I know now when it all started. Looking back.  It was with weekend day trips. Never trust a weekend day trip. And listen hard if you hear these words: Let’s get some country air! Be suspicious.

Be On Your Guard.

I was packed into the car weekend after weekend, driven away from the tenements, the New Town, the Old Town….hang on, we’re going Out of Town. Picking at my nails and making pictures in the windows with my breath HUUUUHHHHH.

I should’ve kept a closer eye on it all.

And then there was always The Arrival.  Driver’s seat jerked forward, squeezing myself out the back, wondering why they were peering into the dust-smeared windows of yet another dank-looking cottage that was far away from home.

I should’ve kept a closer eye on it all.

Then one day it became clear. 

We were leaving our life, leaving our flat. Cheerio to my boxroom cabin bed with the window through to the kitchen where I could listen in to women cackling long past my bedtime.

But this would be The Good Life. There would be vegetables to grow. So what? There could be a shiny, new bike. Hmmmm. There could be a pet. Something. Anything.

There would be a New School. Oh.

Life is Over.

I gave it my best, I want you to know that. Don’t think I didn’t.

I rolled around the floor several times a week.

Maximum volume. I threw around a lot of “You’re ruining my life.” Peppered with the “I hate yous”

Nothing worked.

This would be a New Life. What was wrong with the old, I wondered? Was there something I hadn’t noticed?

I should’ve kept a closer eye on it all.

I was 10. 

I was starting school after the Easter holidays aged 11 and two days. My two-day old birthday badge was pinned to my sweatshirt on the first day of New School. Conversation-starter.

Apparently.

I’d left a big city primary. This New School had 24 pupils. Could that even be called a school? Pfft.

There was no number 27 bus to negotiate, money to clatter in the slot, sing songing “a half please” and always on pain of death remembering: “Thank you Driver”, just like my granny always said.

A mini-bus would collect me. From my front door.

I smiled and made sure my badge was showing.

To the two people already sitting who greeted me with complete silence. Silence is the loudest noise. The blood rushed in my ears. My toes curled in my shoes.

Ten minutes later at the village a few bodies tumbled in together.

“Where’s Stevie?” was the topic of conversation for the short yet seemingly Forever Time it took for the bus to wind down the hill.

Where was this Stevie?

Another Arrival.

Walking into the playground.

Wide smile. “My name is Stevie, what’s your name?”

Said the girl.

And that was that.

The badge was a conversation-starter. Stevie was 10, not 11 for six weeks. I was a teenager before her, turned 16, 18 and 21 first as well.

Now, this Easter as we celebrate our 31 years Palsaversary, the tables are turned.

She writes in my birthday cards to her Older Pal.

I write that I love her.

It was a New Life. The Good Life in the end.

And just when you think Life Is Over.

And I did. Someone will come along who will burst your heart.


Ezmie McCutcheon
A middle way from childhood
Inside Scotland

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I gave it my best, I want you to know that.