Finding My Way
My parents decided to return to England after a year in Spain. Our lease on the flat was up and we spent the summer in a hotel with rooms on the ground floor near the outdoor pool. Its blue waters sparkled in the sunshine. There were often lines of ants marching along the walls or an occasional lizard darting about. In the bushes outside the patio doors, I discovered some spiders that seemed to have red fangs. When I got close, the spiders flew away. We used to have lunch in the bar and sank big glasses of orange drink until the infestation of cockroaches marched over our sandwiches.
Time was spent swimming in the pool and leaning over the railings. I peered down the hazy valley at white houses dotted between olive groves. My favourite toy was a battery-powered submarine that went in circles and dived underwear if a switch on its side was clicked. I loved splashing about with that submarine. As the summer drew to a close, so did the hotel. The rooms grew dirtier and workers became scarce. Gradually, the pool turned green with a foul-smelling froth. The water was drained and I sweltered in the heat looking at the empty pool. Soon it was time to move on and England beckoned once more.
As I went into my final year at Wolverstone School, little brother, Sam, was born. I got into orienteering and spent weekends walking around forests and hills in North Yorkshire, going from checkpoint to checkpoint. At first, it was too much and Dad found me crying, completely lost one afternoon. From initial failure, I got to grips with it and began to run at the same time as reading my map and compass. I had to choose between following the contours of a hill or cutting across a valley, keeping to paths or running on a bearing through forests. I really enjoyed it as my fitness and skills improved. At the age of eleven, I entered a competition and came third against boys a year older.
During those days, I had a disagreement with a neighbour, who was about the same age. I can’t recall what it was about, but the other boy was shouting and pushing me about. Moving back, I picked up a plank of wood and twatted him over the head. He fell and lay face down on the driveway, completely still. I decided the best course of action was to escape to my bedroom. Soon enough, there was banging on the back door and the inevitable complaint. No matter what Dad ordered, I wouldn’t apologise. That lad was lucky, seeing as the nail sticking out of the plank missed his head. The last time I saw him, we laughed about the good old days.
I was with my friends one break time at Wolverstone School when I heard a horrible scream. Running forward, I saw a boy had skewered his finger through a piece of wire on the border fence. I never knew him to speak to. He was in real pain and a teacher rushed away to get help. The boy looked like he was about to pass out in front of all the schoolkids watching. Moving forward, I pushed his hand higher to take the pressure away and told him everything would be alright. Blood dripped from his hand, through mine to the grass below and some kids began to cry. He staggered, so I held him up while talking all the time. It took about twenty minutes until some teachers came back with an ambulance crew. The fence was cut and the boy was taken to hospital. He was so grateful afterwards.
Bored one holiday, Marky and I decided to make bombs. We had a large supply of caps left from some small toy guns we brought back from Spain. Each cap carried a surprising amount of gunpowder, which we scraped out of the plastic caps using pins. When we collected enough gunpowder, it was carefully poured into a small balsa wood box with a homemade fuse dangling out of the top. We dug a hole in a nearby farmer’s field, the device was inserted and it blew an impressive hole in the ground.
We set to work making a much larger bomb in Marky’s bedroom. The factory was an efficient operation with Marky and I spending hours each day emptying the gunpowder into a container. I wasn’t sure who was to blame, but a stray spark must have ignited our sizeable stash of gunpowder, which literally blew up in our faces. Mum yelled from downstairs and I could just hear her stomping up the stairs through the ringing in my ears. On opening Marky’s door, she found me lying on the floor while Marky was sat down with a gunpowder-darkened face. The game was up. No one was seriously hurt, but we were screamed at and Dad came home early from work to shout stern, but unheeded words.