Now I think we need to take a bit of a diversion here because there was a very strange incident around that time - wintertime to be exact. When I was around eight or nine years old, there was a winter with very deep snow. I remember going out very early in the morning and meeting a friend of mine called Ian (a real friend not an ‘im’ friend). Of course, as it was at my parents’ house, Baza wasn’t there.
Ian and I both wanted to play in the snow as kids often do. Well the snow was about 4 inches thick and I knew the back garden of my childhood home hadn’t been disturbed at all. My Dad had made a five-foot high decorative wall dividing the front and back gardens. He’d also fitted a wooden door in that wall. We had to struggle against the fallen snow to push the door open. And that point we stopped, amazed at what we could see in the back garden. In the newly fallen snow we saw circular imprints arranged as if something had made walking steps using stilts. Each indent on the snow was about two inches wide. There were no other marks on that snow in the back garden. What was even stranger was how these steps finished in exactly the middle of the back garden. They ended at least some six to eight feet from the house and from any fences at the edges of the garden. As I say, there were no other markings in the newly fallen snow.
So we decided to turn around and trace where these imprints had come from or gone to. They’d seemingly gone over the garden door we’d struggled to open. We went back into the front garden. They went over the front garden wall and along the pavement towards, strangely, the back garden of Ian’s house. There they seemed to go round a garden plant arrangement and that was it. There was no clear idea as to whether these prints had started there or finished there.
(There’s another part to this story but I’ll mention that later on. Either way I’ll leave it to you to try and workout what on earth that was.
Anyway, getting back on track…)
So how did I break my leg again I guess you’re wondering?
Well, I could say it was Baza’s fault but also it was somebody else’s ‘im’ friend. Odd talking guy he was too. So we were all about ten. Remember Baza was always the same age as me.
My parents had taken me to Scotland. My Dad was a big fan of Scotch whiskey (and I became that as well when I got older). So he wanted to do a tour of various whiskey distilleries in Scotland. I do remember us visiting one distillery where a waitress had a tray carrying identical glasses containing a small amount of their whiskey. She was offering them to my parents and I thought, “Ooh, free drinks.” I reached up and grabbed one.
As I put it to my lips I stopped seeing the waitress’s shocked face. I can’t remember if I eventually drunk any of it.
(My Mum says I did. These days I rarely drink alcohol.)
Baza wasn’t there. He’s not around when my parents are about.
Anyway I am getting off the track. My parents thought it might be a nice idea if I learnt skiing. We were in Aviemore I think it was – it’s a nice quiet town. So there I was by a dry ski slope in Aviemore. My parents left me with the ski instructor and several other learners while my parents went shopping. As they walked away I tried to listen to the instructor but Baza kept interrupting. I ignored Baza and he went away pissed off. So there I was learning how to put on the skis.
This instructor took me and the other people learning to ski in open lift taking us up to the top of the slope.
And there was Baza waiting for me. How he got there I don’t know. But what was weird was that he stood next to some guy, chatting with him. They were both wearing skis. Baza smiled at me. I didn’t know this guy but Baza introduced him to me.
Baza indicated him and spoke, “This is Sean.” He nodded at me. I smiled in response but looked at the skiers who were squeezing passed me and ignoring or even walking through Baza and Sean.
When I saw that I realised Sean was imaginary as well.
I blinked, looked at Baza, and whispered, “Whose real friend is Sean’s?
Baza looked at Sean who shrugged and answered, “Oh it waz Jack doun in Rochday. Av not seen ‘im in ayjes.”
I blinked, trying to understand him. “Rochdale?” I interpreted. He nodded, smiling. I continued, “I’ve got family in Rochdale.” He smile grew wider. I asked, “You don’t sound purely from there though.”
“Ah me Da caim from Rochday but me Ma caim from rownd aboot.” He paused. “Enywear.” He looked over my shoulder. “‘Ee wants yoo to skee.”
I asked, “And how about you? You and Baza are wearing skis as well.”
He nodded. “Ah doant noh if ay cun do dis. Ah mean ay faut yoo ad to goh dowen bah fuut an not bah warin these strange skeezes.” He shrugged. “We be doin’ it thoa, followin’ yoo.”
I frowned but hurriedly turned around, nodding to the instructor as he spoke to me. He outlined what I should do (and not do) and I was off down the slope.
Then it went wrong.
I heard exited cheers and I saw Baza slowly passing me with a mix of thrill and fear on his face. He glanced back and shouted to me, “Watch out!”
Sean hit me.
I wobbled, tried to stop, and started to fall to my left. As I passed out I could feel my left leg twisting strangely and-
When I came to, my skis had been removed and two ambulance men were slowly putting me onto a stretcher. I glanced to my right and I saw Baza looking serious and annoyed as Sean loudly but unconfidently spoke, “Ah fort ee new ow too skee.” He paused. “Not mah fort ee broak ’is leg.”
Baza snarled and answered, “It is your fault.” He pursed his lips. “Is this why you're on your own? You got the man you were with into trouble as well?”
I didn’t hear anymore as I was pushed into the ambulance and my tearful mother joined me as she ran over from her shopping trip.
I was taken to a hospital in Inverness. It was quite a long way away - nearly an hour’s journey.
So there I was on a wheeled stretcher taken to the part of the hospital to have an X-ray where they could see what kind of leg break I had. (It was a spiral fracture for any of you wanting to know.) Then they took me to another part at the hospital where they could make a cast to support my leg.
Whilst I waited it was quite disturbing. I could hear screaming in the operating theatre. My Mum exclaimed I might need anaesthetic.
A nurse wheeled me into another section just outside the operating room.
Seeing the door to the operating theatre I asked her, “Can I have anaesthetic?”
She smiled and replied, “Do you want to be a man or a mouse?”
I looked her, thinking, (I’m not letting you patronise me.)
I politely answered, “A mouse please.”
Then I heard Baza laughing as I watched the nurse’s shocked and uncertain face. She didn’t know what to say next.
I glanced above me and saw Baza smiling down. He warmly spoke, “You’ve not lost it. Go in there and show them how strong you are.”
So I did.
And you know what?
They set my leg wrong.
So there I was back in junior school with the whole of my left leg in a cast. Several of my friends signed and drew on it but they weren’t to last. After a couple of weeks I was taken to a local hospital. A doctor examined it and decided my leg cast was made improperly.
So they took me into their operating theatre and onto a surgical table. There, they delicately and slowly cut off my cast. It was odd lying there and seeing my left leg propped up by two supporting poles. It felt so weak. I didn’t dare try to move my leg at all.
Baza was there too, eating popcorn.
I frowned at him. He shrugged and spoke, “Well it makes a change from watching TV.”
I deeply sighed and the doctor looked over at me, asking, “Are you all right there?” I nodded and he smiled. “We’ll be very careful.” I nodded again and turned to Baza, glaring at him.
The doctor carefully put the new leg cast on and it was done. It looked neater and a bit thicker. My leg felt okay.
“It looks a bit boring.” I glanced at Baza who turned away, embarrassed by his comment.
So how did others people feel?
Well it wasn’t signed anywhere near as much. Baza did some sketches on it but no one could see them except me. It was sad really ‘cause they were pretty good.
But two of my school friends loved wheeling me fast from classroom to lunchroom in the wheelchair I was in - until I was able to use crutches. Baza was disappointed. He loved riding on one of the wheelchair arms when my friends were pushing me.
(I should mention the crutches I had were supported under my armpits rather than the ones they use now which are supported by the lower parts of the arms. I don’t think the newer ones are as safe for me – my right arm’s quite weak. So I'm slightly biased. Another story to tell if she doesn’t kill me before I write it.)
My leg healed well. Everything went okay until my final year at junior school.
It was around that time I started regularly walking home from school. Perhaps my parents were trying to force me to exercise my leg. Perhaps it was just time difficulties.
(I know children walking home alone, these days, is deeply frowned upon but it used to be quite usual when I was a kid. I can remember a girl of my age mocking me at that time for waiting at the school gates for my Dad to collect me. I recently drove passed my junior school and was astonished as to how the school’s old metal fences had been replaced by very tall, crossed thick wire blue fencing. It now looks like a prison camp. The sad reality is most child abuse happens at home.)
Near my school was a small park, which allowed me to take a short cut to the street. (My Dad had shown me it.) I was feeling relaxed especially with having Baza and my ‘im’ cat with me. It was quite disconcerting when she became a tiger and even more awkward when she then decided to have a crap.
(Yeah, ‘im’ people and animals need to… erm, excuse themselves. The tiger was quite private about it but let’s face it – it’s not easy being private when you're a big tiger needing to have a dump.
So we walked through the park. Carefully we crossed the road. The tiger snarled at passing cars but it didn’t have any effects on the motorists (although some dogs in those cars did seem to bark at her). We walked passed some local shops on our left and into a large house estate. One time I saw a bus pull to a stop on the estate’s main road and a couple of people got off near where I was walking. It wasn’t unexpected and I continued walking this time we were behind a lad, in his teens, striding along the pavement. He turned to go up a driveway on his left and opened the front door of the house there. As he opened the door he noticed I was looking in his direction. (Basically my ‘im’ cat was territorialising the plants in front of him.) He shouted at me, “What are you staring at?”
At that point my ‘im’ turned into a tiger and slashed at him. Of course it couldn’t connect at that time. (‘Later’ is another story.)
I calmly answered to him, “Nothing.” (Pretty much summed him up as in being ‘nothing’ but I don’t think he would’ve understood that.) I tried to ignore my tiger repeatedly and angrily slashing at him before I turned and the lad closed the door.
I calmly walked along the road before carefully crossing going to a side road on the right that ultimately led to my parent’s (and my) home. As I walked up my home, I glanced around. Baza was no longer around at my parent’s house but the tiger was there. It had changed into a cat but it was looking around, still in a stalking mood. I watched it turn and slowly walk to a house opposite. It scanned the two‑storey house with its attached garage. Then I was intrigued as the ‘im’ cat lay down at the front corner of this garage where there was a path leading the back of the house.
Then I saw a small slim dog that was some sort of terrier calmly trotting up the path from the rear of the house. I frowned, knowing the cat is imaginary. The cat couldn’t do anything-
But I was wrong.
The ‘im’ cat quickly jumped on the dog and it darted back, squealing in terror.
Then the dog was howling as it quickly ran away. The ‘im’ cat ran, its form changing again into a tiger.
And I was staring. Somehow the dog saw the ‘im’ cat.
And I was smiling. My world wasn’t so isolated anymore.
But I was. I never fitted in.
I can’t remember why I was bullied in my final year at junior school. I remember the two lads but I can’t remember more than that. I think Baza does but he won’t tell me. He feels it’s not important.
And that’s true. Why should I remember what two lads were picking on me about when it wasn’t important? Maybe it’s because I wasn’t very good at sports in school. Maybe it’s because several boys including me were applying to go to grammar schools.
(I do still remember the name of one of those boys and know his Dad died a few years later. But, hey, I remember all sorts. Like the lad a couple of years older than me who lived next door and accidentally killed his girlfriend in the car he was driving shortly before I could drive. I was never told the full story of that one.
My parents thought I should go to a grammar school so they took me to take several exams at these schools. Baza was quite taken aback. I told you he was never about when my parents were around. So I was always telling him what my parents wanted to do.
(When I look back I can understand how my parents wanted me to become greater than them. Both my Mum and Dad never went to the universities and came from poor backgrounds. I knew my Dad had been through what they called in those days the ‘11+ exam’. My Dad did so well he was offered a place at a grammar school but he didn’t want to go because his friends weren’t going. He regretted his decision so he wanted the best for me.)
I passed all the entrance exams for four different schools. The last one, which I went to, had me in tears when I came out of the exam. I still passed it.
Baza expressed maybe my tears were an indication the school wasn’t right for me.
Sometimes it was. Sometimes it wasn’t.