If you don’t believe me then chances are I’m telling the truth. I’m a great story teller, I have a lot of them and I exagerate and emphasise and all the rest of it and people enjoy my stories but I have noticed that when I just tell people things as they happen or have happened to me that’s when they don’t believe me.
The first time that this happened to me was when I was four. It’s always seemed a bit strange to me as to whether you start school at four or five in this country butI do know that I started at four. I think it’s the case that you can start at four but you have to start at five.
Anyway, the memories by the time I’m four are acting a little more like memories should, ordered and in place and in the middle of other memories. The reason I know that I was four when I started school was that I started on my birthday, which again is one of the vagaries of schooling in the 80s – starting in the January term rather than September. School started with us lining up in class, oldest to youngest and filing into an assembly, my first ever. I should point out that in my village school we had two vertical classes – Juniors and Infants. Infants went from Reception Class to Top Infants (what is now Year 2). I was sat on the front row in Assembly, there was singing and talking and then the Headmaster said that anyone with a birthday in the holidays or that week should come and stand at the front. Up I went.
We lined up from oldest to youngest and dutifully I lined up with the rest of them – there were a few of us; presumably because there had just been a holiday. The Headmaster asked when the birthday had been and what the best present we’d had had been. I was stood there listening to some of the Juniors having had really very exciting presents (the bicycle I remember though I can’t remember who had got it or what any of the other presents I consider to be exciting were) and I was suddenly aware that as a new kid people weren’t going to believe it was my birthday. I remember the absolute clarity of the thought and half wondered if it would be better to sit down but then thought that that would probably look worse.
I was right, I stood there and when asked when my birthday was and I responded ‘Today’ the inevitable second question was not ‘What did you get?’ but was instead ‘Are you sure?’. I remember the utter irritation of the thought that yes I did damned well know when my birthday was. In the end the fact that I stood my ground when the Headteacher, my class teacher, the school secretary and the piano player (all adults) suggested I should sit down meant that my class teacher went to check the register and discovered that my birthday was indeed that day.
For the last twenty-nine years of my life in the back of my mind I have largely expected that people will think I’m lying to them about pretty much anything. In the front of my mind I’ve worked out that it’s the simple and straightforward stuff that people tend to think that about these days.