Monday, August 23, 2010
2 pebbles and a piece of knotted string
When I was little and I didn't understand how the body worked I was easily influenced by the Numskulls. The Numskulls were in a fantastic cartoon in the Beano, and they were tiny little people who lived in the body and made everything work.
I honestly believed that the stomach had a big wooden table on it, and all the food you swallowed would fall down onto the big wooden table and get chopped up by the little men standing all around it. When the food was in small enough pieces the little men would shunt it off the sides and into little tubes which were designated for different types. This meant that if the vegetable pipe was full up and I couldn't eat all my nasty brocolli, I was still perfectly able to have chocolatey pudding because it went in a different pipe. Resourceful, non?
I was a very runty child, I distinctly remember there being a phase in my life where I weighed 2 stone 13 for a very very long time. Mum and I used to weigh me weekly to see if there had been any change but there wasn't. Well, there must have been at some point because I now weigh distinctly more than that. Colossally more than that. But at the time it seemed to stretch on forever not quite being able to weigh 3 stone. My Dad used to say that my limbs looked like bits of string with knots tied in them.
We were quite an outdoorsy brood of children, my siblings and I, big fans of tree climbing and playing imaginary games. I think it was a consequence of a) living in the countryside, b) having parents that didn't believe we needed a games console. I am very grateful for this. Apart from the fact that now I cannot even play worms without getting my ass kicked, let alone Halo, I think it did good things for who I turned out to be.
My older sister and I spent a long time playing outdoors. We had a favourite tree in the corner of our garden and we used to use it as an aeroplane. The game of aeroplane was an interesting one as sibling rivalry dictated the parts we had, and me being runty always made the outcome inevitable! I was always the Captain - on the surface this sounds pretty cool! My sister was the repairman - a good deal you would think? Well, no, not exactly. The role of Captain meant me sitting in a particular fork of the tree and not moving because I was driving. The role of handyman was more about clambering all around the branches fixing the different dilemmas that inevitable occurred during my clearly shoddy reign at the helm. Had our little game been a TV series I'm fairly sure it would have focused on the ineptitude of the rag doll at the wheel and the masterful heroism of the agile handyman.
The one time I was allowed to be the handyman I fell out of the aircraft and narrowly missed some canine excrement beneath. That was the first and last time I was allowed near the tool kit of twigs and leaves. It remained under invisible lock and key after that and I was returned to my seat. The trouble with being Captain was that you couldn't get too carried away. A particularly exhausting and perilous trip through an asteroid belt that required lots of extensive manoeuvres could quite easily result in you snapping off most of the controls near your seat - meaning it was a full season before you could even use the indicators again.
I was quite a gullible child. We used to have a climbing frame in my back garden and my big sister once successfully convinced me that if I jumped off it holding a carrier bag it would act as a parachute - it did not. However, always eager to believe in the good in people, I agreed to try again based on her suggestion that I hadn't held the bag right. It was a miracle I didn't break anything - but given that I only weighed 2 stone 13 I probably wasn't heavy enough to make gravity take notice.
It wasn't just me that was easily taken in by my sister's wily ways - she once also punched me in the face, making my nose bleed, and then told my parents I'd run into her fist. They believed her. I didn't know whether to be pleased they thought I could run with that alarming accuracy into the face of danger, or fist if you prefer, or annoyed that they thought me capable of such incredible stupidity. But at the time I was more focused on whether swallowing the vast quantities of blood was dangerous or going to help me bulk up a bit.
I never really played with dolls as a kid - we had a few to experiment being maternal with but I gave mine to our dog after a few months and he used to carry her round by her hair. She seemed to like it and so I just let them be. I was never really one for taking care of an inanimate object when you could be off having an adventure in the fields or going river jumping.
River jumping involved finding a spot in the river that ran through our front garden and up into the corn fields, and hoping it was deep enough to take you without a broken bone, before plunging in off the bridge and getting lots of street cred from your friends for it. I was always a bit small to be allowed to play but it didn't stop me being there to cheer on the others who were brave/stupid enough to have a go. This was all good until one day a girl broke her arm and we were totally banned from doing it any more. Stupid girl.
Essentially I am a terrible specimen. I live entirely in a world of fantasy in my own head and have never showed any particular physical prowess. Once, when Dad and I were playing tennis, he served the ball to me and it came straight at my face. Rather than move I just watched it smack me straight in the nose and cause another torrent of red life juice to come streaming down my chin. Not the best sort of reaction to danger but then potentially my body just wanted to test my exact limitations based on the fact that I weighed less than my Dad's leg and had successfully survived two parachute attempts. Either way we didn't really play tennis again and although he has had the good grace to let me join his cricket team, I often field in the deep. Very deep.
Lord knows when it was that I turned to 'funny' to give me something to focus on. It's a damn good job we live in a world where it's ok to have no real skill other than to think about things differently to other people and occasionally make them laugh. If it wasn't for this I think I would re-read all of the above and just give up now based on the fact that physically I am a walking disaster. Right now I'm hoping that when I stand up my hip will have settled down back into it's pouch like a contented Joey and I won't have to spend the day trying to figure out a comfortable walking pattern that doesn't cause the sort of grinding noises I imagine are only found elsewhere in the MacDonalds bone and meat grinding plant.
Here's to a healthy team of Numskulls.