A Past Life

wp-1460985817562.jpgI feel as though I’ve lived two lives.

The first was in Scotland. I was born there in 1996 and lived there until 2008. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, in a little town called Broxburn I went to school, lived with my parents and eventually a couple of brothers, had a set of grandparents around the corner and there was a council-sanctioned playground just up the road. Even better than the playground was the two forested areas just behind it surrounded by waist high wire fence.

These forested areas, affectionately called ‘The Woods’ were completely out of bounds according to the collective group of parents of my friends and I. One day some older kids convinced us to go in, and in a huge expeditionary group of big kids and little kids armed with toy guns, sticks and swords, we found that the woods were safe, and fucking awesome. We had trees to climb, the same trees armed with branches for swords, and scattered here and there was dumped furniture and open areas used for bases from which rival groups of kids would fight from. Allegiances would change every week. Every summer entire days would be spent fighting for control with short breaks when dad came to the edge of the woods to find me and remind me of a world outside of the tribal wars going down in the woods, and that I had to eat.

When not engaging in the woods’ gang warfare I’d be at school. In hindsight, through rose tinted glasses, Broxburn Primary School was a wonderful place. For each year level there was an A class and a B class. The classes didn’t change each year, and very rarely did anyone move out of or to our little school, so naturally we were all closely knit in our little B class. I think this might’ve caused issues – the few times we weren’t forced to work alongside the A class we were competing with them, and those are the times I remember most. I always had a sense of pride in my class, and an intense disgust and hatred at the savagery of the A class. Honestly, I remember thinking how rough and mean the A class seemed compared to our kind, posh, intelligent B class. Nowadays I’m sure they were just dumb kids like us.

When the rose tinted glasses come off I remember not being the cool kid. Socially awkward and sometimes terribly rude, I was only really close friends with one other boy in the class, Michael. Most of the kids I played with out of school were either at different schools or different ages. Michael, my school best friend, shared the same interests with me and the same imaginative streak that didn’t lend itself to the football all the other boys played. Whenever we had to work in pairs, we’d share a glance and know shit was about to go down. On my worst days, when I felt my worst about myself, seeing Michael at school always made me forget how dark things could be.

I’ve always struggled with memory. I can’t remember how I said goodbye to my best friend. But the last time I saw him was some time late December 2007 as school wrapped up for Christmas and I never went back. In January I moved to New Zealand, and my second life began.

My first memory arriving in New Zealand would be the blast of ungodly heat hitting me as the automatic doors at Auckland Airport opened. There was a drought that Summer, which only served to complicate our family’s adjustment in those first few months. My mum took it the worst. My mum, the strongest and most intelligent woman I know, was breaking down nightly as she couldn’t bring herself to just leave everything she’s ever known behind 12,000 miles away. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have Michael waiting for me at school to talk to Pokemon about. What I did have was people who couldn’t understand what I said and spoke with an almost entirely different language.

It took a while for us all to adjust. To be honest, I only think my mum did in the last few years. I didn’t find it so bad, as a matter of fact I think the combination of my parents stress, being the older brother and not having a best friend to confer with, moving here aged me very quick. That, or arriving here coincided with a huge puberty shift. Either way, I quickly matured and even gained some confidence that got kicked into high gear when I discovered Drama in high school. I made new friends, made this beautiful country my home and nationality, and completely acclimatised to this ungodly heat.

It’s only been 6 years since I finished there, but I don’t look back at my first school in this country, Cambridge Middle School, as hugely and emotionally connected to me. I recognise the importance it had in breaking New Zealand culture over my head like a wooden plank but it doesn’t hold that nostalgia value for me that my first life does. I could get up now and drive to Cambridge Middle School if I wanted. It’s my first life that I yearn to re-live. The internet is pretty good for that.

Google Maps is always my first port of call when I feel like I did when I started writing this blog. I can drive down streets of my home town with no problem remembering where to go. However the forest and playground aren’t visible from any nearby roads, and so I’m kept from that memory.

A Google search follows, tonight I looked up Broxburn Primary School. I nearly shed some tears when I found a staff list dated September 2015 and on it were some of my old teachers. Still there nearly ten years on, reading those names brought me right back to the classroom, and even a preschool supervisor is still there, and I can still see her face as 4 year old Andrew saw it.

My least favourite nostalgia search is on Facebook. I easily find former class members, the glorious B class, but it really hurts to see their profile pictures. Sometimes they look like they used to, sometimes they’re unrecognisable. A few of the profiles say they go to university which really doesn’t make sense because they were all 11 years old last time I saw them. I’m not Facebook friends with any of them. I really wouldn’t know what to say. But it’s bittersweet to see their faces again and remember all the classes, trips, and years we spent together in that little school in a little town in Scotland, and I become acutely aware of exactly how much they all mean to me.

Michael doesn’t have a Facebook page.

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I Bless The Rains

It rained a lot today.

It came in showers mostly, much to my disgust as I had to walk through it at university. I found myself quite annoyed at just how damp I was.

Only now, at 11.55pm, as the low, constant sloshing white noise picks up once more am I reminded of a childhood spent in another country, with different friends, more family members and no knowledge of New Zealand’s existence. Growing up in Scotland I experienced a lot of rain, and not by choice. I remember days when it would rain all day, the warm amber streetlights and the distant fluorescent brightness shining through windows constantly approaching, the only salvation amongst skies as dark as the night’s as I tramped through flooding paths and pond-like puddles on the way to school.

I grew to love the rain. The availability of fresh water in our society should never be taken for granted, but I lavished in the rain that felt more like watery clumps than the beads that rain down here. Much to my parents’ vexation I would stay out playing long after the rain started up (to be fair the lightsaber fights my friends and I engaged in were much cooler in the rain) and return home with my hair flattened to my skull, many streams running down my face like tears of joy wept by my forehead. I never caught a cold like that, as much as mum and dad tried to make me believe I would.

For whatever scientific reasoning the rain during the day here in New Zealand seems to wrap up pretty quickly, and then the blue sky returns until another shower later on. At night however, it’s much more consistent. Besides a slight lull in the quantity of the rain here and there, it just keeps going. I love this country, the culture, my friends and what I have, and I would never ask for anything more; but tonight, I’m sleeping 12,000 miles away.