Wednesday, 5 August 2015


Once upon a time, in a far away land called 'The Past', I had a friend called ADAM COWIE (not quite his real name, but close enough).  From the age of around 7 years old until I was about 22, I considered him one of my closest pals.  I'm not quite sure why, as he was a liar, a fantasist and a thief, who, as a child, was always getting into trouble.  (This is the same boy who stole the moon-suit, as related in the previous post.)  His parents, who were both blind, were members of the local Baptist Church, and had an annoying tendency (as do many parents) to attribute their son's constant bad behaviour (at school and outside of it) to others, rather than to his own natural propensity for landing himself in the soft and smelly brown stuff.

One Saturday, in 1970 or '71, myself and my pal were wandering around the town centre and called in to the Pet Shop to have a look-see.  (Incidentally, the shop only relatively recently relocated to new premises after being in the same place for well over 40 years.)  Our eyes spotted a white mouse, which was inexpensive enough for me to purchase if I so wished.  I was half-inclined to, and Adam encouraged me, saying that he would give me half the cost at a later date, and that we could take turns looking after it.

And so it came to pass that we became the proud owners of a new pet.  We went back to his house first, whereupon his parents said he wasn't allowed to have it, not even on a part-time basis.  He threw a strop, and his father, fetching a cane from the outside garden cellar, marched his son into the house for a whipping.  He turned in my direction as he went through the door, saying "See the trouble you've brought to this house?!"  It goes without saying that I considered it unfair of him to place the blame for his son's reaction on me.  (It wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't be the last.)

Anyway, I became the sole owner of QUICKSILVER, as he came to be known, and looked after him until I had to find him a new home when we went on a fortnight's holiday to Largs in 1971.  (I didn't really want to part with him, but couldn't let him starve.)  Many, many years later, someone pointed out the fellow to whom I'd given him, and said that he was well-known for maltreating (if not outright torturing) pets he'd owned when younger.  As I type this,  I'm overcome with horror and guilt at the fate to which I'd unwittingly delivered poor Quicksilver, and can only hope that he didn't suffer too much.  If there's one thing I could go back and change in my life, it would be to not hand my mouse over to the sicko who I  thought he'd be safe with.

(I have a nagging memory of running into him months later, in '71 or '72, and asking him how my former pet was.  "It's deid!" he muttered as he passed.  I was slightly stunned at the news, but it wasn't until I learned of his disturbing proclivities long after the fact that the sinister significance of his words dawned on me.)

But I digress.  Earlier I'd said that Adam's parents were blind, which was true, but though his father had one glass eye, the blindness in his other eye was caused by a cataract, which, in 1976, was operated on, resulting in him having some partial-but-restricted sight.  Adam's mother had died in 1975, and he and his father moved into a flat not far away from me several months later.  It was while living in this flat that a female neighbour would sometimes chap their door and hand in a pot of home-made soup for the pair of them, purely out of the goodness of her heart.

One day, while handing in some soup, she mentioned that her radio had expired.  "Bring it over and I'll take a look at it," said my pal's pater, and she duly trotted across the landing to fetch it.  It turned out to be a simple matter of a blown fuse, but rather than replace it, Mr. Cowie just affixed another plug and retained the original.  (It may even have been the complete power cord.)  Once it was working again and handed back, I heard him crowing to his son at what a far better plug it was, and what an inferior, cheaper, age-worn plug he'd supplied in its place.  He was positively gloating at having put one over on the neighbour who'd never been any-thing but kind to him.  I almost felt like saying "That'll be why Adam's such a lying, diddling, scheming b*st*rd who's always getting himself into trouble - it's the example you've set him!"  I didn't, of course.

While still at primary school years before, Adam and a classmate came into school one morning with two diecast toy cars.  I can no longer recall if they were CORGIs or DINKYs, but Adam claimed that they were both presents from an aunt of either him or the other boy.  (I still remember the second lad's name, but I'll spare his blushes as what I'm about to relate was uncharacteristic of him.) Turned out they'd stolen them from a young boy playing outside his house on their way to school, as we all discovered when the boy's mother descended on the school to complain.  If they'd kept the cars in their schoolbags and not shown them off, they might have got away with it, but having flaunted their ill-gotten goods, it was easy to track down the culprits.

His parents were obviously in denial over their inabilty to control their unruly offspring, and often blamed me for his wayward exploits, as we sometimes got into bother for trivial misbehaviour together.  However, the fact that I was seldom ever in any trouble myself, while he was often in trouble either by himself or with others, was lost on them.  It was always "that [insert my name here] fault", whether I was even present at the time of an incident or not.  Years later, he admitted to me that he'd sometimes told his parents that I was the cause of several of his various misdemeanours, simply to shift the blame and assuage his parents' anger - even if we hadn't been together at the time of his transgressions.

If you're interested in what eventually became of this fellow and our friendship, further details can be found here.  Thinking things over now, if my former friend and a mouse were hanging over a cliff, I'd be sure to rescue the rodent first (the furry one, that is).  In fact, I'd be tempted to call it quits after saving the mouse.

This has been another completely self-indulgent, non-comics related 'Rambling Reminiscence' - in case you hadn't already noticed.  Comments, anyone?

Tuesday, 4 August 2015


This is going to be a difficult one to express because it's kind of a nebulous con-cept, but I'm willing to give it a go if you are.  Ready?  Do houses, neighbourhoods and places have a particular 'ambiance' all their own, or does it all depend on the 'eye of the beholder'?

Oh dear, lost your interest already?  I'll persevere.  When I was about 13, the area I lived in had a particular 'feel' about it.  When I moved house in 1972, aged 13 and a half, that 'atmosphere', 'feeling', 'mood' - call it what you will - continued in my new home and street, and I've wondered over the years whether that was something to do with both houses sitting atop a hill.

You see, when I'd come out of either of those houses, I'd stand at the top of a hill and view the horizon in the distance, giving me a feeling of being 'master of all I surveyed'.  As I walked down (literally) either of those streets, the horizon became less visible on the descent, and it's only natural to wonder if my similar experiences of both places is what resulted in my parallel perceptions of them.

Or was it nothing to do with that?  Was it just where I was 'at' in my head at that particular time in my life, and was it me projecting my own subjective perceptions onto both neighbourhoods that accounts for how I regarded them at the time, rather than how they objectively were?  In short, was it how I imagined them rather than how they really were that determined my perceptions?

Had I lived in either of those houses at different times in my life than when I did, perhaps I'd have 'sensed' and responded to those surroundings in another way;  perhaps the ambiance, as it appeared to me, would have been different at 19 than it was at 13, who knows?

Perhaps we just 'see', 'sense', 'feel', 'experience', etc., things in particular ways at different times in our lives, irrespective of how things happen to be.  Could it be that we project our own sense of a place onto it, rather than respond to how that place actually is?  All I know is that, these days, whenever I walk down either of the two streets mentioned, although I can remember how things 'used to be', I'm all too painfully aware that they seem different somehow, in ways that I can't fully articulate.

Of course, other contributory factors must be considered, one being that at the foot of the first hill was a school I attended as a boy in the 1960s.  At that time, WHAM! comic was reprinting the adventures of The FANTASTIC FOUR, and on winter after- noons after school I would see the building interiors lit up in the darkness as the cleaners set about their business.

From the top of the second hill (but farther away) I could see another school of a similar design, which, when viewed in the same wintry conditions, reminded me of the school in my previous neighbourhood.  At the time (early '70s), The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL was reprinting those same FF tales, so perhaps the 'deja-vu' type sensation created in my subconscious can hardly be considered surprising.  Then again, maybe not.
When we look back on our childhoods much later in life, summers always seem to have been longer, skies bluer, winters whiter, Christmases snowier, etc. - but were they?  Or is it simply the case that's how we viewed things at the time (or imagine them later), rather they actually were?  Time changes all things, alas, but oft-times far too quickly.

Anyone got any thoughts on the matter?  (Presuming, of course, that I managed to express my thoughts in any way resembling a coherent one.)

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