Okay, not random. I’ve been thinking about which ones to include all day. But I like the title.
If you ever see my autobiography for sale, don’t buy it. I lied all the way through that damn book. I remember so little of my life, and what I do remember I don’t really trust. Here are some memories. I am pretty sure most of them happened. Some of them might even have happened in the way I describe.
I have a suspicion that a ‘seven sins’ theme will emerge. It will, of course, be the most self-indulgent post to date. Brace for impact! Also brace for a particularly long post!
I am being held in my mother’s arms, in an airport. A woman with long, very straight blonde hair and huge 80s sunglasses says “Awwww, look at the little peanut!” in an American accent. This is my first memory.
I am running through St Martin’s school. It’s pre-primary, so I guess I’m three or four. I am hot on the heels of Harvey Temple, who for a time in my youth was my best friend. He dashes through the doorway to the playground, but does not realise I am behind him. He slams the door shut behind him. I reach out instinctively, and the door closes on the tip of my right index finger, which explodes in agony. I am pretty sure I see bone (I probably don’t see bone). I still have a curving scar there.
My Dad puts dinner in front of my sister and I. He has been in the shed at the bottom of the garden for a long time, peeling potatoes, chopping them up and putting them into a completely deadly and very smelly deep fat fryer. He has also been smoking a pipe out of range of Mum, but we don’t learn that until much later. Dinner time! Chips and beans and other things. We dig in, hungrily, but – with a trace of panic that only makes sense later – he halts my eager fork. “Look,” he says. He points at a particular chip. It’s actually two chips in one – the second emerging at 90 degrees from the mid-point of the first. It’s a T. He handcarved a potato into my first initial and fried it for my dinner. My sister Kate has a K on her plate. This guy, seriously.
I am in a shallow riverbed with lots of other kids. I don’t know how old I am – let’s say seven. We are picking up small stones from the cold water (only inches deep at most) and throwing them around. The air hisses. We duck and dodge. it’s good fun. I feel the urge to stand out from the crowd, do something funny. I pick up the nearest really big rock in both hands, and chuck it into the midst.
How ridiculous! This silly great big thing contrasted with the nimble, zipping pebbles! It soars into the middle of the throng and hits another child in the head. I don’t remember what happened after that. I probably ran away. I don’t think he was seriously hurt. I’m pretty sure there would have been repercussions. Right?
I am at secondary school. The main bully – tall, good-looking, different coloured eyes – is playing football with a bunch of other kids behind me. I’m standing with about four friends in a rough circle. I only find this out later, for reasons that will becoming obvious pretty shortly, but the bully loses the ball during a little run in our rough direction. He sees me and decides to keep going.
He… I guess you could call it a bull rush? He slams into me pretty hard, lifts me off my feet, sends me flying. I don’t see it coming, so it’s quite the shock. I land hard, get up slowly and shakily. I brace my hands on my knees and stare at the ground, trying to get my bearings. I manage to joke with my friends about passing out – then I wake up, flat on my back on the ground, having passed out.
I am at home. Dad has been trying to convince me to come willingly to some kind of family gathering all day. I have been truculent, petty, resistant; rude. It may even be at the Cottage, a tumbledown little place with two AGAs and a pretty, lumpy garden that forms a crucial part of the Mayo family history until it is knocked down. Heartbreaking. Anyway, I spy a crumbled brown paper bag of fruit – plums, I think – in the hallway. I ask Dad if I can have one. He says “Yes, if you come to visit the family with me today.”
The sudden, powerful wave of pity I feel in that moment takes me completely by surprise. I have never pitied my Dad before. I didn’t know it was even possible. But I felt so bad for him, trying so hard to get his son to see family – stooping to the level of opportunistic bribery. Oh god. It’s so sad.
I still don’t go.
I am in the attic, which for a time is my bedroom. I am reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. My Dad bought me this, and many other books that would prove critically important to my future. It’s very funny, but I realise I haven’t actually laughed out loud at any of it. I realise this only at the moment when I finally do laugh, and all the pent up giggles just froth out of me in an unstoppable fizz. The line that triggers it is “Ford. You’re turning into a penguin. Stop it.”
I am standing on the sofa. I’m not really supposed to do that. I’m doing it to get a better look out of the sitting room bay windows, out to the white (but grubby) Vauxhall Astra hatchback parked right outside. My Dad is carrying boxes of his stuff from the house to the car, because he’s moving out. He’s moving out because my parents are divorced. He’s never going to live with us again. I remember that hitting me. The finality of it was… Indescribable.
I’m just standing around, idling with friends, in the main hall at school. Out of the clear blue sky the school bully kicks me as hard as he can, aiming for my groin. I happen have my hands in my pockets, and twist my body barely enough to take the stinging impact on my left hand instead. I don’t know what to do about this unprovoked assault, so I do nothing.
In English class. I can’t remember if it’s late GCSE or early A levels. In either case, It’s just me and six or seven girls. One of them, the first girl to (ahem) ‘blossom’, assures the class that my breath “stinks of shit”. I don’t know what to say.
Mr Oxford, my favourite teacher (English, naturally), breaks the fourth wall in a lesson and talks about his relationship with his recently deceased father. It loosely ties in with the topic of the class, but I think he mostly needs to just get it out. It’s a bit unexpected but tender, and touching, and heartfelt, and none of us students – including me, the teacher’s pet and straight A student – give a shit.
I have just opened my A level results. I am the teacher’s pet. I am the straight A student. I am the bullied. I am the guy who just got an E in English, because I am also lazy and arrogant. For the first time in the history of my secondary school, they pay for a complete re-marking of my whole exam. They refuse to believe I could have gotten an E. It comes back, some weeks later… Another E.
I’m at university. It’s the first time I’ve ever ‘been’ with a girl. My blood is everywhere.
I’m in Bath, in my first proper career-type-job-thing. A friend is talking to me about a party. I was there too, but I remember little of it. I got so drunk that – I am told – I became threatening, and unpleasant. I used my size to corner girls and wouldn’t let them leave. I was… I was everything I hate. One female friend calls me up in the next couple of days to tell me she doesn’t want to be friends any more, based on that party. I haven’t spoken to her since.
I’m at my Dad’s wedding. It’s my turn to shake his hand. He looks so happy. We do the thing that at least three generations of Mayo men do when we are excited, and we both shake hands with a ridiculous bone-crushing grip. I have never been more proud of another human being.
I have just broken the heart of the only really serious girlfriend I have ever had. She moved across the country to be with me, away from all of her friends and family. It took me a year and a half to tell her that I couldn’t love her back the way she loved me. “What am I going to do?” she says. “You’re my best friend.” I don’t stop crying for a couple of days.
My Dad is adopting a baby! It turns out you need references, kind of like a job. I’m one of only two people on the planet who knows exactly what it’s like to have him as a Dad, at this point, so it makes sense that I would write one. He asks, and I am glad to oblige. It’s all confidential, and he’ll never see it, so I feel like I can really go to town. I love this man more than any other human being on Earth, and so I write him a glowing and completely heartfelt recommendation. I say things I probably should say to him directly, if I’m honest, but… you know.
A little while later he contacts me to thank me for the recommendation. It turns out that he actually does get to read it after all, which is embarrassing.
I am in my room, in quite a lot of pain, but I have finished another blog post at least. It’s called Randomly Accessed Memories. I wonder if I should have held some back for a Part II. I’m bound to get stuck for topics sooner or later – probably sooner rather than later. I hope there aren’t too many mistakes, but I don’t have the energy to track them down right now. I hope that the few people who read it will like me more, because of how open I’m being and shit. I hit Publish.