Thursday, November 18, 2010


Contrary to generally received wisdom/folklore, the Grumbler was not created fully grown and irritable. In fact, I experienced a (relatively) normal childhood. Born. Grew. Learned to walk. Learned to talk. Went to School. Got a job. Learned how to use the bathroom. Not necessarily in that order.

The ramblings in this post hark back to those days when there were 12 pennies to the shilling, the Mini was the last word in excitement (whether it referred to cars or skirts) and no-one in the UK had ever seen an avocado. (Indeed, when they were first introduced later in the decade, they were marketed as 'Avocado Pears', and many people's first experiences was a singular disappointment as, after their evening repast, their keenly anticipated and really rather expensive dessert consisted of a bowl neatly segmented avocado pieces with a generous helping of evaporated milk.)

I'm not one of those folk who claim to be able to remember everything that's ever happened to me - you know the sort: "The first thing I can remember is that I fell out of this weird furry window, it was freezing cold, there was this bright light, and then someone smacked my arse..."  But I do have just a few very early memories which, having discussed with my parents, must date back to when I was about 18 months old.  I think I remember this particular experience because it was both frustrating, and utterly terrifying.

I can recall, more than once, waking in the dead of night. My room would be pitch black - because there were no streetlamps on our road, and in any case, British children born before 1975 simply weren't allowed to be afraid of the dark. Such children were simply left outside on the doorstep for the wolves to carry away. I say 'wolves' but they were probably badgers. But they were wolves to us, and that's what's important. Of course, progressive parents who might have been prepared to leave a light on for their fractious and nyctophobic offspring would have found themselves outwitted by the frequent power cuts caused by industrial action on the part of Britain's coal miners. Its a little known fact that the miner's strike was actually orchestrated by a team of badgers, pretending to be wolves, who had developed a taste for doorstep takeaway Late Baby Boomers and early Gen-X'ers. Why do you let me digress like this?

Anyway, having awoken, I would quite naturally try to get up, in order to toddle in to my parents room and wake them up with demands for avocados, a drink of water or suggestions that there was a monster under my bed. (It was a porcelain chamber pot, but to me it was a monster and I'd be just as scared if I found one there now!)  To my horror, I'd find that I could sit up in bed, but any attempt to get out of it would meet with solid resistance. I'd simply, physically, not be able to get my feet on the floor and walk away from the bed.  I don't remember what would happen next, but presumably I'd eventually give up and fall back to sleep.

Much later, I learned that when my parents first put me in a bed, rather than a cot, I developed a habit of turning round and burrowing to the very foot of the bed where I would be trapped by the tucked-in sheets and blankets and, unable to get out, would howl until rescued. I don't have any idea why I'd taken to doing this, possibly I was practicing to become a strike breaking coal miner or learning how to escape from a badger set. But the end result was that it drove Mum and Dad to distraction. Their solution to this was beautifully simple.  They had a set of 'baby-reins' which saw sterling service in preventing me from toddling off at high speed and running under trucks, jumping off cliffs, swimming with the ducks I was supposed to be feeding or any of the typical toddler pursuits of the day. They reasoned that these could see double duty by preventing the revolutionary nocturnal habits of their overactive offspring.  In short, they tied me to the damned bed.

So why am I telling you this, my faithful if infrequent reader? Well, don't worry - I'm not about to recount any bizarre latter day bedroom athletics involving the neckties I no can longer be bothered to wear to work. I suspect its got something to do with work, though. No, I'm not physically restrained here either, though I'm sure there are those who wish I was. But we're going through one of those hellish phases where you just cant seem to move without the bindings of some process or other snapping taught, and I think my twisted subconsciousness has just joined the dots.

Still, looking on the bright side, if the parallels hold true, then this is all a bad dream, and sooner or later someone's gonna wake me up and feed me sugar-puffs.  So that's ok...