Another day on the beach, parents socialising with their friends while the children were left to their own devices.
This time I didn’t encounter a shark, I just played by myself, busy belly-surfing the waves and as expected getting further away from the adults. The waves got bigger and I started to drift out further from the beach. This is when a particularly large roller caught me, but instead of riding the crest I was swallowed by it. It was like being in a washing machine and as I tumbled, I could not tell which way was up or down, this seemed to go on forever.
Unable to hold my breath any longer, I gulp my first mouth full of brine. As the spin cycle came to an end, I was deposited on the beach and whiter than any detergent could boast of.
After relaying my experience to my parents and without any apparent concern, I was asked if I would like a drink. “No thank you, I’ve just had one.”
I was in hospital: it was not for being half-drowned or bitten by a shark or snake or mauled by a wild animal or any other exotic reason. I was in hospital for having boils on my hands, sounds a bit of an overkill, but they suspected diabetes.
An overnight stay in a ward was expected while they did some tests. I was all tucked up when the call of nature, well, called. As I stood up beside my bed, my pyjama bottoms fell to the floor and to my profound embarrassment, I flashed the whole ward.
One bit of good news that ‘went down well’ was I didn’t have diabetes. All future visits to hospitals involved me tying an extra knot or two on my pyjama cord so as not to have an encore.
Fires, fireworks and funerals
I do remember watching a funeral procession where the body was propped up in a chair, covered in garlands and paraded through the streets before being cremated. On the journey, bunches of bangers were thrown ahead to ward off evil spirits.
Like all kids, I was fond of playing with fireworks, they were readily available all year round. You didn’t need a funeral, Diwali or surprisingly in a post-independent country, Guy Fawkes night to purchase them.
Insert a banger into an Airfix model aircraft, then attach a string to one of the wings, light the fuse and then spin it around your head. If you were lucky and your eyes hadn’t been blinded by the plastic shrapnel from the explosion, you could do it again this time with a few extra bangers.
Dad’s cigars came in aluminium tubes, adding fins turned them into a rocket. Like the early days of rocketry, I had many spectacular failures. The various propellants consisted of a mixture of gunpowder and lighter fuel that didn’t add to any successful launches if fact I just replaced the plastic shrapnel with aluminium ones.
Back in my lab (bedroom), while assembling my next star ship, I accidently squirted lighter fuel which ignited and set my face on fire. After running into the living room screaming, my mother calmly extinguished the flames with a face cloth. I spent the next few weeks with no eyelashes, no eyebrows and no fringe.