Tuesday, 14 December 2010

My Friend Next Door

My friend next door wouldn't come to my house and knock and ask if I would come out to  play - he would stand in his back garden and shout in his pre-pubescent high pitched voice PAAUU-LLAAA! This was such a regular occurrence that their parrot, who was often put out on the coal bunker in his big metal bird cage for some air, would imitate the sound.

Our back gardens were long and thin and separated by a waist high rickety fence. His side of the fence was formal fish pond set in neatly clipped lawn edged with flowerbeds and vegetables growing in rows in weed free soil. Our side of the fence was overgrown and neglected. Our side of the fence was paradise.

The bottom of our garden was a place where my dad would dump stuff - old beds, the decaying remains of what had once been a shed, tangled bits of rusting metal, some great lumps of concrete torn from I don't where and an old Belling cooker. This was where we made our camps.

We fought battles there (mostly in our heads) to protect our camp from the enemy (my big sister, who in reality would have been hanging out with her mates at the Rec and had not even the remotest interest in our world of rotten planks and plastic sheets). It was our world. A world we created for ourselves where the idea of having to grow up didn't even exist.

We were both escaping from reality. He was the offspring of a single parent in a time when that was  scandalous. He lived with his mum and his grandparents and for the life of me I couldn't work out why he had "two mums". He was fat.

The reality from which I fled was the violent exchanges between my father and his hormonal, larger than life, eldest daughter.

Physical punishment was still quite normal then but when my sister would answer back and fail to live up to the expectation of my father that "when you're  in these four walls you do as I say", he would lose control. You always knew when he lost control. His face would change. He would stick his curled tongue between bared teeth and bite down on it. It terrified me. I loved him and I hated him.

Later, when I would become the recipient of his angry, uncontrolled outbursts, my friend next door would be there for me. He would help me to see things from my dad's point of view. He would take away my anger at myself for not being good.

Both our houses have been demolished now and my friend next door is a grown man with a beautiful wife and two fabulous children.  I wonder if sometimes, like me, when the demands of life are pulling in different directions, he still feels that childhood memory urging him to 'make camp' and escape.

This post is a response to Sleep is for the Weak's writing prompt - Remembering


  1. I really enjoyed this post, thank you for sharing a part of your childhood.

  2. Me too! So readable and so evocative of days gone by. Took me right back to the bottom of my Grandparents garden where we would build dens. Magical writing :)

  3. Such bittersweet memories to have. Thank you for sharing them though x

  4. Such a beautiful and bitter sweet post!

  5. A really stirring and touching post, beautifully written xx


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