10 Jan 2014

Girlfriend or Grapes?

I awoke in a hospital bed, a young nurse stood on a chair beside my pillow, reaching up to open the curtains which had been shut tight for the previous three days. I have no memory of those three days, and my recovery from meningitis was not anticipated

Still an innocent sixth form grammar school boy, the antibiotics pumped into my system had gathered all the potential pimples from my entire body into one huge spot at the end of my nose. With one deft squeeze the nurse dispatched it as I blushed with teenage embarrassment.

I am told that at the onset of this illness I had been carried screaming from the house, my language so offensive that an exorcist might have been more appropriate than the ambulance which arrived late. I am also told that, whilst in the hospital, two school friends of mine arrived carrying grapes. Unable to find me, they sat down on the hospital steps and ate the grapes before returning to school to tell everyone I had died. This would explain the look of alarm on the headmaster's face some weeks later when I went back to continue my studies.

Before long a third friend came to visit me at home. Unlike myself, he had decided against staying on into the sixth form and had started work in the local coal mines, an option most grammar school boys in that town took anyway, regardless of the opportunity of further education. I shall refer to him as “T”.

“T” and I first met at the back of a maths class. We were both heavily into the early James Bond novels and secret agents, which explains why, regardless of there being a teacher present, I tried to sneak up behind him and grab him in a headlock. Unfortunately for me, “T” was already fairly well acquainted with the basics of kung fu. His defensive karate chop practically took my head off, splitting my lower lip in two. Covered in blood I made a swift exit to the toilets with a rather worried “T” following on behind, no doubt secretly proud of the blow he'd delivered, whilst the teacher, in an obvious state of denial at what was happening in his class, carried on with the lesson. From that moment on me and “T” were close.

“T”'s ideas on how to accelerate my full recovery involved something much more potent than grapes. As a young working man he'd now started to earn a wage, and pursue the social life which went with it. In other words, Girls. And to this end he had fixed me up with a blind date. I shall refer to her as “A”

My blind date was also my first real date, such was the problem of living out in the country and attending an all boy's school. We strolled around the grounds of Newstead Abbey whilst a small entourage of her and “T”'s friends followed at a discreet distance, checking me out like some kind of Sicilian family might. Of course they were not Sicilian, but the mining communities were tight like that.

“A” was five foot six inches of sixteen year old factory girl; a striking juxtaposition of jet black hair and bright blue eyes. A seamstress by day, a Mod by night even as her Midlands working class Greaser roots showed through. I was a slight of build sixth former, eager to grow my hair longer than school rules would permit, bored with A-level Chaucer by day, alone at night, sketching, strumming. “A” was just what the hospital doctor should have ordered. She jump started my hitherto dormant teenage years, her nicotine fingers impatient to explore the content of my jeans, taking a firm grip and guiding me through all the gears. I was quite shocked, and I needed to be.

She was much better than grapes.

Copyright Ian G Craig.

Below: "T".