The Past is Another Country…the food is terrible and there’s no vegetarian option

None of the names below have been changed deliberately, though memory may have failed me. If new to these posts, they are written in haste and strewn with errors. Now read on, if you wish…

Seeing a fat boy in the municipal swimming pool today, I was reminded of my own childhood. I am intrigued that memories, unused for years, still haunt the brain and can be accessed despite being surplus to requirement by some decades. 

I wondered what had happened to the other boys who stood with me in the line of last and unwanted choices when it came to picking school football teams. I remember when all four of us ran the 400 metres and, at about 200 metres, I realised we were horribly slow. I shouldn’t have cared, but I imagined Mr Letts amusement that he would share with the athletic children and ran like Eric Liddell or nearest chubby equivalent. I was close to vomiting at the line and managed a time of a meagre 90 seconds, but the pudgy purple face at least showed I had felt the shame of athletic laziness and attempted to repair that at 210 metres, despite nature and nurture counting against me. Where is Adam Muriss now? I think he was last that day, or was it Paul Newman (not the actor)? We were all united by our sporting ineptitude. I think his nickname was Frank, either because his name was similar to, or because he sounded like, Frank Muir, at least one whose voice had not quite broken yet. I recall the excitement of going around Paul’s house to watch the first TV screening of Alien, the gore intact, but the swearing removed as rude words always trump extreme violence in English speaking morality. When we were old enough to see National Lampoon’s Animal House we would realise we were Larry Kroger, Kent Dorfman, Jugdish and the rest. School sport was character building, it showed us so many characters we didn’t want to be, traits to fight against, foibles of aggression to try and avoid. 

What became of Miles Hember? I saw Carl Sagan’s Cosmos for the first time at his house. I remember the field he told me about his plans to build a perpetual motion machine, is he now in a workshop working on a machine close to magic or cold fusion? 

Is Grant Falks still a science fiction fan or did the joy of Battlestar Galactica and imaginative fiction vanish with puberty? I went to my first Comic Market at Westminster Central Hall and I think his mother was once sunbathing topless when we went round to play, which seemed frighteningly French, though she wasn’t French. 

The locations of childhood are sometimes used to fill in details of stories without pictures. Grant’s back garden had a swimming pool, some version of that childhood memory is used as stock footage when I read of pools in novels or news stories; the pool that William Shatner’s wife died in, the bushes in the garden corners made up part of the picture in my mind when I thought of Margot Kidder being found in shrubs after pulling her teeth out.

What of Lex Strauss, the school outsider, whose lunch boxes were seen as exotic because,rather than processed cheese slice sandwiches he had cold fish fingers and tupperware with small vegetables in. The English teacher told him off for writing God with a small g, he said he didn’t believe in that god and so why shouldn’t he, in those 70s days, he was the pre teen Marlon Brando wild one in frayed jumpers. What of the boy who always told us the stories of people who died from brain hemorrhages after over head-banging at Motorhead gigs?

Some have no “where are they now?”. Adam White, last seen when I was 13, then dead by 19, or maybe less, in a motorcycle crash. We knew each other too young to have had that “I wonder which one of us will be the first die” conversations that comes so easily with being a teenager. Typing this, I see his face vividly, but his image is aged by my memory, not the kid he must have been when we played together. If I was confronted by photographs from 30 years ago, who would be as they are in my mind, as memory keeps changing, facts become more fictional, though we are unaware of this “documentary” becoming an increasingly loose dramatic reconstruction. 

I think of David Van Der Beer, a Canadian boy I played with. Each break he became Bigfoot to my Six Million Dollar Man. Did I know him for a month, a term, a year. He left school and I fear he died not long after. 

I remember so many nosebleeds, children don’t seem to have them so frequently now; are they just less clumsy or is the solid ground bouncier? 

I wonder if the Jesuits were right about being given the boy until he is seven, then they’ll know the man he is to become. Did those boys I knew end up in the worlds I might imagine, or did the physical, mental and social pressures of teenagerdom reshape them? 

I know I always wanted to show off for a living, and look at me now. 

My tour restarts soon in Dorking, Braintree, Edinburgh, Evesham, Hull and more soon, plus work in progresses in Leeds and York. Details of those things and Christmas shows with Brian Cox are HERE

Happiness through Science DVD is available HERE

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