NWR Issue 110

Somersault: Coming of Age Memoir

This year it turned ten years since my last in school. It was the year of new driving licenses, Stax soul, and Liverpool’s epic Champions League comeback against AC Milan: in many ways the happiest of my life so far, though in other more important respects my saddest. When I cast back to that foolish, pivotal year – poised flaccidly, in the wider view, between Britain’s invasion of Iraq and the global economic meltdown five years later – I see a carful of boys in £80 jeans being disgorged outside the Rec. We’ve been ferried over by one of our tolerant fathers, who bids us goodnight and winds down his window, ventilating the Peugeot after the toxic shock of our collective aftershave. On the other side of the Rec door lies the eighteenth party we’ve been building up to in the common room all week, through endless, circular bouts of pre-match analysis over Shithead, a card game.

‘Going to Bobby Davis’?’

‘Yeah mate, course. Should be a big one.’

‘Wanna warm up at mine?’

‘Nah – might have some munch at home first and get a lift with my
dad. Could pick you up, if you want?’ ‘Yeah, go on then. Shithead.’

‘Ah, fuck.’

For the two years of sixth form I lived among boys, all the time pining for escape to the holiday lands of girls. We were boys of little bawdiness or braggadocio, and certainly no overt sexism. We just prized our own company, to my despair, cleaving to an exclusive patter based around games and mealtimes: pool, Playstation, plates piled high on one side with frozen pizza, on the other with Dolmio-drenched pasta. We watched Twin Town on eternal loop and could quote it to each other verbatim.

‘Hot dogs for tea, boys bach!’

‘Alright? Is Bryn in?’

Some of our number had girlfriends, so could afford a laissez-faire attitude to being near girls. They would stay with the group for as long as they were able before wandering off with their Saras and Lydias, leaving me stranded among the singletons. To make a beeline for someone I fancied, at school or at a party, seemed a manoeuvre on a par with strafing through no man’s land. I felt sure that someone would notice and gun me down.

Ellie was worth the risk. On blessed lunchtimes I’d come down from lessons to see her sitting somewhere nearer to me than the Shithead society, and I’d pounce on the opportunity, pulling up a chair before anyone else could call across the common room and deal me in. Ellie was clever, gentle and unfathomably pretty: ginger, lightly freckled, with long straight hair and cheekbones you could slice fruit with. She had a quiet way of paying attention to you that I could never quite return. As she offered her questions, recalling trivial information from previous conversations, I would blab, overstate and self-deprecate. In return, I received very little – mere scraps, really, such as the fact that she loved Björk and lived in Llanishen, near the leisure centre.

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Dai George’s debut poetry collection, The Claims Office, was published by Seren.


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