Category Archives: January 2013 Posts

The anniversary

A crescent shape of twinkling lights blocks my vision and makes me feel nauseous.  This is my first migraine since returning to England.  There’s no reason for the sudden attack. I had felt fine only five minutes ago.  I tell my colleague and place my head on my desk until the worst of it passes and my full sight returns.  I make it through the day but go to bed at 8pm with a bruised head.  I wake bright and early and look at the date on my phone:  18th January.   I hear a voice.

Voice:  Hello? 

Me:  Um, hello.  Who are you …. and why are you interrupting my quiet pre-dawn thoughts?

Voice:  It’s me.  I’m you.  Well to be precise I’m 15-year-old-you. You don’t recognise my jet black hair, gothically pale skin and fit young body? (The teenage Simone judgmentally looks me up and down). No, I don’t suppose you do. 

Me:  Alright, alright.  I may not look as good as you, but I have managed to acquire skills you don’t have.  Anyway, I don’t have to justify myself to you.  What do you want?

Voice:  It’s the 18th of January.

Me:  Yes …. ?

Voice:  So it’s his birthday!  Which means that you now know why you had a migraine yesterday …    

Sigh.  Ah, yes.  Sebastian was my best friend through high school and the 18th January is his birthday.  In 1993 on the 17th January Sebastian had just returned from a weekend with his uncle in Melbourne.  We were sitting in the foyer of the Shepparton Capri Twin Cinema.  It was out-of-character for him to be nervous.

Sebastian:  I have something to tell you.

Me (nodding):  Okay?

Sebastian:  Uncle Andrew has offered to pay for me to go to boarding school.  I start next week.

I feel as though I’ve been punched in the stomach, stabbed through the heart and kicked in the head all at the same time but I smile. “Oh that’s fantastic!  You must be really pleased?!” 

Me at 14, looking overly dramatic and about to go to our formal dance with Sebastian (Mum wanted a photo of my hair so told me to look straight ahead and not smile ...)

Me at 14, looking overly dramatic and about to go to our school’s formal dance with Sebastian

The next day I go to his house to spend his birthday with him.  I give him a drawing I’d done in art class; he’d cried with laughter at it (because it was so appalling) and he’d asked me to give it to him when we eventually left school and went to university.  The gift is two years premature but fitting – one of us is leaving (our) school.  I’m wrenched apart inside, but I show none of this to Sebastian and we have a fantastic laughter-filled day.

It’s a scorching summer and three days later we sit in Saint Brendan’s Church to get five minutes of cool relief on our walk to Sebastian’s home from the town centre.  Suddenly, cantankerous old Monsignor Bones yells from the refectory and then chases us out* which horrifies and tickles us.  We race home giggling like the teenagers we are, but our hilarity abruptly ceases when it’s time for us to say goodbye. I have to go home and Sebastian moves to Melbourne tomorrow.  We sense the gravity of the moment but don’t quite know this is the end.  After spending every day together for four years, this is the last time we see each other.  We write to each other daily for ten months, but our final year of school takes over and with it, our friendship ends.

Since then I’ve been sick (in varying forms) on every single 17th January.  I never remember in advance of the date, it always occurs to me later.  The anniversary of that bad news has been with me for twenty years; literally, a sickening memory.

That wasn’t my last experience of loss, but thankfully it’s been a long time since I’ve experienced grief or crippling heartache; my body’s not as young as it was and I don’t think it can take it!

Afterword

*Sebastian had been singing the then-current hit song “Detachable Penis” which I couldn’t possibly have found funnier (I was 15!) so Monsignor Bones was wholly justified in chasing us out ….

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The cage

The cage's ludicrous location in the children's section of the women's lockers

The cage’s ludicrous location in the children’s section of the women’s lockers

My outfit for New Year’s Eve displays my pale cleavage and my pale back; a little colour is needed.  A couple of sunbed sessions (“solarium” for Australian readers which are now illegal – and by that I mean solariums are illegal, not Australian readers) will do the trick.  I realise I shouldn’t but there are quite a few things I shouldn’t do …

The stand-up sunbed at my gym is a walk-in cage.  These solar cages usually have their own room, where you can comfortably undress with the reassuring privacy of a locked door.  However this one is in the open area of the female lockers.  The door to the cage shuts, but can’t be fastened.  An unlocked door in an open space where you’re naked isn’t ideal.

I insert my tokens to activate the power, strip and put on eye stickers to protect my corneas from the ultraviolet rays. I enter the cage and close the door.  My face tans easily so I need to shield it.  This means that I cover it with my black long-sleeved top.  I put the earphones of my iPod in and then tie the top tightly around my head.  I position the iPod on my head by tucking it into a fold of my self-made execution mask.

The cage

The cage

I spread my legs like a starfish and grab the two metal bars positioned on either side of my head, in a kind of flagellation pose.  The music drowns out the noise of the loudly humming machine.

Ordinarily I’d be dancing freely during a tanning session, but there’s the possibility of the cage door being opened.  A remote possibility, granted.  But a possibility never-the-less; I cannot take the risk.  Plus, to my annoyance, the possibility is increased by the suncage’s location in the children’s section of the women’s lockers.

I hang there, draped like a sweating Iraqi torture victim.  I’m blind and deaf as the rays sting my back and the blood drains from my elevated arms.  The pursuit of beauty really is pain, mixed with the total absence of dignity.

The cage

The cage

The heat becomes increasingly unbearable on my skin and underneath my suffocating make-shift gimp mask.  After a few minutes I feel the relief of fresh cool air hitting my body … balanced only by the awful realisation that my cage door has been opened.

With panicked urgency, I clumsily rip the self-made black-top mask from my face, sending my iPod crashing to the floor.  I see a rather tall boy standing in front of me, staring.  How long has he been there for?!

I rush to grab my clothes and the boy’s mother emerges, ironically fully covered in a burka; between the two for us we have an acceptable quantity of clothing “Ahmed! Ahmed! Come here!!”

The closed cage in the open area

The closed cage in the open area

Ahmed ignores his mother and watches me with solemn concentration as I dress.  His mother seems oblivious to the inappropriate awkwardness of the situation.

I quickly exit the changing rooms.  As I leave I see the bright red sign “Boy free zone! Please ensure all boys over the age of 8 use the male changing rooms only”.

Ahmed may have been under 8, but he wasn’t far off my height (I realise I’m no giant) and the look in his eye certainly seemed more that of an adolescent than a boy.  My embarrassment has passed, but the image of me looking like I was about to be flogged may stay with him for quite some time.

Either some 8-year-old boys are VERY mature or some mums are a bit liberal with this gym rule ...

Either some 8-year-old boys are VERY mature or some mums are a bit liberal with this gym rule …

Afterword

FYI – people do NOT like photos being taken in lockers … especially when their children are getting changed.

Mugged

45 minutes after I posted the last and “final” blog, I was mugged. Consequently I have no choice but to write another entry. After all, a mugging is a story to be told. Hell, if I can write about the most mundane of topics like my father’s Christmas card, or my friend’s friend being late for lunch then I must write this.

Unfortunately I’ve ruined it now by telling the end as my style is usually to go back in time and make the past the present to create at least a bit of suspense, but here I go anyway …

“Mugged”

I switch my laptop off and close it. It’s 1pm and time to get on with my day. Baking a cake is on my list of activities, but I need eggs. I could also do with some other basics, inclusive of toilet paper. With only £10 in my pocket I trot to the local shop liberated by the absence of my usual possessions; my iPhone, my iPod and my purse. Just me, my keys, £10 and a bag to carry home my shopping.

Balvinder the local shopkeeper and I exchange our usual pleasantries. With the purchased items in my bag I commence the short journey home: I’ve a cake that needs baking.

The bag is in my right hand and my left hand is in my coat pocket, holding my keys. I hear someone walking behind me and glance back to see a tall young man. He’s walking faster than me so I move closer to the brick bridge on my left to let him pass.

I certainly didn’t anticipate him using his body weight to shove me against the bridge and slam my head into the bricks. No sirree, I did not.

He takes the bag from my right hand and steps back.

Him (murmuring something in unclear English that sounded like …) : Got any money?
Me: No, nothing. Just my keys.

I pull my keys out of my pocket and show him.

It’s a strangely calm and understated moment as I realise he’s more tense than me. I guess I know what he’s going to do/has done (mug me) whereas he doesn’t know what I might do. Fear of the unknown is always powerful.

He steps forward and quickly pats my coat pockets. I stand still, looking at him. He turns and walks away – the same direction he’d come from. And that was it. Entirely undramatic.

Mum once said that no one would ever attack me “Look at her. Would you take her on?!” It turns out that a 6’2” Eastern European lad would.

I’m strangely happy. Of all the times to be mugged it’s the one time I leave my flat with absolutely no items of value. I don’t have to waste my time cancelling credit cards or calling a locksmith. I’m very lucky – he’ll be a disappointed mugger when he discovers his grand haul consists of eggs, toilet paper and a bottle of squash.

I continue home, grab my stuff and walk to the police station to report the crime. They suggest I go to the hospital to check out the lump on my head, but that seems like overkill. Instead of wasting the rest of my day in A&E, I jump on a bus to Shepherd’s Bush to see a movie. After watching (the coincidentally fitting) “Seven Psychopaths” I get the tube home, eat my dinner, watch TV and go to bed. I’m convinced I find the intricacies of mundane life more interesting than allegedly “genuine drama”.

Afterword

It’s the second time I’ve been mugged in London, though admittedly the first time with a degree of violence. But I’m fine, totally fine. I wouldn’t write this post if I was traumatised. I’ve decided simply to view this incident as the cosmos telling me to keep writing. Though one friend commented that maybe I should view it as a message to stop making cakes.

Most of my friends are shocked that someone selected me to mug. One remarked that he sees me as more of a mugger than a muggee. I’m starting to think that I may have to do some defriending in 2013 …