Suggested audio: Who Knew by Pink
Remember when we were such fools And so convinced and just too cool
Picnic packed in funky rucksacks then an eager run to the river Almond in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland. Our haven of risky fun since we were old enough to run wild yet young enough to be stupid enough to enjoy our waterway adventures. Stupid like hyperactive spaniels.
You see, my oldest and dearest friend Emma is a woman I love and miss so much yet am thankful that we are still in touch after a mind boggling, what, 32 years?? We bonded at primary school over a bit of a scuffle. She playfully pulled my ponytail and Lord knows how I retaliated. She was like me in that she wasn’t like the rest of the girls, she is adventurous, outgoing, beautiful and oh so cool. And damn, she still is. I secretly wanted to be her, something I never let be known as I admired her from up close. We both wore kooky clothes and had our own unique sense of derranged humour. From afar, people watching us probably thought we’d been nibbling those mushrooms found on the forest floor.
Twin Alices in our own private Wonderland. We had adventures in the small forest beside the cottage my parents and I lived in usually with my beautiful fellow nutter spaniel Haggis (below). We climbed trees, explored and enjoyed nature. Haggis loved jumping over the ferns and often ran into the back of our legs. The farm stead and surrounding fields were also brilliant yet forbidden places to have adventures but not realising that, we sneaked into the various buildings and excitedly tunnelled through the barely crops, causing unknown crop damage but we were just hyper kids. One day we did get told off by Mr Hamilton the kind farmer.
My neighbour Alison was part of my adventures and she has blessed me with many fun memories too. Drawing treasure maps and naming the trees a particular favourite not forgetting the huge rope swing dad made.
We loved exploring the countryside, built an amazing insect garden in an old washing up basin and found it funny to send woodlice flying by the mere tap of a spoon against the basin as they climbed upwards. They were never harmed of course. Empty boarded up flatblocks were excitingly dangerous so naturally we found a loose wooden panel and creeped inside to investigate. The most we ever found was ghastly wallpaper but our best explore was a once stately stately home near stables in Seafield. I can’t recall who owned it but it sat in once resplendent majesty for years. No doubts too expensive to renovate. One day, we managed to get inside. It was amazing! Trapped in time, probably early 20th century, with obnoxious wallpaper, a couple of beautiful lighting fixtures and the cellar was just asking for it but we chickened out. We were startled by a strange noise and like spooked horses we bolted out of there!
We wore each other’s clothes to attend the Glasgow Garden Festival of 1988 looking like two failed pop stars in satin, a Garfield t-shirt and white sailor hat. What were we thinking? That we were “smart as fuck” as we often said. Yet Emma had such great natural poise, she could carry off any 80s monstrosisy and look cool. Ironically, my green anorak with comic print lining finally became cool in the music video for “Acceptable In The 80s” by Calvin Harris. We had a great time that day thanks to the generosity of Emma’s parents allowing me to go. On the way home we stopped off at a leisure pool that had water slides in varying lengths. We didn’t realise you had to sit on rubber rings provided and chaffed our backsides way worse than I ever did on that Helter Skelter in Brighton. Cue stopping off at a chemist on the way home for some good old fashion calamine lotion.
Emma and I loved wildlife, the countryside, tree climbing and “river bashing”. A phrase we made up to describe upon finding a river we followed it upstream hopping from rock to rock, not caring if we got our trainers wet if we lost footing and seeing what water insects and fish we could spot. Pond skaters especially amused us as did the feeling of minnows on our legs if we had a swim in the eternally ice-cold water. Dad took us camping and we all truly got back to nature. On the shores of a loch was the location and we had a trech if we needed to answer the call of nature, we washed the crockery and ourselves in the loch, roasted potatoes by the campfire and the stars above shone down upon us like glitter. It was magical and a memory I’ll cherish forever. And yes, we went river bashing and I think even had a shower under a waterfall over the confused eyes of a flock of sheep. Probably wondering why we were up on our hind legs with no fleece.
Crazy us that we were often dared each other to do crude yet innocently intended things. Like swim in the swimming pull with the front of our swimsuits pulled down to reveal our developing breasts, swimming with “wedgies” to reveal our bottoms (and worse sometimes!) then hysterical laughter as a swimmer wearing goggles popped up from underwater. And there was the topless mountain biking through Beecraigs Country Park located in our vast heavenly playground, the glorious Bathgate Hills. Our mutual adoration of animals united us together also and I was always envious of Emma’s gull skull. From what I recall, we each had a nature table, a study area confined to schools, in our owns bedrooms. Empty bird nest, various bones, feathers, shells etc. My ram skull, taxidermy duckling and weasel soon alleviated my envy of that gull skull!
We sadly lost touch when I changed high school because we moved house. I was gutted and missed her so much, especially knowing she’d be bonding with other classmates and I naturally did likewise. We still saw each other on occasion but to me, not often enough. Then one day Blackburn Academy sadly closed down (another vacant place we explored by climbing in on of the windows of the maths department) and pupils were sent to Bathgate Academy. I was thrilled to see her again, even though we’d bonded with other classmates, our bond was still tight. I was a bit of an awkward kid at school, I felt, and found it hard to mix but I had my core group including Emma who made my final years in High School good fun.
I’ve not seen Emma much at all since reluctantly having to move down to London in the late 1990s but the times I have done have been beautiful and I enjoyed meeting her new family, her horse and a trip down memory lane in Edinburgh. We are still in contact and know we are there for each other. Nothing has changed, my feelings and love for her are still as strong and if I could, I’d do that topless mountain biking doube-dare with her any day of the week then a picnic sat leaning against a tree.
Dedicated to you dearest Emma and to all at Bathgate Academy. So proud of you all and am blessed to still be in contact with you
© Copyright: Sharon Lawson™