offer up my own memories for your entertainment.
In truth, I have no real idea whether I actually remember this incident or, merely remember my mother reminding me of it, whenever I chose to disobey her. It became something of a fable to show what might happen to disobedient children. Anyway, on with the memory, I spent my early years in terraced housing before central heating was the norm. Consequently, everybody had coal fires and cellar grates, which opened up to allow the coal men to drop coal directly into the cellars. As a small child, it was my want to jump on these cellar grates, seemingly for no other reason than my mother told me not to. I’m sure you can see where this is going and yes, predictably, someone had not secured their grate. One minute I was jumping and the next I was laying on my back, atop a rather fortuitous pile of coal, staring up into my mother’s horrified face. I suspect the worst part of the whole ordeal, as far as my mother was concerned, was not the possibility that I might have broken my back, but the fact that she had to knock on the door and ask the householders to go down into their cellar and rescue me. I am sure her shame at the sight of me being led through a stranger’s house coated in coal dust like a Dickensian chimney sweep must have been complete.
This one is very easy, as I believe it is the closest I have come to losing my life. It happened whilst holidaying in Greece with a friend. We were based in an extremely picturesque but tiny village and, beautiful as our surroundings were, after a couple of days my friend and I were desperate to visit somewhere more suited to shallow people. To this end, we hired a local man with a small boat to take us to the nearest town, which turned out to be not very near at all. We had only been there for a couple of hours, when the weather deteriorated, and the man with the boat said we had to go back quickly as a storm was coming. Unfortunately, the storm struck as we were in the middle of the sea with no sign of land and we spent the next hour at the mercy of the elements. My sea sickness was such that I would have welcomed death but I can remember my friend weeping and the boat owner praying. Obviously we survived, but the boat owner said it was the worst storm he had ever been out in and he had genuinely feared we wouldn’t make it. I just remember staggering from the boat and collapsing to my knees, not from the relief of being safe but from feeling more nauseous than I had ever felt in my entire life. To this day I can’t even look at an olive without having a flashback to that whole hideous episode.
Most Embarrassing Memory
Sadly, this category is bursting at the seams and not all of them are fit for public exposure. There are the ones that make me flush with skin crawling mortification just thinking about them and the ones that have grown with the telling, which I’m still dining out on years after they actually happened. Possibly one of the most embarrassing was the time my friend and I out-freaked a religious cult so completely they abandoned us and basically fled for their lives. It all happened when we were at University in
Texas and my friend dated a rather dubious character, who was a guard at a correctional facility. I think it was the appeal of his car plus he did have a passing resemblance to Kid Curry from Alias Smith and Jones. Anyway, one Saturday night, he drove us to a sleazy nightclub in the middle of nowhere and then, rather inconsiderately, left with a buxom blonde. My friend and I, not really thinking straight after several pitchers of Margarita, set about trying to hitch a ride back to the campus. We were picked up by a minibus, full of people who were heading off to a nearby commune. Initially, they were keen for us to join them for the weekend and, in our drunken enthusiasm, we saw it as one big adventure. It all went downhill however, when I decided to share my views on Communism, for no reason I can think of other than I think I confused the idea of commune with Communism. To be fair, the views I expressed were probably more Billy Bragg’s than mine but, let’s face it, they were never going to go down well in Texas in the early 1980s. Before we knew it, we were being asked to leave the minibus and abandoned by the side of the road. I can only assume that we inadvertently escaped from the clutches of some right wing isolationist group, who couldn’t be bothered to even try and brainwash us.
Again, this one is easy, as the saddest time of my life overshadows anything that happened before or since. It is six years ago since my dad died but, as anybody who has lost a loved one will know, time doesn’t really matter. The wound never heals, a layer of skin just grows over it but it’s papery thin and the slightest thing can rip the wound open again. The grief was compounded by the shock that can still reverberate through me when I dwell on it; my dad was only 63 and fit and strong. If anything positive can come from the whole experience, it’s the surety that we have to grab whatever life offers to us with both hands because we never know when it might be snatched away.
I can’t say that there is any one achievement of which I am particularly proud. Ultimately, I’m not sure that achievements are all that important in the grand scheme of things. Thinking about the principle of no one being on their deathbed and wishing they had worked harder, I don’t suppose anybody lays on their deathbed listing their achievements either. When I’m on my deathbed though, I hope that I can look back and say I was a good sister, daughter and friend. That I did my best to lighten the load of others and make their journey through life a little bit easier. I might not always get it right but I hope that I never stop trying.