I’m very surprised I actually made it to become an adult

ONE of the highlights of the week was Saturday.

No school to got to and a trip down to the newspaper shop, Stubbs, which was next door to the Farm Shop in Murray street to get The Daily Herald for my dad and comics for me.

The Victor and The Lion – both full of exciting adventure stories that only helped to spur my imagination on reading them.

So when I returned from the shop it was feet up and off on an adventure, fighting the war with Germans or Japanese in the jungle.

I was all by myself, which in itself was most unusual.

My dad’s pint pot full of tea with about six spoons of sugar, the cream off the top of the milk for added taste, and two of the thickest slices of uncut bread spread with both a liberal amount of butter and strawberry jam.

Fire roaring away, burning my legs, totally engrossed in my comic.

Mum busying herself, getting her coat and bag ready to go off down the town – not the shopping centre, that hadn’t been built.

Lynn and Musgrave Streets’ essential shops for clothes, furniture, or maybe, dare I say, a new television?

After all, these were all the fashion. A “must have” status symbol.

Well before leaving on one occasion she put something in the oven, slamming the door shut.

“Victor, light the oven.”

“Okay mum,” head still in the comic.

She repeated this once again before walking out the door.

“Right mum, will do.”

Still totally engrossed in this comic I got up, tearing off a piece of newspaper to light it with from the fire.

Making my way to the cooker, comic in one hand, lit taper in the other, I opened the oven with difficulty.

I couldn’t put the comic down – the story was so good.

The lit paper taper was fast going out so I quickly open the oven door.

Bang! There was one almighty explosion.

Mum had put the gas on without my knowing, expecting me to light it straight away.

This was when coal gas had no smell. A smell was added in later years because of the danger of accidental explosions, just like mine.

I can’t remember much, only the burning of my face. It was on fire with the blast.

Rushing outside into the backyard, I ran a towel under the tap, soaking it and placing it on my face.

This was again out of the known medical rules etiquette, for burns had to be kept dry.

This was unknown to me and it seemed the most sensible thing to do. It was.

Mum returned to find me with a wet towel to my face.

Some of the neighbours came in and said to her why didn’t she take me to the St John Ambulance man in the next street.

So, whisking me off, he went about treating me as per his burns procedure laid down by the St John first aid manual, making a lint mask to go over my entire face.

Two holes were cut in for the eyes and an opening to eat with.

I still have it today and often wear it when answering the door to anyone who wants money.

Back home I lay on the settee doing my own smaller version of the Invisible Man, scaring the hell out of the smaller members of the family.

Weeks went by and I was sent for a haircut at Spouse’s, another shop that is still in use on the corner of Mary Street and Murray Street, Richardson Real Estate.

The ‘barber’ was cutting away. Not a bit off here or do this style.

You sat in the chair and he decided how much to cut off. It was always short back and sides.

He was cutting my hair then suddenly he stopped, staring at me in the mirror.

After doing this a dozen or more times, he turned the barber’s chair around, looked at me straight in the eye and said: “You’ve got no eyelashes or eyebrows. Why?”

“I’ve had them burned off.”

He didn’t believe me because there were no burn marks to be seen, proving the medical experts wrong by putting water on my face, instead of the acknowledged treatment for burn victims – a dry lint mask.

Considering the scrapes I got into growing up I’m surprised I even made adulthood, but here I am alive today, testament to my parents.

My life as a boy growing up in the “west end” is all the richer for knowing and loving them both.

God bless mum and dad.

Victor Tumilty,

Collingwood Walk,

Hartlepool.