|Not me and mum (but the expression's spot-on)|
Because everyone else had such sensible, normal, achievable interests. Other people liked to abseil, water-ski, sky-dive, garden, paint, cross-stitch, ramble, cook, even socialise was high on the list of ‘interests’. They could even produce photographic evidence to prove they could DO these things. And I simply couldn’t imagine a scenario in which I’d want to do any of them - unless "socialising" was the same thing as bumping into somebody I vaguely knew in Sainsbury’s and chatting about the weather for five minutes.
In a bid to try and fit in when I was growing up, I tried collecting stamps. My dad collected First Day covers so I thought this might endear me to him, help us bond; give us something a bit more in common than just DNA. After all, my parents insisted I had to have a hobby - that I should do something constructive with my time when I didn’t have my face in a book. That’s right, in our house in the seventies, reading was not considered a pastime – a ‘waste of time’, yes, but it wasn't a "proper" hobby. “Always got your nose buried in a book” they'd scowl… like it was a Bad Thing. No wonder I grew up confused.
However, after about 6 months of saving up my pocket money to buy little packets of stamps from countries I’d never been to; never particularly aspired to visit and half I’d never even heard of, I decided this was not making me happy. Although I was frightened to say so because Being Happy in our house was not an Option and when it was noticed I'd stopped, I was given a lecture on how I always started something but never saw it through and how I’d never amount to anything with an attitude like that.
My brother collected milk bottles. That’s right, milk BOTTLES. No, not tops to send off to Blue Peter for a worthy cause ( THAT would’ve made too much sense) - he collected the actual bottles. Okay, in his defence they were the ones with bright, shouty advertising slogans on them that enjoyed a small rush of ‘fashion’ in the seventies, his most coveted being the ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ bottle. As far as I recall they sat and gathered dust on the top of his wardrobe for decades as he was convinced they would make his fortune one day. They didn't.
I tried to join my mother knitting but couldn’t get the hang of it. I couldn’t also see the point of it, quite honestly. And I secretly resented it because of the hand-knitted school jumpers my brother and I wore which stood out like pulsating sore thumbs against the shop-bought, machine-woven perfection that were our peers'. Even my attempts at knitting a Dr Who scarf which everyone seemed to think was a cool thing to do at school, ended up looking more like a distressed snake because I’d dropped so many stitches en route, it just tapered off into a lone straggle. I gave it to my best friend who was a Sci-Fi fanatic and it ended up in his cat’s basket.
A spate of Airfix modelling was no better. I quite liked sitting at the table with my dad of an evening with a tube of glue and a saucer of water in which floated little sheets of transfer papers. But this bored me too - after all, the creation wasn’t mine. And my dad nearly had a small fit when I declared a desire to paint Anne Boleyn’s dress a different colour than the box recommended – as though the Airfix Police would have us surrounded if I’d so much as breathed the suggestion louder!
*slightly heavier sigh*
And after all of this, I’d retreat, disconsolate, to my bedroom and write about how crappy my day had been; how I still hadn’t managed to ingratiate myself into the familial fold and how much crappier I thoroughly believed tomorrow would be. Reams and reams of it. And then I’d feel better. I’d read it back and think ‘poor girl, look what she has to put up with’ and then start to imagine how she could possibly be rescued from such tragic circumstances.
Looking back I’m firmly of the opinion that I was in writing denial. I tried everything I could think of NOT to enjoy writing, but every day I wrote. At the time I thought that my scribblings were just a general bemoaning of My Lot in Life - for when the dog was too busy to listen to me and a sheet of paper would do just as well, if not better. But now I’m a grown-up I can see that this is what made me happy. What DOES make me happy; I can decide for myself how I want to spend any time I have now, and I’ll spend it writing, thank you very much.