I grew up in a house of animals.
A cat, two dogs, a kestrel, three ferrets, a fox and a crow with a broken wing, an eagle owl, an aviary of finches, a barn owl and a tank of tropical fish.
There was a hamster too as I recall but I think Mum threw it out by mistake along with its bedding when she was cleaning out its cage.
At some point, a small tank of stick insects was brought into the house, but they all escaped and were presumably eaten by the other animals or used as cocktail sticks in our Long Island Iced Teas.
To this list I would also add an older brother, but he doesn’t like it when I call him an animal.
Mum was ok with all the animals except the kestrel. She said it had to go after she was left alone with it one evening while my dad was at the pub. I can see why she got cross; its flying about the house interfered with the TV signal and stopped her watching Dallas.
I survived childhood, but I didn’t get away Scott free.
I fell off the back of my chair on the first day of primary school and was whisked off to hospital for stitches. I burned three holes in each knee when the sack I was kneeling on slipped away from beneath me on one of those huge plastic slides at a fairground. It had just been polished and I was wearing my light-brown corduroy shorts. Very fetching in those days.
Then I broke my wrist, falling from a swing in an oak tree. Apparently I had shut my eyes and thought I was back at the trunk. I wasn’t. I was mid-flight and let go. I did land like a cat though, on all fours, which I’ve always found quite astonishing. It’s on my CV in fact:
- Can land like a cat, on all fours from great heights
In later years, I rode into a car and went flying across the bonnet and smashed the windscreen – the fun never ends. I lay passed out on the road for several minutes. The lady who hit me was most relieved when I woke up. I was happy too. I got a new bike out of it.
I also set fire to the house (not an injury I know, but go with it) while my brother and I were still in it. A smart child I was not. My brother remains oblivious to this day the mortal danger I placed him in. See Mum! Ignorance is bliss.
When we were on holiday, I decided to hide in a cupboard in our caravan while it was stationed on an island that was flooding. When I heard my Mum enter the caravan frantically looking for me and screaming my name, I leapt out and said “boo!” Great timing is also on my CV.
Mum was not impressed.
She has a weak heart and she’d just put up new curtains in the living room and fake lead on the kitchen windows, you know, in that criss-cross style. In the end it was only a polyester purple carpet that got a little singed.
Dad wasn’t impressed either.
He didn’t appreciate it when I got into the habit of putting his cigarettes through the blender. He thought it was because I didn’t like him smoking. LOL. I was just curious to see what would happen and see his reaction to a child who gave the impression he cared about his father’s health.
I survived school mostly by being the best drawer in the class and thus earning myself a free pass from the bullies, although the captain of the rugby team had taken a shine to me so I could call on back up if my drawing failed me.
I came out of uni with a 2:1 and the idea that I was headed for an amazing career in product design. This did not happen. Instead, I went back home to Bath and applied for a lot of shitty low-paid mind-numbingly dull retail jobs, while waiting for Terence Conran to call me up. (FYI, I’m still waiting.)
When I got bored of that, I applied for a Masters degree and headed off to Salford. Because that’s where the university was, not because I knew anything about Salford. I wish I had brushed up on the place beforehand though.
On the first night there, the local kids threw fireworks at me while I was on the phone to a girlfriend. I was in one of those glass and steel BT phone boxes with a six inch gap at the bottom; perfect for letting in the cold, rain and small missiles. I hear Salford is a nicer place now but I don’t go back.
I finished my Masters, successfully avoiding the local thugs who used to rob the other students and their houses in my street, but still thinking I was heading for an amazing career in product design.
This did not happen (again).
I went back to Bath and applied for a thousand jobs, or so it seemed. After two years hunting – and shuffling a lot of books around Waterstones, mostly Harry Plopper and the Testicles’ Spectacles – I was finally offered a “proper” job with a furniture company, designing stuff.
That went quite well for a while, until I got bored and flew to Saudi Arabia on a jumbo jet commandeered by a prince. But that’s another story.
So what did I learn from this early period of my life? Always leave the house before you set fire to it, otherwise you’ll die. You might kill someone else too.
This will be continued…
P.S. If you want to get in touch, ping me on Twitter or shout loudly, I won’t hear you but it’ll make your neighbours think you’ve invited Brick Tamland round for tea.
P.P.S Thanks to Dan Coman for taking such a lovely photo of me too.