When I was a child, my parents would occasionally find themselves looking after two dogs. The dogs in question were brothers: Snoopy belonged to my mum’s parents and Rusty belonged to my dad’s parents, and if both sets of grandparents decided to take holidays at the same time, the dogs would come to us. This was, of course, a very great thrill for me, although not so much for my parents, who knew that every visit with the dogs would end with me writing this kind of thing in my News Book:
It didn’t scan too well, but the text reads:
Thursday 29th September
We are looking after to dogs for a week. One is called Snoppy and one is called Rusty. One day Rusty pumped. he go such a fright that he jumped up and ran away to the other side of the living room. When Rusty eats he gets his bowl all over the floor.
Once you know that “pumped” = “farted” you will perhaps be able to understand the trepidation with which my mum and dad approached each parents evening, knowing that this is the kind of thing I would’ve spent the term writing about.
Incidentally, Snoopy – sorry, “Snoppy” – wasn’t exactly Mr Perfectpants either:
Thursday 16th November
I went to my granns on Sunday my grann has got a dog cold snoopy he is funy he can oppen the living room door when I was at my granns he was bad he dun the toylet in the cichon I get my tea at my granns I have sanwiches and biscuts and we play with snoopy
What I don’t mention in the text, but what is painfully apparent from the accompanying image, is that Snoopy didn’t just do the toylet in the cichon, he clearly dun it on the washing machine. (Now we know where Rubin gets that from!) And that my mum apparently had to lie on her belly to clean it up. Also pictured: my “grann”, who, like me, had hair the approximate colour of a post box. She’s presumably cooking up the sanwiches and biscuts, while I just stand there thinking, “I’m SO going to write about this on the Internet one day!”
Here are the dogs in question, apparently being strangled by me, and both thinking, “Oh God, please don’t let her write about us in her News Book…”
Rusty & Snoopy
Rusty (he of the “pumping”) is on the left of the shot, with Snoopy (of “toylet” fame) on the right. What you can’t really see from this is that although Snoopy looks like the smaller of the two here, he was actually almost as tall as house, and could dance on his hind legs:
Snoopy and me
And this was in addition to being able to “oppen” the living room door! God, I loved those dogs…
Also, I had three legs as a child. Deal with it.
I’d imagine most of the people reading this probably think I’ve only been using the written word as a means of embarrassing myself in public for as long as I’ve had access to the Internet.
How I wish that were true.
Actually, I’ve been embarrassing myself in public since I learned to write, and as proof of that, today I present to you Forever Amber: The Early Years. Yes, way back in the mists of time my school required its young students to keep what they called a “News Book” but which was actually just a personal journal – an early “blog”, if you will. Every few days we would write an entry in our “News Book/Early Blog” detailing what had been happening in our lives, and every single time I would write something so toe-curlingly embarrassing my parents would have to call the school and make excuses for me. I’m not joking.
Witness, for instance, an entry I wrote when I was six, concerning a movie my parents had borrowed from a friend of theirs which turned out to have a little “surprise” on the end of the tape (in those days we used video cassettes, as well as writing things on “paper” rather than on the Internet. Quaint!) …
The full text reads:
“Monday 9th May
I have got a video and I have seen star wars four times and I have seen Bugsy malone twelve and a half times Jennifer has taped Bugsy Malone aswell one night when my mum and dad were watching a film on the video when it was finished a blue moovy came on my mum and dad did not like it and my mum was frightened to get another tape ancase there was another blue moovy on it”
Just in case my parents’ apparent porn consumption* required further clarification, of course, I provided a handy illustration of the events outlined above, so the school would know whether or not they should be calling social services about this:
Luckily when the teacher asked me what a “blue moovy” was, I was quickly able to explain that it is a “moovy” in which everything is coloured blue. Obviously. And when my parents visited the school for parents evening that term, they were able to further clarify (at their own insistence, I have to add – the teacher by this point thought it was hilarious) that this “blue movie” had been as much of a surprise to them as it probably had been to my teacher, and that although the illustration suggests that I had been present during the screening of the infamous moovy (it almost feels like you’re there now, doesn’t it, so masterful was my command of the blue crayon…), I had, in fact, only found out about it because I overheard my mum telling my gran the story. Which I faithfully committed to writing in what I now think of as the very first version of this here blog, a document I spent most of Saturday re-reading and laughing until I cried.
In the years that followed, you’ll be glad to know that I learned how to punctuate a little better. I never did learn to stop embarrassing myself in public, though…
* My mum says she will ground me if I don’t explain that they had borrowed a film someone had recorded from the TV, had watched it, and when it ended, had discovered that it had apparently been recorded over the top of something a little more adult than the film they had borrowed. She would also probably like me to clarify that my parents DID try to teach me that there are some things in life you just don’t share, but given that I’ve already told the Internet all about my knickers and how I keep on dyeing them grey, it doesn’t look like that lesson sunk in particularly well…
Remember that novel I was writing? Yeah, it would be good if I’d actually done that, wouldn’t it? Why, I could be sitting here with a book deal and an agent right now, but instead? Well, instead I’m sitting here with the remainders of last week’s cold, no novel and no money (Note: SEND MONEY). Way to go, Amber!
Actually, I’m not surprised at the non-completion of the novel: it’s pretty much par for the course by now. The reason I know this? Well, earlier this year I stumbled across my very first diary – what would have been my very first blog, in fact, had blogs been invented when I was 10, which they hadn’t. You should be pleased about that – trust me. Anyway,here are some extracts:
“I have started writing a book called Jumping for Joy. It is about a girl called Elaine Shaw and a pony called Carmen.”
“I have given up writing my book.”
“Nothing else exciting happened so I’ll go now to finish the book I’ve started writing. It’s called ‘A Horse of My Own’ and I think I might possibly be able to keep it up.”
“I’m also getting on well with my new fiction book, ‘Jumping for Joy’ and I’m hoping to get it published when I’m finished.” (Amber’s note: Ha! Yeah you are!)
Things I must remember to take on holiday with me:
1. camera and plenty films
2. diary and pen
3. book I am writing, ‘Ponies Galore’
4. extra notebook and pen (What, just in case you finish Ponies Galore and decide to dash off another one? Wait… am I having a conversation with my younger self, here?)
5. Observers Book of Horses
6. Riding things
8. Walkman and cassettes
Did you pick up on the fact that I liked horses? A lot? And that I’ve been failing to complete novels since I was TEN YEARS OLD? (Actually, I did finish one of them. I think it was ‘Jumping for Joy’. I’d give you an extract of that, but I gave it to my friend Rhona to read, and she never returned it. I like to think that Rhona re-reads it every year, just to remind herself of the antics of Elaine Shaw and her pony called Carmen, but, y’know, probably not.)
It makes me sad to think that I’ve been failing at something for such a long time. I doubt that ten-year-old Amber would be impressed with the adult version of herself. I mean, for one, I have no ponies; for two, I haven’t even written any books about ponies; and for three, George Michael turned out to be gay, people. I also didn’t grow up to be a pop star, which was the career I had in reserve, just in case the whole Olympic showjumper/latter day Patricia Leitch thing didn’t work out. Which, of course, it didn’t.
I really should go and write that book now, huh? (Or maybe just go to sleep?)