If they only knew what he was truly capable of, they would tremble, bow or prostrate themselves before him. Their very existence depended on his mood or whimsy at any given time. Their feeble minds could not even comprehend his being nor could their senses perceive him yet, the power of life, death or suffering lay firmly in his hands. As the powerful August sun beat down relentlessly for another seemingly endless day, the decision was made. Today they would live, undisturbed, allowed to continue their pointless tasks oblivious to how close they came to total annihilation by the hand of a single entity. Today, but only for today, he would allow the status quo to continue…
Chapter 1 Elephants and Allegations
I remember 1976 most clearly because it was really hot and Granny had given me a large magnifying glass that spent the whole summer glued to my hands. It made small things look big, my mouth look giant to my sister but above all, it turned me into the god of ants. Had I seen ‘Apocalypse Now’, I would have shouted “ I love the smell of formic acid in the morning” each day, before setting out upon my ghoulish duties of garden eugenics, genocide and above all else, a taste of real power. I would dream of owning a suit of armour, later a real Dalek and earlier my very own elephant.
Roger’s elephant first burst on the scene during Mrs Grey’s story time, on the mat at Wordsworth First School. “Who has a pet?” was answered with the expected yet boring replies of “cat”, “dog”, “hamster” until “I have an elephant” was heard from a small brown boy in grey shorts and a yellow tie. As one can imagine, this announcement was something of a show stopper which was met with not inconsiderable disbelief. However, after explaining that because we came from India, it was quite normal for small boys to own an elephant and if anyone would like to see it, they were more than welcome to come to my house for a personal viewing. This development meant that I experienced popularity for the first time and was quite drunk on my new found celebrity. The only flaw was the undeniable fact that there was no elephant or any likely hood of there ever being one any time soon. My first major public humiliation soon followed and I say major as it was not the first I had endured. Warm up events preceding this were: The ice cream van, being hit by a car, grabbing a stranger who was not my mum and of course, the circumcision. As the hoards of expectant five year old urchins pounded on the door to 28 Howards Grove, I stood resolute in the belief that there would be an elephant in my garden somehow, by some means and provided by some higher power that I was yet to meet but would be indebted to for all eternity. Alas, no elephant.
During the period 1972 (Liverpool FC commemorative coin rolls behind the kitchen cupboard for ever) to 1976 (Dad’s car is officially hotter than the surface of the sun) I learned all about disappointment and that the mere act of wanting something to happen does not guarantee its manifestation. Concepts I still struggle with today and refuse to accept as applying to me. This meant that an alternative and better reality was needed and fast.
Power cuts, mountains of rubbish in the streets, strikes, no money and ridiculously cold winters made things a bit more interesting but the underlying sense of normality prevailed which was definitely not what I had signed up for. Bowling a googly (curved ball for Americans) became good sport for a while until a diagnosis of being ‘retarded’ was bandied about by Miss Perkis after the Bumble Bee incident in the cloakroom.
The first of these staged events took place in the summer of ’74 at the Summer Concert and Performance of ‘The Pied Piper of Hamlin’ at Wordsworth First School. Due to the poor and inconsiderate scheduling of the programme, the recorders were required to play ‘Summer is a Cummin in’ immediately before curtain up for the second act of the play. Musicians doubling as actors was prevalent then as now and equally under appreciated. This meant that make-up had to be applied to the Town Councillors (a moustache) back stage leaving the overworked Musos, currently entertaining the crowd, hirsutely bereft. As the only Town Councillor in Hamlin without a moustache, it fell to me to make a stand. Tonight, the delivery of the crucial line “One! Fifty thousand!!” would not be made. In its place however, a simple yet heartfelt speech of protest.
Allegations of sub-normality continued abound resulting in a trip to the optician to see if not-seeing might be the cause. This was the seventies after all and the addition of big plastic National Health spectacles to the only brown face in a white working class inner city council estate primary school must surely help with self esteem, self confidence and a sense of fitting in. It didn’t. Enter Yvonne and Sharon from the towers overlooking Wordsworth First School. This wonderful duo were the architects, engineers and the driving force behind the finest rolling barrage of mental and physical abuse by any Super Power since the Second World War. Their campaign? Quite simply, “ What colour’s your willy Roger?” Resistance to this kind of sustained attack was futile and led to the inevitable capitulation known as ‘The great unveiling’ of 1975.