There's a reason why I still run around like a teenager as I enter my 5th decade and that is, an overprotective family. Whilst other teenagers were off chasing girls, smoking cigarettes and other such adolescent activities, I was climbing trees and searching for golf balls on the local links. Not that I did not enjoy these activities but it can become more than a little embarrassing when you're 18 years old and your grandma is coming to look after you because your mum is going out for the day. Mind you, the only time that I was allowed the freedom of the house (due to a logistical issue not a choice), my parents returned home to the dismay of finding a police car parked up outside. My new found freedom had gone to both my head and my trigger finger. A mixture of peer pressure and showing off, ensured that one of the neighbours, Mrs Eslick got hit in the arse with a pellet from my air rifle. The air rifle, until that point had been kept a secret from my parents. It was never to be seen again. I may have shot Mrs Eslick up the arse but in doing so, I shot myself in the foot. That was my freedom gone for another few years.
The height of my teenage embarrassment came one beautiful summers evening when a bunch of the cooler kids embarked upon a camping trip in the hills beyond Sunnybank cottages. I pleaded in vain to go on the camping trip but there was no way my mum was having it. We fought all day but in the end the only concession she gave was the chance to sleep in the back garden in our extremely old play tent. I reluctantly accepted the offer and pitched my tent in our small back garden. It wasn't until my tent was erected that I conceived the idea of waiting for my parents to go to sleep before sneaking into the hills to join the cool kids, in a frenzy of teenage pleasures.
Around 11 pm, as I expect, my parents come out to take a check on me. We chat for a short while before they retire to bed. I wait for another half hour or so, until all the lights are out and the toilet has been flushed several times and then I steal away into the night. With the stealth of a ninja I make my through the estate and through the snicket (small passage way), which leads on to the disused railway. I weave my way down through the farm yard and alongside the park, following the river to the main road. Fortunately it is a bright moonlit night and I am able to navigate the derelict site of the old Porrits mill without incident. With excitement and trepidation, I pass Sunnybank cottages and enter the woods where the unruly teenagers have set up camp. In the near distance I can hear the sound of the frolicking youths, as they drunkenly dance around the camp fire. I psyche myself up and enter the encampment.
Not being down with the cool kids and not having drunk a drop of alcohol, I am feeling more than a little nervous at this point. How will the cool kids react to me? Will they realise that I was forbidden to camp with them and have escaped from my play tent in the back garden? How much do they know? These questions are soon answered as I am hit by a torrent of abuse from my peers. My response, is of course to drink alcohol at an accelerated rate in an attempt to fit in as soon as possible. I do this a little too well and end up in a fight with Aaron Lord, who happens to be a black belt at karate. My drunken ego has taken hold and before I know it, I am being wrestled to the floor and upon my refusal to concede, Aaron brings his fist crashing down into my nose (breaking it for the first time). To make matters worse, one of the other boys has taken advantage of my prostrate position to stub a cigarette out on my cheek. Through the blur of my 2 pains, I can hear the laughter of the teenagers, which drives me on to rejoin the group in an attempt to distract my urge to cry.
I sit around the fire, trying to make idle chat with my tormentors, although inside I am fighting back pain and resentment (oh the joys of adolescence). However, it would appear that my fight with Aaron Lord has won me some credibility and I am even offered a beer from one of the boys. I take this as a sign, a turning point of my pubescent career as a cool kid. Against all the odds of an overprotective mum and a play tent in the back garden I have broken through the barriers of teenage angst and entered the realms of the cool. The group retires indoors and I am even offered a place in one of the tents, where we finish out beer by torch light.
Eventually, the torches are off and stillness falls upon our camp. Finding a small space, I lie back, my mind whirring with the events of the past few hours. Nose and cheek in pain but excited at the prospect of no longer having to avoid the places where the cool kids hang out. The air outside is still and there is little noise apart from the breathing and occasional snore of those around me. The camp is at one end of a valley in the middle of the countryside and it is the middle of the morning. As the my thoughts start to dissipate, my mind settles and I begin to drift to sleep. That is, until I hear a familiar noise in the distance and my mind tunes itself into this familiar frequency. It takes only a few seconds to realise that this is fact the noise of my parents Chrysler Alpine, which any Alpine owner will tell you, sounds like a bag of nails.
I cower in my sleeping bag, my mind awash with thoughts of how I can make my escape. I know that this is going to be embarrassing. I am unprepared for just how embarrassing it turns out to be. I do not concern myself with thoughts of my parents anger or any punishment I may receive. My only concern is for the embarrassment that I am going to face when my parents finally work out which tent I am in.
They're out of the car now and I can hear them walking towards the encampment. The light of their torch, creates a silhouette on the side of the tent and the cracking of branches under their feet causes some of the others to wake up. Their footsteps get closer and closer, until the they are standing literally a foot from me, only the material of the tent keeps us apart. By now many of the other youths have awoken and are shouting at the top of their voices, demanding to know who has dared to enter their encampment. In an attempt to redeem the situation somewhat, I try to whisper to them without waking those that sleep up, "I'm in here". This is an epic fail. By now almost everybody is awake and they all hear my pathetic whimpers.
I hear the tent doors being unzipped before my dad's head emerges through the flaps, a big cheesy grin on his face, illuminated by the beam of his own torch. A mili-second later, he is joined in the flaps by my mum, who has an equally cheesy grin on her face and is holding a tupperware box of sandwiches and a flask of coffee, "Oh Malcolm, here he is god bless him, here you are love, I've brought you some goodies to share with your friends". If there was every a time I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me, that was it. Here I am, a mollycoddled teenager, trying to prove himself to the boys, by fighting, drinking, smoking and hopefully indulging in pleasures of the female body and it has all be ruined by my over protective parents. I would rather them have dragged me out of the tent, kicking and screaming than this. Around me, I can hear the sniggers of my peers, as they relish what they are witnessing.
My parents hang around for what seems an eternity but in reality is around 5 minutes. I try to hide my swollen nose and cigerette burned cheek from my mum's protective eyes, to no avail , "Oh look Malcolm, what's happened to his face, oh, come here love what's happened?". "Nothing has happened mum", I spit back with vitriole. "Can you leave please?". She eventually, reluctantly does leave and I am left to face the flack from all the cool kids, who give me the wanker sign, as they help themselves to my coffee and sandwiches.
I am left, dwelling on the fact that I was almost up there with the cool kids but will now have to avoid the places that they hangout for another 5 years at least.