Nostalgia is a beautiful lie.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the past few years, it’s that nostalgia is a load of bollocks. It’s a trick our brains play on themselves. We’ll always miss the past, because memory is a strange, tricksy thing, and a damn fine editor.

If nostalgia was worth shit, I wouldn’t find myself, two (three?) years later, feeling nostalgia for university.

University was, pretty much without challenge, the single lowest point of my entire life. I’m still trying to recover from it. I had anxiety that was so bad I could barely leave my flat. I said about 3 words a week. I was so depressed I was barely doing anything deserving so lofty a descriptor as ‘living’. The entirety of my last year I was basically in one long, awful, strung out panic attack.

My brain, conveniently, has decided to ignore all of that. My brain remembers lazy days playing video games with my flatmates. My brain remembers how nice it was to live in a city. My brain remembers just walking to the cinema, 10 minutes away, whenever I wanted to see something.
My brain has created some halcyon super-cut of independence, friendship, and convenience. My brain has edited out the bit where I deliberately isolated myself from everyone I’d ever known. My brain has edited the bits where I forced myself to leave the room and socialise. The parts where I quietly disappeared, to be alone and to recharge. The times I was having an anxiety attack so bad I genuinely thought I was having a heart attack. Thought I was dying.

The great times were all there, of course. I did genuinely love the independence. I did genuinely love the convenience of living in a city. The quiet conviviality of living with people whose company I enjoyed. The random evenings drinking crap beer or crappier cider, playing Titanfall and passing a controller back and forth. Watching bad films. Somehow getting lost on the internet and spending hours watching dumb cat compilations. Or Russian Dash Cams. Or (only once), Eurovision. Playing cards. Walking down the canal on my own, sitting down at it’s edge and watching the sun rise. If there were to be a ‘best of’ my life, Leicester would feature in it hugely.

I remember, though, when I was there, feeling deep, painful nostalgia for my time in Sixth Form. And this brings me back, some 350 words later, to my actual point: Nostalgia is a lie. It’s a damn compelling one, though.

There’s a very specific feeling I always associate with nostalgia. Of course, language being what it is, I’ve never really found a word for it, nor an accurate way of describing it. It’s a warm, empty ache deep in the stomach. It’s very similar to the ’emotional pain’ feeling, only… different. It’s not an unwelcome feeling. It’s warm. It’s connecting me to my past and my past to me. It’s a feeling that, I’m lucky, maybe my future will be built on that connection. On that warmth.
It’s a feeling of belonging in my own history. Of occupying exactly the right spot in the Present. Of somehow looking back and sensing that I belong exactly where I am, when I am. It’s bittersweet, and that’s the closest we’ll ever come. “I was there, it was amazing. Now I’m here. I don’t know how ‘here’ will turn out yet. Let’s see, shall we?”

Nostalgia is a lie. It’s a kind editor shaping the past into the best present it could be. But, goddamn, it’s a nice lie. I could do with that kind touch in more of my perceptions. If sometimes it erases the bad, well, it can be my guest. We spend enough time obsessing over the bad. If nostalgia wants to take the reigns sometime and remind me that sometimes it was good, well. It’s worth the pain of mourning what once was.

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Quarter-Life crises are a thing now, right?

I feel very unfinished, sometimes. I am 24, and I’m still trying to work myself out. Trying to work out who I actually am. Big things. Trying to work out who I want to be, who I actually am. If I can live with the inevitable differences.
But also small things. I’ve never had a ‘style’. No real aesthetic. I was never one to decorate walls, I was never one to choose clothes based on looks over function. I went out of my way to be boring, in fact.
Some of this comes from my rather impressive lack of confidence as a kid. I was so afraid of being mocked or judged for having likes or dislikes or any kind of opinion on anything that I forced it all down and didn’t have anything. I’m still trying to sort myself out from that. I’d started to, when I began at university. I bought posters and wall decorations for the first time ever. For things that I personally liked, I personally wanted to look at. To make my living space a physical reflection of who I wanted to be. Then I get hit with the big ol’ depression stick, spent a very long time hating every single aspect of myself, and ended up somewhere back behind square one.
I always lived muted, and quiet. Maybe I was trying to make myself invisible. Either way, I internalised it to a frightening degree. I managed to cheat myself out of a few life lessons I probably should have picked up along the way. I am not a man who knows how to show or receive love. And that simple little thing has probably fucked up more of my interpersonal relationships than I could ever count. It’s probably made an awful lot of them a lot more fleeting, if nothing else – I never learnt the knack of maintaining them properly.


Most people seem to naturally grow into themselves as they age and it feels sometimes like I managed to miss that step. People I went to school or College with are getting married, having children on purpose, and I’m still trying to work out if I like the colour green, or something equally ridiculous. Maybe this is normal – I highly suspect that everyone feels like they’re just winging it all the time whilst everyone around them has a plan, but who knows. I’m also not very good at sharing. Never have been. I just project this image of quiet competence and hope everyone will just leave me to it. Generally people do. Never been sure if that’s a good thing or not. Sometimes I wonder if people think I’m cold. Maybe I am. Maybe that’s the me I need to try and accept. As I say, still trying to work it out.

Doesn’t help that people are always changing. Maybe we all spend our lives trying to play catch up with ourselves, trying to understand a previous incarnation of ourselves even as we change into something new. I don’t have an answer. Maybe it is just me and this has no value to anybody else at all. Maybe I’m somehow missing the stable understanding of ‘self’ I need to lay as a foundation to all of this. Maybe I spent so much time as kid trying to be an invisible nothing, trying to force myself to grow up before I needed to that I skipped some vital step in becoming finished.

Maybe I’m an overly dramatic shit getting far too introspective at half midnight on a Sunday morning and I should just shut up and go to bed. All I know for sure is that I don’t have anyone I routinely talk to to bounce this kind of shit off of, so I put digital messages into a digital bottle and let them loose to do what they will.

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Memories are weird, and so is nostalgia.

Sometimes a memory just up and whacks you in the back of the head.
I hear a song, and I remember being in a field. I remember the clothes I was wearing. I remember the crowd. The stage. I remember realising that, whilst I hadn’t heard this particular song before, I’d be hearing again. And again. I remember the older woman beside me, craning up to say something to me through the noise. I can’t remember what it was. I remember that she assumed I knew the band better than I did. I remember making an affirmative noise, nodding, letter her assumption remain untarnished. It seemed easier.
I can’t remember wearing an eye-patch, although I know I was. It’s what made the woman talk to me in the first place. I had torn a contact lens, and had made an eye-patch out of duct tape and toilet paper. It was that or have one eye in focus and one eye out.

Like almost all memories, the visual is the weakest. The visual is almost imagined. It’s also third person, like I was watching myself, rather than being myself. I wonder if everyone’s memories are third person. I’d assume so.

I read somewhere that every time we remember something, we overwrite it in our brains. That the next time we remember it we don’t remember the event, but the most recent remembering of that event. That each infinitesimally small change gets canonised and then replicated, time and again.
That the clearest memories are ones that are rarely revisited.
I don’t know how true that is or isn’t – I can’t remember the source and it might well be a ‘well my friend’s cousin said…’ from when I was about 11, but it stays with me.
It doesn’t seem fair, that the clearest memories are ones that are barely remembered at all. Seems paradoxical.

It annoys me that we forget things. That there are entire events that I can’t remember. I saw something I wrote years ago where I remembered drunkenly messing around on a child’s play area with my friends, after a night out, near someone’s house. I’d completely forgotten about it. I remember fragments, now – I think someone fell off a slide and hurt themselves, but it might have been a see-saw? Or one of those weird little springed chair things? I remember him lying on the ground, clutching at his back and laughing, the rest of us standing around him, above him, laughing at him and with him. I remember feeling endless, and impossible, and immortal. I remember thinking this is it, this is my life, and it’s happening here, and now, forever and ever. Not those words, maybe, but that sentiment. Somehow, I’m sure, I’m still in that moment. Trapped, endless and laughing and more than a little drunk, surrounded by my friends in the pre-dawn light. After finishing Sixth form and being accepted into university, before I left. This beautiful little pocket of time.

A beautiful little pocket of time I’d lost. Completely. I might never have remembered it. The thing is, that detail about someone hurting themselves? That came to me as I was writing this. Before then, I knew this was something that had happened and that was all. No details. And I’m not even sure this memory is real. I may have edited something that happened another time to fit a different place. I can’t trust it.

There are other memories, from similar nights and a similar time. Some of them are secure – I visit them often, or I have photographs. Some are vague. Some, I’m sure, are missing completely.
But I still remember the feeling, that summer. The vitality of it. Novels have been written about that feeling. Not by me, and not of my summer, but of that summer. Everyone has a version of it, I suppose. This beautiful, perfect, idealised time that all nostalgia I ever feel will be measured against. There are a few pockets of time with that feel throughout my life. Long summer evenings when I was a child, playing with the neighbours. Nights so late they’re early mornings, drunk and living as a teenager. Playing cards and drinking whilst watching shitty youtube videos and laughing as a student. Events and places and circumstances etched onto my brain through repetition, made light and fuzzy and happy through nostalgia and memory. Maybe more will appear and solidify as I age, but I feel the earliest will always be the strongest. The most vital. The ones I’ll always be drawn too and never, ever be able to recapture.

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This Too Shall Pass

“This too shall pass”

Apparently an old Persian proverb, or something similar. There’s a fable attached to it, about a Persian king who owned a ring upon which it was inscribed. A ring “with the power to make a happy man sad, and a sad man happy”.

It means that every material condition, positive or negative, is transitory. Is temporary. Will pass.
I suppose it’s therefore no surprise that it means different things to different people. I’ve seen as it as a kind of mantra for the depressed, for the down and out. “This too shall pass”. This is not the end. Things can get better. A message of hope, a reassurance, a promise.

But also a reminder, a caution, a… threat? You may feel happy now, but, well… “this too shall pass”.

Funnily enough, the phrase is normally used as a reassurance rather than a caution. As a species we’re very fond of platitudes and rather unfond of remembering our mortality – and that’s what it boils down too, eventually. Our mortality. “This too shall pass.”
And yet… transience is what makes things worth being. It’s what gives things worth, in a way. I’ve written before about how fragility makes things beautiful. About how small everything is, how temporary. How valuable that makes almost anything, from the right perspective. I’ve read (and had the privilege to hear) a poem about the moment of an explosion, frozen in time. It’s a poem about sadness, and death, and about joy, and life. It finds the cold beauty in the tragedy. And it does this by identifying the transience of… everything. Of life. Of a single life changing (or life ending) moment.
“This too shall pass”

So maybe it should never be seen as a caution, not as such, but a reminder. Yes, nothing is ever permanent, but that’s what makes it MATTER.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. Not really. There’s something here, and it IS something I should be able to write about, but it isn’t working for me. It’s been far too long. I’m rusty and I’m trying to hard and nothing here is feeling natural any more.
I’ve been thinking about the phrase all day – all weekend, really – and every time it comes to mind it carries something different with it. Because I’ve been using it in my head as a kind of mantra – it’s a damn sight more apt than “I’ve felt worse” which has always been my not-so-reassuring and not always so true attempt to drag myself through bad periods.
But I can’t ignore the fact that it’s also kind of unpleasant. I mean, it’s great to tell someone who is having a bad time that it will pass, but what about people having a good time of their life? It almost sounds like you’re wishing unhappiness upon them. And that sounds wrong to me. There’s an inherent beauty in the words that is trying to speak to me but I just can’t HEAR it properly at the moment.

I’m just convinced that for some reason the phrase should always be a comfort. Not just for the unhappy but for everyone. I don’t know.
The internet reliably informs me that it has been over 2 years since I posted anything, and I know that means it’s been 2 years since I wrote ANYTHING at all that wasn’t coursework. I have no idea if I’m going to publish any of this, or where I’ll stop if I do. Looking back through the things I used to write I don’t know how I ever did it. There’s a thoughtfulness there that I can’t even comprehend any more.
I used to write poetry, and looking back some of them were pretty good – acceptable, if nothing else. Then I couldn’t.
I used to write blog posts, and some of them were pretty good. They were honest, if nothing else. Maybe now I can’t.

“This too shall pass”.
So. What is that? A comfort? My inability to write something I’m happy with will pass?
Or a commiseration? My ability to write things I’m happy with has passed?
Both? Neither?
“This too shall pass”.
And something else will come to replace it. Maybe that’s the message, the reason it’s always comforting. “This too shall pass”. And then the next thing will pass, and the next, and the next, and the next…
There’s always something new. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that will do. Maybe it won’t.

Somewhere I decided I’m going to publish this. All of it. Even the weird ramble-y bits where I get a bit meta. It’s fine, Deadpool came out this year. Meta is cool, right?
Don’t know. Don’t really care.

Hi. It’s been over 2 years. It’s nice to still be here.

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I sometimes have dreams. Sometimes, these are kind of horrifying.

I had a dream the other day. It’s not very often I remember my dreams. In fact, it’s actually pretty rare. Sometimes I’ll remember a single image or feeling for an hour or so. Normally nothing. Occasionally I’ll remember a single ‘scene’ of my dream. Very, very rarely, I’ll remember what appears to be the entire thing.

To me, these rare dreams always seem really, really strange. Like finding diamonds mixed in with your cereal. To everyone else maybe it’s just a common, everyday experience. Either way, I like to write about my dreams when I remember them. Even if, like this one, they’re more nightmare-ish than anything else. I find them genuinely interesting, and I find myself almost unable to think about anything else until I’ve done something with them. It is, therefore, probably a good thing for my productivity that my remembering the things is a rare occurrence.

In dreams, context is a luxury. Whilst dreaming, this timeline was shot to hell. I was simultaneously dreaming the ‘history’ which gave meaning to the ‘present’. In trying to write this down, this quickly became a problem. As such, I’ve simply presented this as a  linear narrative with exposition presented after the fact. Similarly, I can’t really describe just how brutally vivid this dream was without going into rather graphic places. It seemed all too real, is the point. Anyway:

I snapped my handgun up, and fired twice. Two of the aliens fell to the ground. Still fragile, then. They were faster this time, stronger. The fighting was brutal. Last time was, in hindsight, almost laughably simple. They had been slow, clumsy, weak. Even an unarmed individual could, if prepared, triumph. Now they were dancing around the battlefield almost as fast as the eye could follow, each blow felling someone. Punching through flesh and bone, leaving bodies in their wake broken, bleeding. Death was coming quick and brutal.Horribly deformed corpses littered the ground, missing heads, or torn in half, or with holes punched through their chests. Luckily, almost everyone was armed. Last time had been an eye-opener. Our gunshots punctuated the melee, filled as it was with screams and shouts and dying moans.

The shock of it had almost killed humanity the first time they attacked. They were weak, yes, but they appeared almost everywhere, simultaneously, without warning. Our defences were non-existent. Before they were exterminated, the human race was decimated. We were still in shock, picking up the pieces, trying to come to terms with our new place in the universe. Guns had been handed out almost indiscriminately. If attacked again, the logic was, we could not lose so many. Truthfully, nobody really believed it could happen again. Nobody wanted to. It was easier to compartmentalise it away, pretend it hadn’t happened.

This was where that thinking got us. The city through which I had been walking was covered in corpses. Looking around, however, I realised we were still winning – and quickly. Again, the initial shock had been the largest killer. Our projectile weaponry was winning the day, even against the upgraded enemy. The relief was palpable – and, of course, brief. The dream, in the way only dreams can, shifted in an instant. A beam shot from the sky, travelling randomly, engulfing enemy and ally indiscriminately. Whoever was touched was immediately covered in a writhing mass of what looked like dry leaves, racing around their surface area, before burning away. Somebody throwing a match into a dry whirlwind of dead leaves. As the effect faded, whatever had been there before was gone. Instead, was something new. A badly proportioned, humanoid figure, metallic, gold or silver, and distinctly UNfriendly. The beam, one of hundreds to flash out of the sky, had transferred almost half of the melee into these new foes. In an instant, victory turned toward failure. Our numerical superiority had been destroyed.

Also gone, as it turned out, was the aliens frailty. Bullets sparked off bodies, but didn’t even slow them down for an instant. I turned and ran, reloading as I went, although I couldn’t tell you where the extra clip had come from. Everything was super vivid, more real than reality. I could feel the cold metal of the weapon, smell the blood, see the thick dust kicked up from the fighting. Ahead of me, something new entered the dream. Red lasers, the stereotypical videogame shorthand for ‘enemy sniper ahead’. I saw the beam alight on a fellow survivor fleeing in front of, thicken, intensify, and, seemingly, do nothing. The survivor continued running, unfazed. Reassured, I continued in my fleeing, desperate to reach what small cover I could see ahead of me. In my turn, I was hit myself by the laser. First, I felt nothing. Then, as the beam intensified, it felt like everything inside me was melting. I felt my heart speed up to a thrum, I couldn’t breath. I felt like I was bursting, liquefying. Then the beams burst was over, and I felt almost okay again. I knew, however, in the complete certainty of the dreamer, that another blast and I would die screaming. I continued running, now toward the corner of the street, taking the brief opportunity to look around at the battle. It was carnage. There was no fighting back against this. Last time had nearly wiped us out. This time, I realised, there was no turning back. I could no longer see any survivors. As the desolation crashed over me, the futility of my running, the certain inevitability of my own imminent death, a second beam landed on me. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was over. I couldn’t bear to experience that melting feeling again. I couldn’t handle dying like that. In a single motion, I swept my gun under my chin, and I fired. As the gun moved, I just had time to wonder what I was doing, whether the temple would have been better, or the maybe the roof of my mouth. It was too late to change my trajectory. I fired. And nothing happened.

Eyes I hadn’t noticed were crunched shut shot open as I reflexively pulled the trigger again. This time the gun dissolved under my hand, just as the landscape around me had already dissolved. I was floating in a black void, bereft of anything at all, and it suddenly struck me, for the first time, that I had been dreaming. And I awoke, feeling a strange detachment from it all. You’d expect to feel relieved, or frightened, but instead all I could think of was the old saying that you never die in dreams, and how, rather than waking in the instant of death, my brain had instead simply thrown me out of the dream.

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This is a personal and current discussion on my anxiety and depression. Having said that, if anybody want to share this for whatever reason, I am not going to stop them. Sorry to everybody I should have told before.

I decided I had to write this about 3 days ago. Since then, I’ve been putting it off, because it is, without a doubt, one of the least pleasant things I’ve ever made myself do. Which is strange, because, in another way, I’ve been writing this in my head for weeks. Every time I’m alone with nothing to do, before sleep, whenever things are allowed to creep in. I imagine how this could go. Certain turns of phrase. Eloquence and certainty that I can never quite remember.
I’m not going to match that eloquence. This is going to be messy and pointless and dirty, but it needs to be said. It needs to be used as a pressure relief valve.
Writing as relief is not something new to me. PUBLISHING something written as such is. It’s a fucking stupid idea and I’m going to regret it immediately, but there it is. I need to do this to show I still have some fucking control. Forgive me my self-indulgence. Please.

I suffer from anxiety. I suffer from depression. I suffer from all the unpleasant little results of the two mingling together and feeding. I can trace it back to September, to the start of this academic year. At the time I was in and out of hospital, for liver problems, which I was happy to speak about, and heart palpitations and tachycardia (a fast heart), which I wasn’t. In fact, for anybody outside my family reading, this will be the first they know of it. The liver sorted itself out, and the heart was diagnosed, eventually, as normal. In fact, the symptoms were most likely part of a horrible feedback loop: I was anxious, which sped up my heart, which made me more anxious, cycle ad infinitum. I spent my first term of my second year at uni terrified. Anything I did, any little excursion out of my house made me acutely aware of my heart rate. Eventually I was afraid to leave my house at all. Even when the heart issue was nullified, and I stopped being worried about that, the fear of leaving my house remained. It had morphed into a general fear of being around people, of being somewhere unfamiliar, of not feeling comfortable. I stopped doing anything outside of university. I’d go to my lectures, I’d come home. I’d only leave my room for essentials. Then I stopped going to uni unless I absolutely had too. I spent weeks at a time never leaving my room. Making up illness or hospital appointments to escape lectures, or just not going in at all.

After Christmas, when I was back at uni, I realised that nobody was even trying to invite me out any more. I understand why – after 4 months of me assuring everyone I’d be there and then making no attempt at all, after 4 months of slowly disappearing, I’d have done the same. I am absolutely not the person I used to be. I can’t remember how to be that person. I’m terrified that next time I go home, the next time I actually see all the friends I’ve left, they’ll realise that. We won’t understand each other any more. I’ll be alone.

I am in a horrible pit where I can’t bring myself to leave my flat, and then hate myself for failing to do anything. I am in a place where I cannot tell anybody how I feel because I’m afraid they might desert me, and in doing so I am simultaneously forcing them away and making myself feel stupid for doing so. I would rather ‘choose’ to be alone than be driven away.

I am writing this because earlier this week I nearly had a full-blown panic attack in a supermarket because I believed an entire building full of random strangers was looking at me and judging me. Earlier this week I couldn’t have a normal conversation with one of my best friends in the entire damn planet because I was afraid of socialising, of making real contact with one of the few people I ever really talk to. I told them I wasn’t up to it and then spent an hour calling myself stupid for driving them away. For not taking the opportunity to talk. I am writing this because sometimes, when going down the stairs to my door I find myself shaking, nauseous, because I am about to go outside. I am writing this because the times I’m actually okay are shrinking on a nearly daily basis.

I am writing this because otherwise I will continue to put on a facade when I’m acting fine with people who might notice. Because otherwise I will continue to isolate myself and that is something I CAN NOT do anymore. I am writing this because it is a safe way for me to relieve the pressure in my head.

I am writing this because even when you’re isolated, and even when you don’t want to tell anybody how you feel, you are not completely alone. As long as people still share stories, such as Allie Brosh [Pt.1, Pt.2] (of Hyperbole and a Half), Zoe Quinn (developer of games including the free ‘Depression Quest’), and various others (you may have seen these before), you’re forced to realise that nobody is alone in feeling like shit over this. But you can still be alone in DEALING with it.

I’ve tried that. It’s fucking dumb. I can’t recommend it to myself any more.

My choice of links there might seem strange. They might seem specific, unnecessary. Each one of them resonated with me hugely. Each one left me in tears because I wasn’t expecting to read something that hit me close. They are there because they are more eloquent than I am. They say what I want to, but cannot.

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Early memories.

I am young. Two, maybe Three years old. I am sitting in a car, looking out of the window. It isn’t a memory, as such, but an awareness. We are on a highway, and the road has been dug through a hill. Big slabs of concrete hold back the dirt on either side of the road. This memory is unreliable. It tries to tell me this happened in France, on a family holiday, but it also has me looking out the left side window, straight into the wall. The French drive on the right. The two are mutually exclusive, impossible to reconcile, but they are there. The memory is unreliable.
I have other memories of the trip, but these are not my own. I see these others through the lens of a camera, an old home video. Here I am, throwing a ball at a tent wall and laughing as the curves send it rolling back down toward me. Here I am at Disneyland. Here I am, in old grainy footage of a video camera.

Now I’m four, maybe. Another camping trip. This time in the UK, the New Forest. It is at this campsite I learn how to swim. There were two trips here in my extreme youth. They blur together. I’m unsure which memories are from which trip. I was very young. The memories are few, and hazy. I owned a little action figure – an Action Man. You wound him up and he’d swim along water. Outstretched arms, unbending and strong. My mother used this toy as my example. Move your arms like Action Man. You can do it. My father splits it up into challenges, sets a reward at each one. Swim this far, and you can have that reward. Bribery? It works.
I see evening dew on the ground. I ask what it is, why the grass is wet when it hasn’t rained in days. My father answers me as best he can. Later I am still looking in wonder at the drops clinging to the grass. My father is still around, somewhere. He is wearing flip-flops, and the noise cuts through the happy chatter of a campsite in Summer.
In the mornings, we eat breakfast. Eggs cooked on a camping stove, eaten on a little blue table that folds into a briefcase. A table that is stolen 15 years later when my mother is camping in North Norfolk. I am eating a soft-boiled egg from a plastic plate with a built-in eggcup. It has humpty dumpty on it. I have toast soldiers. A bee lands on my hand, and stings me. It is the only time I have been stung by a bee.

At home, this time – my old house. We moved when I was six. I am much younger than that here. I want to say this memory is after school, but it could have been earlier – nursery, pre-school. I am playing dead on the floor in front of the TV, trying to hold my breath. I want to know what my cat would do if I were to die, how she’d react. She does nothing, continuing to wash herself on the other side of the room. I convince myself this is because she can hear my stifled breathing, my heartbeat. I want to believe that if I really were dead, there would be some reaction. I hear a noise from further in the house. I react quickly, almost guiltily. I don’t want my mother to think I’m being silly.

I am upstairs in my bedroom. I have been sent to sleep, but I cannot. I never could. I am sitting on my windowsill in my pajamas, looking down at older children playing in the street. I think I am invisible to them. Of course, I am not. They eventually realise they are being watched, and start jeering up at me. I can hear them through the glass. I am completely unfazed. I don’t move from the spot. I watch them until they get bored, and then I return to bed.

My Father is reading a book to me. It is The Hobbit. He is trying to record himself reading it, and although – as far as I’m aware – he succeeds, I never learn what becomes of the tapes. I want to remember this recording being made on a small toy tape player/recorder that was bought for me as a child, second-hand, an audio book of ‘SuperTed’ left over from the previous owner. I cry my eyes out as my Father recounts the death of a beloved character. This shocks him, I think. He had not expected my reaction to be this violent.

I have starting learning to read. They start off giving us picture books, with no words – we are supposed to tell the stories ourselves. I wonder how this is supposed to help. Later Biff, Chip and Kipper. Then further still. I advance quickly. I remember lying on the floor of the front room, singing out the words as I read them. Why I thought singing was a sensible thing to do is beyond me. One night, when I can’t sleep, I pull myself into the centre of my room and sit on the floor, reading a child’s encyclopaedia. This starts a lifelong trend of reading instead of sleeping.

My father writes me a poem as part of a birthday gift. The gift the poem refers too is a piece of Star Wars Episode One merchandise. It might be my last birthday in the old house, but I could be mistaken. At the time the poem was ancillary, read and then discarded. Now, the poem itself is what I remember. I kept it, although whether this was my idea I cannot remember. I doubt it was. I think I still have it, collected in a shoebox at the bottom of an old wardrobe. I have never known my Father to write poetry. It is an echo, evidence of a person separate to myself. A man beyond his relation to me. A creative endeavour made entirely by him and given to me.

It is Christmas morning. I am up early, excited. I am downstairs, in front of the fire, surrounded by wrapping paper. I am playing with a Spiderman toy set. It is a house, or maybe just a wall, with points for Spiderman and all the other figures to climb. There are traps to avoid, people to rescue. I am dragged away from it to eat breakfast. Christmas fry up. A tradition. This is the first I can remember. This is the first Christmas I have memories of. Later, in the evening, my grandparents come visiting. I believe this is a different Christmas – maybe later, or maybe earlier. The memory is not as concrete as the Spiderman morning. Less sure of itself. I unwrap Batman action figures. This is probably the year the awful Batman and Robin came out, 1997. The Batman figures are frost themed. There is a motor-bike vehicular thing, in the shape of a wolf. When I press a hidden button, the nose shoots out. It takes me maybe a fortnight to lose the nose.

A less happy memory: I am in my first school. Reception, maybe, or else my first year: Year One. There are tiny little rubber dinosaurs that the boys like to play with when we can. They are maybe 5 cm tall, and probably less. I have been stealing them and taking them home. I am hiding them under the sofa in the living room, with other toys that seem to live there. Why I am stealing them, I don’t know. My memory wants to tell me I was peer pressured into it by another boy, but I think my memory is trying to soften the shame. I think it’s possible it was all me. I was going through my dinosaur phase, and I had several plastic dinosaurs of my own. I think my father once mentioned, off-hand, as part of the game, that an imagine T-rex/ triceratops fight would be fun. I had a T-rex figure, but not a triceratops. I remember thinking that if I took a triceratops, I could make it happen. Eventually I told my mother, but I didn’t tell her I’d stolen them. I said somebody else had, that he’d then buried them around the playground and the field, and I was simply reclaiming them. My mother let me believe I’d fooled her, let me embellish on my story day after day, make it more fantastical, more ridiculous. Eventually I reach an event horizon, of sorts. I’ve made my story so ridiculous that I know she can’t believe it. I think at this point I’ve got myself tunnelling through the concrete surface of the playground, and then fixing the patterns so nobody could notice. I break. On the way home from school, when she asks me if there is anything else I can say about the dinosaurs, I tell her everything. I cry. There is no shouting, but I feel terrible. I am told I have to return them all the next day, as soon as I get into school. I tell my parents that I can’t, what if the teacher sees me, what if I get in trouble. What if, what if. I am told that if nobody sees me, that’s that, but if I’m caught, I have to explain everything. The rubber dinosaurs are in a small Happy Shopper paper bag. The kind penny sweets used to come in. It weighs on me for the entire evening, and night. I am not caught.
It is a memory I return to often. Only in hindsight am I thankful for the way it was handled. Instead of being called on my obvious lies, I was allowed to work it through until my own guilt and shame (for both the theft and the lies) won out. It was a lesson I earned, one I learned rather than was told.

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