“When memories make your past life a shambles, brush them aside and make up new ones.”
“Nostalgia’s all right if you can remember any of it.” (Anonymous)
A few of us were sitting around the other day, not quite comatose, and someone asked, “D’you ever feel you’d like to live your life again? You know, go back to the beginning?”
As usual, I made some facetious remark but, later, in a more reflective mood, I had a think about it and, when that think was all over, I’d decided; once is enough; I’d got away almost unscarred the first time; I’d probably not survive as I seem to have done the next time.
I don’t remember my birth but I certainly wouldn’t want to go through that trauma again, nor the shocked looks on my parents’ faces when they first shown what they had produced. I couldn’t bring myself to do that to them again.
My early childhood was fairly uneventful except for that time my father tried to drown me at the seaside. Mother explained that a wave had bowled me over and Dad had rushed in to save me, and frightened the life out of me. I tried to believe her but was never sure.
When I was still quite young, I fell in love with my infant-school teacher, Miss Minty and, probably thinking seriously of proposing marriage to her, I walked in front of a car that knocked me down, causing me to fill my pants and run home in embarrassment. My mother scooped me up and thrust me into the bath-tub quite unceremoniously, clothes and all. I don’t think Mum tried to drown me¸ but my sister insists that she did, well, she ought to have.
My final elementary school teacher, Ma Fuller, was an extremely stern lady with little sense of humour, and with whom I didn’t fall in love. She chided me, bullied me, kept me in after school and got me through my final exams.
So off I went to grammar school, where I had to wear an itchy uniform, play rugby, go on ridiculously long runs, sing solos in choirs and learn the Lord’s Prayer in English, French, Latin and German.
It was about this time that Adolf Hitler was invented and we boys imitated his speeches and Nazi salutes using the only German we knew: The Lord’s Prayer.
We also acquired a remarkable collection of dirty jokes, which, somehow, my father must have learned somewhere.
Then along came the war, rationing, air-raids, evacuation and my teen-aged experiences. I don’t think that I could survive for all those years doing those daft things: like doing Acapulco-like dives off the local pier, getting the local parson arrested as a spy because he chose to walk his dog on the beach late at night, seeing scientifically if was true that cats always land on their feet by pushing them off walls, and taunting the Home Guard with very rude and confusing messages by flashing obscure Morse code messages at them when they were on manoeuvers in the local hills.
We also experimented by seeing how many loutish youths could actually ride a bicycle at one time, with disastrous and bloody results, and seeing if we could scare the local girl guides spitless by playing ghostly organ music in the basement beneath their meeting place.
We also climbed everything in sight right up to the times that, having been forced to take my younger sister out, I scaled a quarry cliff and fell off it and broke my leg and consequently suffered the indignity of seeing her rush off and get help. That was terrible; I couldn’t possibly go through that again.
So I took up rock-climbing as a sport but used ropes and other safety equipment, and still survived.
Then I met that foolhardy young woman who married me – the mate that fate had me created for – and she kept me relatively safe for over sixty years. There’s no way I’d find another one like her if I had to go through the whole nonsensical rigmarole again.
Once is enough.