“Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!” – Father Jack Hacket, Father Ted.
Hi there girls and boys, I hope you’re well.
Next week I go wild camping. This is technically illegal in the UK but lots of folk do it. I’m heading to Kielder with a Youtuber who does this sort of thing occasionally, and also my friend Claire. We’re not being filmed, at least that’s the plan. The last time a camera operator told me that I was life guarding at an outdoor pool in Yorkshire. My co-lifeguard was interviewed for the tv but since I don’t like myself on video or in images I declined, telling him I wanted nothing of me in the tv segment. When it was shown, there I was. Ok, it was from behind, camera at floor level, me walking to the door and leaning against it, artfully done, showing off my lycra-clad arse, so it wasn’t that bad. Claire is a friend that occasionally goes camping with her husband, but in a campervan. Neither of us has slept under the stars. Much like ridicule, it’s nothing to be scared of. I’m told that on any given night there can be thirty or so people in the forest. What there isn’t is a predator. Here in the UK we’ve no bears, only the timidest of wildcats and even then only in Scotland, and only one venomous snake, which you don’t find in forests. The worst you could be attacked by is a cloud of midges. Or one of the other thirty campers, driven to bloodlust by lack of internet.
We’re doing this as we plan to work up to solo camping eventually. I’m not scared of the dark, although as Stephen King has said, make sure you have your feet in the bed and not dangling over the edge, as even though you know there is nothing under the bed, the thing under the bed will have your foot. So no, the dark is fine. The Youtuber does a few experiments to see if he can hear anything paranormal, so we’ll see. I’ll talk about all things ghostly in another blog. No, my concern is the toilet facilities. Let’s be honest here, I like a nice clean toilet. My Durham place has one, in the Tynemouth place I’ve three. I pride myself on keeping them as a room where, if you didn’t have to perform life’s functions, you could easily enjoy a book. But out there in the unforgiving wilderness, no such delights await. I’ve yet to ask him what you do when nature calls, but no doubt we’ll find out.
Of course this is all dependant on lockdown. Except if isn’t a lockdown, is it Boris, you horrible twat? A lockdown is what New Zealand did, we have the typically British wishy washy approach, no surprise when we have wishy washy politicians.
Then there is food. I don’t expect to go hunting for deer, as I’m more civilised that the fuckers that shoot giraffe and elephant for fun. A tin of stew will do me fine. Ah, say people that know me, you do like a crusty bread slice, and where are the chips coming from? I expect there will be a forest delivery service, perhaps carried out by a band of voles or the odd owl. But not at the same time, they don’t mix well.
I’ve just returned from visiting my foster parents, who live on the Isle of Skye. It’s always an absolute pleasure to see them but the weather, as we say in the northeast, was blowing a hooly. Anna’s hair took a beating. Still, the food as ever was superb, and the new Aga cooker kept us all warm as the wind whipped and hooted outside. It’s certainly the place to go if you want a bit of time away from the town. But..no internet. The aforementioned potential axe murderers of Kielder wouldn’t like it. I did see a blip of a connection while setting up the laptop in order to show dad1 something, but to go online wasn’t why I was there. I prefer to spend time with them and talk rather than watch a screen slide by.
I’ll explain the whole mum and dad 1/2 thing.
My parents were killed, well let’s be honest again, murdered by the ira in Belfast. (I won’t even do the scum the service of capitalising their abbreviation). Dad was from Manchester but mum was a local, and they met when dad was posted there while serving with the army. He left the service after marrying mum, and a year before I was born. Despite attempts to find out exactly why the idiots in the ira would want to kill a Catholic couple, we still don’t know. I suspect he was working for the security services, and my discussions with people in black suits from London has strengthened this idea. I was aged one so don’t remember either of them.
After the explosion, I’m told I was plucked from the burning house by a neighbour and taken to safety. I made the effort to track him down when I was 16 and we still keep in touch. I was adopted by the couple I now call mum1 and dad1. As was the done thing then, babies were offered to foster families all over the UK, and that is how I ended up in northeast England. It was they who decided they would tell me as soon as was practicable that I was adopted, and left it to me as to what to call them. Mum and dad was what I had been saying, so continued to do so. When I turned eight they decided that they would retire from teaching and move to Aberdeen, where mum1 had her family. I was asked if I wanted to go as well. You can imagine that for an 8 year old, with her school and friends, moving to a new area must have been very confusing, scary and traumatic. Perhaps wrongly this was left up to me. It seems the pull of what I knew won out, and from the diaries I had just started to write I can see that I was a little bit angry that they were trying, in my eyes, to make me leave my friends. So I decided that I’d stay, not really understanding that I would need new foster parents.
Along came a couple whom I now call mum2 and dad2. Obviously it wasn’t as simple as that, but I was spared the no doubt the legally complicated transfer of a little girl from one set of adults to another. I needn’t have worried, as it seemed to me at the time that I fitted in right away. From what I’ve been told I did, school continued, life went on. I can remember missing mum1 and dad1 terribly at first, I was never off the phone to Aberdeen, but after a while I was more than ok. I decided to start calling each set mum and dad 1 & 2 when I left home, got my own place and went to uni.
I’ve mentioned I was left a bit of money which is how at 18 I owned three apartments, the entire top floor of a new block. Shall I say how much or is that vulgar? Dad had taken out a huge insurance policy, fearing that his work may put his wife and baby in danger. It seems he was also quite a whizz with stocks and shares, meaning that when I became 18 it was all mine. Bank accounts had been set up in my name. I had no idea about most of this until I was 14 or so.. Even today I don’t really care about that sort of stuff, it all seems at the whim of what some traders feel about the pound or dollar, and is beyond me. Cash now, I can see a figure, that’s all well and good, I can go the the cashpoints or login to online banking. It’s ..erm.. a lot of money. One day I’ll understand what to do with it, but it feels like it isn’t mine to delve into.
I’ve only returned to Northern Ireland once. That was to see the funeral of Martin McGuiness, the co-leader of the murdering fuckwits. I’ll be going again when the other wanker, Gerry Adams, dies. Not because I have any sympathy for them, it’s just to make sure that they’re dead. I’m too well-mannered to anything stupid like desecrating a grave, but the temptation to let someone else do it for me… A bottle of my urine is always easy to obtain.
I’ve one burned image of my parents, their wedding and engagement rings, dads medals, and that’s it. Nothing else survived the explosion. I’d give everything I own for an hour with them.
Excuse me for a moment, I seem to have something in my eyes.
One thing dad1 told me on my visit to Skye was that his neighbour brews hooch, poteen to give it its local name. Would I like some? What can possibly go wrong with drinking that… dodgy ingredients, less than hygienic instruments.. blindness? Dad1 drinks it diluted with water, one to one, but suggested I take a sip of one hooch to two water. Mum1 was against this, “Oh don’t, you’ll make her ill”. “No mum”, I said, “I’m a big girl”. The thing is, when it comes to drink, I’m the least able to cope with it from anyone I know. My alcohol capacity is next to nothing. I don’t like the taste of lager or beer, although a small glass of Guinness can be nice. Spirits are out as again the taste isn’t for me and wine is horrible. Sweet cider is my drink. Now here in the UK, the usual serving is a pint, or half pint. From what I’ve seen when abroad it varies, but “a pint seems like lot, doesn’t it?”, as Will says in the Inbetweeners, (that’s the British, original, version. The Americanised one..dear god).
A half is what I usually have on a night out. I’d be the ideal designated driver as I don’t have to drink alcohol to enjoy myself, that’s if I could drive. I’ve never felt the need to learn. It is tedious though, to be sober when everyone else is tipsy. So if I have up to my limit of 6 halves, which sounds even worse than than three pints, I am..merry! After the first half I can feel my head begin to twirl ever so slightly. The muscles at the back of my jaw begin to tighten. From there it’s just a short trip to dancing on a table. That happened once, and thanks to friends I am reminded if it every fucking time we go out. I was 19, and quite rightly celebrating a victory for my uni hockey team in the final of a local competition. As captain I felt it my duty to tell the pub just how crap the opposition were, through the medium of song. It was something along the lines of, we’re great, you’re shit. The advantages of a university education, eh?
If ever I find myself complaining when I read of manly rugby team shenanigans, pouring beer over the head, singing about sex and drinking urine, (a strange way of proving your masculinity), then all I have to do is go back to the single time I thought it acceptable to stand on a table, and flash my arse at some strangers.
I also tend to fall asleep quite quickly if drunk, so am a cheap and quick night out! More than once I’ve been taken home at 9, after leaving the house at 7. Usually it’s my own private nurses, Ellie or Abby. They have made sure I’m ok then returned to the night with the rest, or stayed with me.. I would always make sure both are well recompensed at a later date, with the addition of a school uniform and a cane. And they have the audacity to call ME a minx!
Back to dad1’s neighbours hooch. I gamely accepted the wee glass, no more than a thimble really.
Fuck….. Me…… I couldn’t breath. With both of them laughing I made for the kitchen tap and drank for ages. It’s like having a mouthful of fire. You know when you have a curry, and some idiot thinks that it’s a joke to order you the hottest thing on the menu? Well triple that. Milk didn’t help and by this time dad1 was nearly having a heart attack with laughter. Eventually a coffee helped, but I won’t be doing that again. How he can drink it I don’t know, but I suppose his experience with vodka in Russia lends him a certain resiliency to hooch.
Still, a happy time as ever. As a bonus, while waiting in Glasgow for my train, I watched a man propose on one knee to his girlfriend. They asked if I could take their first picture as an engaged couple. How sweet!
I hope this has explained a few things. If you want to know anything, just ask.
My thanks for my first contact through the blog, Samantha. Hi Samantha!
Thanks for reading,
Edinburgh to Durham