Today we’re welcoming Catherine Bruton, who’s book ‘We Can Be Heroes’ published this week, to talk about her top five childhood memories…they’re so fun!
5 Top childhood memories
My top five childhood memories involve zombie grannies, piercing ears with fish-fingers and locking teachers in cupboards. Warning – do not try any of this at home!
We moved to a new house when I was about eight. Next door lived a girl called Jackie Johnson who was a year older than me and mad, bad and dangerous to know. Naturally, my sis and I thought she was the coolest thing in the world. She convinced us that her granny was a zombie and that we needed to exorcise or she would suck our souls out of our mouths in the night or poison us with her garibaldi biscuits.
Jackie roped us into building illegal fires under her nan’s window and sacrificing baby frogs – and my fave pink My Little Pony who melted into a pile of purple gloop on our secret campfire. Jackie reckoned she saw the evil spirit leave her nan’s body after we sacrificed the pink horsie but I was never sure because I was so busy trying not to cry. For many many years afterwards I always went to sleep with my mouth closed – just in case!
Fish finger ear piercing
I think my big sis was 11 and I was nine when she persuaded me to pierce her ear with a fish finger and a badge pin. My mum wouldn’t let her get her ears pierced so one night she made me steal a fish finger and jab a Puffin Club badge pin into her earlobe. The fish finger was supposed to numb the pain and soak up the blood but it didn’t do either. Seriously, you have no idea how much blood there is one little ear lobe! I say one because Clare never let me do the other ear because it hurt so much.
Afterwards, she walked around for days with her head at a weird angle and her Bananarama hairstyle swept over half her face so Mum wouldn’t catch sight of the stud. Only of course the Puffin Club piercing got septic and her ear lobe went red, then purple and swelled to the size of tomato then loads of yellow gunky pus oozed out of it. And she got a sore neck from holding her head at a weird angle and of course our mum caught sight of it one day and went mad and made Clare take it out.
She’s still got a weirdly shaped earlobe to this day and she never did get her ears pierced. Me, I love earrings – fish-fingers, not so much! And when I told my big sis I had a short story in the Puffin Club magazine this month, she looked like she was going to pass out!
The day we locked Frau Brown in the store cupboard.
I reckon everyone has a ‘Lord of the Flies’ moment – a time when they got swept along by mob mentality – and this is mine, and I’m not proud of it!
In Year 8 we had this German teacher – let’s call her Frau Brown, although names have been changed to protect the innocent. Frau Brown always looked totally scared to be teaching us and the more scared she looked the worse we behaved. Now I was a bit of geek at school (we called it a ravver in my day – oop North) but when everyone was being naughty I totally went along with it.
We did this thing where every time Frau turned to the board, we’d each inch our desks forward, just a teeny weeny bit each time so she’d hardly notice but by the end of the lesson we’d have her hemmed in. Oh, and we did this very low level hum that we all joined in on to make her feel she was going mad.
And then, one dreadful day, she went into the store cupboard and Julian Thomas locked her in. Then we all piled our desks and chairs against the store cupboard so she couldn’t get out. I feel terrible when I think about it now. And I have no idea how she even got out. I just know she was off school for ages after that.
So, if you are reading this, Frau Brown, I am truly, truly sorry for my part in this sorry escapade and I hope you’ve forgiven – if not forgotten – your very, very naughty Year 8s all these years later!
The magical attic
My grandparents lived in Brighton in this magical house by the sea – a bungalow full of grandfather clocks and giant radios and flea market antiques. It had a long garden which stretched up to the woods, three greenhouses which smelt of ripe tomatoes, and a hallway you could roller-skate down, but the best thing was the attic. My Gramp had turned the loft space into his office cum gentlemen’s club. You had to pull down an extendable metal ladder from a loft hatch to get up there and when you did it was like an Aladdin’s cave. He’d laid a red carpet and he had these giant velvet armchairs with anti-macassars- cos he always had lots of oil in his hair – and a record player on a table flanked by two ginormous china poodles. There were chandeliers and crystal decanters and treasures galore in the boxes stored in the eves. In the evenings he’d pull down the metal step ladder and play The Beatles and The Seekers and we would dance on the red carpet until we were so tired we collapsed in the giant armchairs had to be carried to bed. Whenever I hear those songs now I am transported back to that magical attic and the happiest times of my life.
The Roller disco
The highlights of my teenage years were Saturday nights at Warrington Roller Rink. My mates and I would sit in lessons calculating the hours, minutes – and seconds – left till we could pull on our Bauer Turbos (mine had electric pink and blue laces and matching wheels to coordinate with my electric blue mascara and pink eyeshadow look), backcomb our hair to look like that one from T’pau (I was never allowed a bubble perm so I ended up looking more like Brian May) and skate round – backwards – to The Bangles and Rick Astley and The Reynolds Girls (one hit wonders who sang ‘I’d rather jack, than Fleetwood Mac’ – check them out on Youtube and that’s roughly what we looked like in those faraway skating days).
Not that we did much skating. Our little gang had our own corner of the Roller rink where we sat in our waistcoats and Madonna jeans, twiddling our plastic jewellery and eyeing up the boys. I had my second ever snog behind the DJ at Warrington Roller disco (and dumped him two weeks later when he broke his leg – oh, the callousness of youth!)
They closed the roller rink down on my 16th birthday and we tried Wigan rink for a bit but it was never the same. There are flats there now, where the roller rink used to be, but whenever I walk past I get all nostalgic for the days of ‘Bros’ and bubble perms and Bauer turbos. Oh, how I loved those skates!
Moving. Funny. Explosive. And most of all, unexpected…As powerful as Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Millions. My dad was killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York. But the stuff in this book isn’t about that. It’s about the summer my mum went away. The summer that me and Jed and Priti tried to catch a suicide bomber and prevent an honour killing. There’s stuff about how we built a tree house and joined the bomb squad; how I found my dad and Jed lost his; and how we both lost our mums then found them again. So it’s not really about 9/11 but, then again, none of those things would have happened if it hadn’t been for that day. So I guess it’s all back to front, sort of…
Published by Egmont UK August 1st 2011
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