum was incredibly lucky that afternoon, the brick had missed her by inches… the kitchen was a in complete mess with shards of glass scattered everywhere.  Dad was still with us at the time and thank goodness he was too, because he knew what to do… off he would go, into his little shed, his little sanctuary or what I liked to call the Aladdin’s cave.  Dad’s shed was full of little bits and bobs from cycling repair kits… with the tiny chalk and patches… to little paint pots from my brother’s Airfix kits… various garden tools, seeds, car parts… and a tin of creosote.  Every summer, Dad would be out the back painting our wooden fences with, unbeknown to me at the time, this brown toxic liquid substance.  I used to love the scent of creosote wafting through the summers air as well as freshly laid tarmac… anyway, back to the windows… after a few minutes, Dad  appeared with a pane of glass and a jar of putty and repaired the window in no time.

The kids who were responsible for the damage never did apologise, Mum would go mad and often shout at the troublemakers but at the end of the day, there wasn’t anything we could do about it.  I have always believed in the theory that all events and types of people you attract throughout life adds to the shape of who you become.  Growing up in an area which was notoriously rough became part of the norm, yes, it was a tough, but I can honestly say I am now incredibly thankful for the tough times because without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

The Fear

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After Dad passed away, I slept in the same bedroom as Mum.  I wanted to stay as close to her as possible because I was so scared we would lose her too.  This might sound daft, but when it was Mum’s birthday, I would find out her age and then try to calculate the remaining years up to 100… because there were loads of people who survived until the ripe old age of 100, that’s what I liked to believe anyway. As time went by, my fear and anxiety became a lot worse and I dreaded night time, I was so scared to go to bed.  Mum would let me stay up until she was ready to ‘go up the wooden hill’.  We would sit and watch whatever was on the small portable black and white TV,  I remember watching episodes of The Sweeney or Rising Damp.  It wasn’t until the late 1980s, when we eventually purchased a colour TV.  This was a luxury for us, because most of the items we owned were either second hand or family hand me downs.

I always smile when I think about the days when Dad, in exchange for his handiwork, was happy to accept items instead of money. This must have frustrated the hell out of Mum, but she never got angry… well, apart from the one time when Dad gave me fifty pence so I could buy some sweets from the shop around the corner. Mum went up the wall ‘that fifty pence could have gone in the meter!’ she said. There was me, feeling like all my birthday’s had come at once, munching away on fifty penny sweets.  I’m surprised I didn’t have a mouthful of fillings back in those days.

I will never forget the time when Dad brought home a ZX81 with a metallic printer. Chuffed to bits he was, this was our first computer and we were so excited, until we switched it on. Sadly, it wasn’t in 100% working order and my brother, a budding computer genius, decided he would have a go at fixing it… so he took it apart and that was the end of our ZX81.  I also remember when somebody gave Dad a sofa and a couple of armchairs. They weren’t in great condition and the design was straight out of the 1960s or 70s… but they were a lot comfier than the ones we had.  One of the chairs spun around and I would spend many an hour spinning until I was dizzy, this was my happy chair and I would spin all my cares away whilst listening to recordings of the Top 40 on my cassette player.

Mum tried her best to carry on with the routine after Dad passed away, which included myself and my brother starting back to school in September. I wasn’t ready to go back, all I wanted to do was hideaway at home and spin around in my happy chair.  Soon enough, the news had circulated around the playground. That’s when the whispering, pointing and laughing started. I will never forget the time when one kid said out loud in class ‘I heard your Dad is dead’ I chose to ignore what was said, but I was so upset and angry. I never did tell the teacher, I just wanted to pretend it never happened.  I started to comfort eat and over time I gained a lot of weight which only added fuel to the fire, I tried to ignore the cruel remarks, but occasionally I would retaliate. I never told Mum what was going on, she had enough on her plate.

Two years after losing Dad, we lost Nan, my Mum’s mum. I had just started to cope with life again but now I was back on the downward spiral.  There was this one girl who lived around the corner and whenever I was playing out front she would always be there. We had a green directly opposite our house as well as a block of flats with some garages located behind.  A majority of the kids in the area would ride their bikes around the green or play football… even though there was a sign which stated no ball games. If a ball hit one of the windows, which happened fairly often, one of the residents would often shout and swear at us, but this didn’t stop us from playing. Anyway, this girl would run over to me and pinch me or kick me, call me names, laugh and then run away again. I tolerated her behaviour for a while until one day, I completely snapped. I chased her down an alleyway and basically gave her a taste of her own medicine and she ran home in floods of tears.

Mum went crazy when she found out and I was forced to apologise to both the girl and her Mum.  This was not one of my proudest moments and I wished I had dealt with the situation differently, I should have told Mum what was going on in the first place. Regardless of what the girl had done to me, she didn’t deserve what I did to her. She probably had her own issues and that’s why she acted like she did. I was no better than her and I hated myself, I wasn’t angry with the girl, I was angry with myself and I had no idea how to control my emotions. I needed to stop blaming everyone around me and to stop being so selfish. This was my wake up call, I had to change my attitude, make amends and to focus on what was truly important… my Mum and my family.