My Life- Part 3 – “All downhill from here…”

So, despite handcuffing myself to the bed-rails, and gluing my feet to the floor…my mother eventually got to take me home from the hospital. She had a caravan in Mill-On-The-Mole…a mobile home site, just outside of South Molton in Devon. I didn’t remember much about the place in later years, having really just seen some old black and white photos of it. Years later, I visited the site, and was amazed to find it was actually all in full colour…!!

My mother was 17, and resented me from birth. My grandmother would assist all she could, but it was clear straight away that my mother felt that life was ruling her, rather than it being her that ruled life. Now, if only she’d kept her thighs closed after that disco…or at least have had the abortion…maybe things would have been very different. They’d certainly have been different for me, given that I wouldn’t be writing this, and different for you too! After all, you might now be doing something different…who knows…you might have been discovering a cure for cancer…but you’re not…and all because my mother spread her legs one rainy and cold night in January 1967!!

Ray Pram

One afternoon, my mother had one of many rows with her mother. She despised the meddling, but since she was reliant upon them financially and otherwise, her resentment was growing by the day. My grandparents had always felt they were just supporting my mother. My mother, as most children do, saw it as interference. But here was a young girl, 17 years old, with a baby and parents with whom she had never felt close, nor in any way proud of.

So, one day, after a typical row, away runs my mother, pushing me in the pram as fast as her fat ankles would allow! My grandmother mounted her broomstick(!), and gave chase. My grandfather, who having had polio as a boy, wasn’t so quick in his movements, and so he made an awkwardly stepped beeline for the 1962 Dormobile, an embarrassment on wheels for most as a poor excuse for a camper van, but simple 4-wheeled heaven for my grandparents!

And so the race was on! My mother, unsure of where she was going, grappled with the pram. It was an old model, huge wheels and suspension that meant, for me as passenger,  that the “up and down” movements were as terrifying as the speed! Consequently, every few yards, you’d see my head rise high above the side of the pram…vomit flying in all directions, before I disappeared again from view!

Meanwhile, my grandfather, having walked each 3 of his steps, at 90 degree angles(!), had finally reached the Dormobile. My grandmother, chain-smoking all the way…was closing the gap too. Personally, I was attempting to tunnel my way through the blankets and pillows, attempting a cunning escape through the base of the pram…so that now, as my mother crossed the bumps…only my feet would be seen to fly through the air!

This was the moment in my life that would lead to my despising roller-coasters at theme parks and fairs! 30 years later, the singer of the band I was in, asked me to accompany his nieces and nephews to a fair, where they all screamed their insistence at going on the junior-rides. After the “tea-cups” finally came to a halt, they screamed, “Again…AGAIN!”, as I lay on the ground, dizzy, a pool of vomit under my chin!!

30 years earlier, the torment continued. But wait…we’d stopped! I knew that because I was now curled upside down where the pillow had been! My mother and grandmother again exchanged heated words, interrupted only by the sucking noises my grandmother made on her cigarette. The smoke from that was soon joined by the smoke of the Dormobile, choking and exploding it’s way down the road, fast approaching it’s top speed of 23mph!

Then, movement! My mother screamed words which I could not possibly have hoped to understand, but that went something like “If you want him so bad…YOU have him!”. Now, in themselves, not harmful…but when combined with the pushing motion…well…things suddenly seemed like they were getting out of control…which was closer to the truth than I realised! Because, as she said the words, my mother pushed the pram towards my grandmother, whose hands being so full of cigarettes and lighters…missed me…

So, there I was…still trying to right myself in the pram, just a few weeks old…and driving solo, whilst upside down, for the first time ever. As I raised my head, my first thoughts weren’t of the lack of a steering wheel, gears or brakes, but rather of everything around me moving rather faster than I’d seen before…! Yes, I was going downhill, and moving quickly!

My entire body was now rising above the sides of the pram with every bump in the road, and every time I landed, in the whirlpool that was now my vomit, I screamed a strange kind of punctuated moan. My mother and grandmother had noticed me rolling away, and were giving chase…but look, there it was, the Dormobile coming fast! The veneer glowed in the setting sun as my grandfather tried his best to put the “pedal to the metal”. Given the risers on his shoe, and the wooden floor, the correct phrasing was more “metal to the high-glossed pine”! The pram however, was engineered much better, and was always going to outrun a tub of metal and polished wood, filled to the roof with plastic utensils and ashtrays!

Meanwhile, I was now enjoying myself, particularly that I no longer had anything left to vomit. Had I realised sooner, I might have done some kind of humourous “trampolining impressions” but my attention was soon to be taken by the fact that at the bottom of the hill, was a rather sharp bend. As the pram hit the verge, trees and bushes whipped me until with one big bounce, I flew from the pram….landing across the verge! The pram lay upside down, wheels spinning…my grandfather still trying to catch up.

Kicking and screaming, my mother was re-united with her son…and she demurely ceased her kicking!

Eventually, we were all making our way uphill towards home…but the pattern of a rapid descent, brief joy, a bad fall…and all followed by a laborious uphill struggle…would be a pattern that would repeat itself, over and over again…

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