A Life Less Scary
"The interesting and varied life of Scary Duck, Genius, French Cabaret Chantoose and small bets placed."
My family comes from London. For reasons best known to my parents, most of us moved west to Reading and onwards into the West Country. My father now lives in Cornwall, and is in the process of buying a boat so he can get even further west. On the other hand, the rest of the family moved east and ended up in Basildon, a rather unfortunate sprawl of pre-fab concrete and pebble-dash on the Thames Estuary. Most of Basildon are displaced cockneys getting away from the smoke of London. “Out of the frying pan” as they say, “and straight back into another frying pan.”
My grandad lived in Basildon, where he settled down after the war as a postie, as did my Uncle Dave. He lived in Castlemayne in a house that was permanantly being rebuilt, when he wasn’t also building his own art gallery up in Langdon Hills. We spent long summers visiting, spending weeks at a time with my grandparents having the extended holidays that you can only dream about, while my parents joyfully got rid of three little turds for the entire summer.
When we were there, we’d spend days at a time playing with my cousins, Jane and Andrew. Andy was possibly the most accident-prone person I’ve ever met, always sporting new bruises, a hideous gash and once had an accident so hideous, they had to freeze it to get it out of the zip. And two streets behind their house was a local landmark known as Mud Hill.
Mud Hill was a hundred foot high hill rising up from nowhere among the houses to tower over the entire estate, and all the local kids would gather at the top, racing each other down to the bottom, dicing with death on foot, by bike or by go-kart. Of course, we had to have a go. Oh yes, did I mention the pond at the bottom? There’s a pond at the bottom. A deep, muddy pond that was filled with frogs, toads and all kinds of slippery stuff.
And how do I know this fact? Well, it’s like this... Andy had the prized possession that any 70’s kid could dream of - a Raleigh Chopper bike. It made him the Prince of Cool, and afforded his a certain priveleged position with the local kids, and being his older, wiser cousin, I was allowed to have a go on it. The first time was great. We all hauled the bikes to the top of Mud Hill, mouted up, and raced for the bottom, the first past the tree being the winner. Easy, we could do that all day, and we did.
It was only when the number of kids outnumbered the number of bikes that things took a rather more dangerous turn, as per usual. It was decided that we’d have a “two-up” race. That’s right, two up on a bike, screaming down the north face of the Eiger. I should have known better, but I mounted up behind Andy on his Chopper and led the way down the hill to certain glory. First gear. Second gear. Third, the gear change clunked as Andy pedalled like hell and we picked up speed.
It was then that Andy’s accident-prone gene kicked in. He’d spent most of the previous day working on his bike, and let’s be charitable here, one or two of the bolts weren’t as tight as they might have been. Not least the one that holds the handle bars on. We screamed down the hill, Andy clinging onto the useless handlebars, and me clinging onto Andy. We hit a bump, veered to the right, and all of a sudden the pond was looming up in our crosshairs.
It was no good. We tried leaning over to try and steer ourselves away from our fate, but to no avail. The bike plunged into the drink, throwing us arse-over-tit into the muddy depths. It was cold, it was muddy, and unseen life was crawling up my t-shirt. But far, far worse than that, we were the objects of ridicule of our peers and close family members.
We staggered to the bank, our shoes covered in plates of mud, over feet being sucked back into the quagmire. We looked like the creatures from the black lagoon as we hauled the blackened bike from the clutches of the deep.
My brother was the first on the scene.
“My go now!” he said.
Andy and I looked at each other, the same evil thought filling our minds.
“Sure, there you go.”
While this story is based on actual events in the life of Scaryduck, certain identities and venues may have been changed to protect the innocent.