Cold and hungry, the Teller reminisces . . .
“I discovered very early, almost as soon as I could walk, that most traps are built by adults yet, in bewildering displays of hypocrisy, they insist on being the ones to teach their children how to deal with those self-same traps. They might persuade us that, being the architects of so many evils and the main perpetrators of the chaos, they are probably best placed to equip their offspring with inside knowledge on how to avoid them.
But then again probably not, for despite rigorous drilling by their parents, none of my childhood playmates was ever heard whinging or whining about riding a bike down a vertical hill because his mother fretted he would fall and break his neck. Or heed his father’s command and think better of jumping from the shed roof with a tablecloth taped to his shoulders, acting the superhero, and thus avoid breaking a leg and being crippled for life.”
Adults bang on endlessly about this or that danger, always laying the blame for accidents in the laps of aliens, malevolent devils and the Russians, never their own. It was the Russians who let out all the mental people to prey on children and it was aliens who made car drivers blind so we were never to play ball in the street even when the recreation ground was closed. “Don’t jump on the furniture, come away from the edge, sit still, be quiet, stop daydreaming” – a battalion of Dos and Don’ts lined up across the battlefield of our daily lives champing at the bit to join forces with the twin beasts, Mishap and Mayhem, whilst chanting the mantra “For Your Own Good”.
I’m sure none of my friends were ever the unwitting victims of a trap. I think I was the only exception.
The damage to my body was not caused by the fall; well, not directly. The malignancy was too insidious, too spiteful to be attributable to one specific hit. No, my “little accident” only started the process.
We were playing war games. Uncle B was barking idiotic instructions from below, pretending to be a fighter pilot, while I crawled and slithered over the slimy roof to retrieve a balsa wood aeroplane he had chucked so high it had caught the breeze and landed on the roof just out of his reach. After a weekend with uncle B, my eyes always streamed and my cheeks ached with the gut-busting genius of his japes. He was master of the practical joke and the snide aside. My mother, his sister, always went to bed early because, she said, she could only cope with so much fun. It was hilarious, he would chase her from the parlour arms swinging, waddling like a monkey, with a glint in his little piggy eye.
When I climbed down, paralysed with laughter at his impersonation of a German “arse bandit at two o’clock” a pretend pistol to his temple, begging for his life; my wet hand slipped from his grip and I landed sideways across some railings. The drop was not great, three feet maximum, but we were laughing so hard neither of us noticed blood oozing through my jumper, spreading across it like an invading army. One of the rails, cut off with a saw to a jagged point, had pierced me just below the ribs and although not deep, the doctor at the infirmary said an inch or two either way and the situation would have been a good deal more serious. As it was, after a night of observation, the usual blood tests and X-rays, I was stitched up and packed off home with a tin of painkillers.” – continued on Thursday 19th January 2012