I’m sure some people are perfect but sadly I’m not one of them. I’ve made more mistakes in my lifetime than it's possible to count on both my hands and, I wouldn’t doubt, all of your hands combined as well. My mistakes have been borne out of a variety of situations. Sometimes, it has to be said, drink has been involved but more often not. Sometimes it’s been sheer foolishness or thoughtlessness and occasionally it has been what can only be described as madness, insanity, lunacy, call it what you will.
I was a very well behaved child, my mother was big on discipline and wasn’t afraid to deliver a well deserved wallop. It didn’t stop the sporadic outbursts, however. Eruptions, where I behaved so spectacularly badly, I am sure the shame is still seared on my mother’s soul. And the strange thing is, if you had asked me afterwards why I’d done it, I truly don’t think I could have given you an answer.
One of my earliest outbursts involved a girl called Tina Marshall. I feel safe in naming her because, in all likelihood, she is currently languishing in a women’s prison somewhere. She was, as the mothers used to whisper when they thought kids couldn’t hear, ‘not right’. Tina and I had something of a love/hate relationship from the moment she moved into our neighbourhood until we went to different secondary schools. The ‘incident’ happened when we were about nine and, even then, it was already clear
that she was ‘different’. Her favourite game involved other kids tying her up as tightly as we could and then baiting her until she ‘got her mad up’, which would culminate with her ripping herself out of the ropes like a crazed beast. Actually she was like a junior Incredible Hulk except we hadn’t heard of him yet and she wasn’t green.
Anyway, I can’t shift the blame for this onto her oddness because it was all me. I am sure the irony won’t be lost, on those of you who follow my posts, when I tell you that the catalyst for my outburst was a pair of shoes. Tina, you see had the best pair of shoes I had, in all of my nine years, ever seen. They were wedge heels and split into two halves by a sort of lightening flash design. Half the shoe was blue and the other half yellow. In my mind they were also patent but that could merely be fancy on my part. I have never coveted anything like I coveted those shoes; they kept me awake at night. My mother, however, was adamant that they weren’t practical as they wouldn’t be suitable for school and refused point blank to buy me any.
On this particular day, I had no notion of what I was about to do. It wasn’t pre-meditated, it was just sheer lunacy. Near where we lived was a row of garages where we weren’t supposed to play. Behind them was a sort of boggy, swampy no-man’s land that was deemed to be dangerous. Predictably though, this was the area that every child in the neighbourhood gravitated towards. And this was where Tina and I were on that fateful day. Maybe we were discussing something innocuous like my passion for Bunty magazine or maybe the far darker subject of her bondage fetish. Who knows? All I do know is that I asked Tina to take off one of her shoes so that I could get a better look at it. The second that shoe was in my hand, I threw it with a force and precision that would have made my PE teacher proud, straight over the garages and into the middle of no-man’s land.
Retribution was swift. Tina pounced on me with a menace that would have been terrifying had I not already been reeling from the solid punch to the head she had delivered first. She almost killed me and, as I staggered home, bloody and minus a huge chunk of hair that she had ripped out at the root, I got not one iota of sympathy from my mother. She delivered her own signature whack to the legs before marching me back to the garages and forcing me to pick my way through the fetid swamp to retrieve the shoe. Tina managed to salvage it but I don’t imagine it was ever the same again and it became something unmentionable between us.
That was just the start, however, and there have been other moments of madness since. Moments where I have behaved so badly the only consolation is the thought that it is the symptom of temporary insanity. That’s why, even though what my friend has done is undoubtedly stupid and has caused a lot of harm; I won’t be casting any stones. Rather I’ll be contemplating that little adage, “There but for the grace of God go I.”