History never repeats…

I tell myself, before I go to sleep. Except that, well, it does. Today’s a prime example. But first, a quick trip back nearly twenty years ago…

The year is 1988; I’m a third year student at Lakehouse High in East London (the school’s no longer there, and wasn’t even by the time I finished my GCSE), and I’m at the local pool with some friends of mine — specifically one Jason Ibbotson. Jason’s a bit of a lad, to put it mildly, and my ever-dimming memory tells me he was the son of a milkman, not that that’s terribly relevant. Just some backstory, if you will.

Anyway, it’s the pool fun night, which means lots of stupid inflatable things in the pool and general horseplay. This, I discover, is particularly important for London kids, as a surprising number of them can’t in fact swim. It seems odd coming from Australia – I’d been in the UK for less than six months — where practically every newborn bub is thrown headfirst into the dam with bricks stapled to their ankles * — but if you can at least build a little water confidence, you’re halfway to not drowning.

Anyway, Jason and I have been playing silly buggers, as one does at that age, and he does a particularly large bomb into the pool. I follow up fairly briefly afterwards, not really thinking about where he is in the water…

The end result is that I jump, with pretty impressive force for a fourteen year old, straight into his elbow. Hard object meets mouth in a rather painful display of physics. Put two teeth right through my lip, creating a whole lot of spilled blood and a rather impressive hole. I’m lucky — if such a thing can be called lucky — that I don’t lose the teeth involved. The pool staff do their due diligence ** and send me home, at which point I have to face my parents, who aren’t entirely sure that I’m telling them the truth. In one of those so-stupid-only-I-could-do-it moments, it takes me about half an hour to realise that I could just write out what happened, rather than trying to croak it out through some incredibly bruised, battered and swollen bloody lips.

Three very painful days follow where I can’t eat properly, or even talk. Twenty years later, and there’s still a little lump in my mouth where I bit through.

That brings us nicely back to the modern day setting, and a park at the very bottom of Hornsby Heights. It’s a church picnic, around 1pm, and we’re just winding down. Zoe’s been impressing the adults by trying to play boules with them with the aid of a large rubber PlaySchool ball, and James is playing happily on the slides and climbing equipment. I’m watching Zoe charm the other boules players, and Di’s managing multiple kids on the climbing and sliding equipment.

And then James gets overconfident, slips and falls. Hard object meets mouth in a rather painful display of physics. History, it seems, does indeed repeat itself.

(Before I get inundated with panicky relatives, James has done a less “impressive” job of it than I did all those years ago, and aside from the blood and the screaming, he’s largely settled, although we’ll be keeping an eye on him for the rest of the day. And I haven’t spoken to Jason in many a year…)

*This is true. You can look it up if you don’t believe me.
**That is, they make sure I’m not dead.

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