The bedside Cabinet
My parents had a pair of bedside cabinets which represented the naivety of adulthood and the curiosity of youth. Battle scarred, the laminate had fallen away at the corners and the tops were marked with drunken Olympic rings from years of hot coffee mugs.
They must have thought that there was a Star Trek force field which kept children away from being able to examine the contents. They contained stuff which was fascinating for enquiring minds. My mother buried her bright red vitamin C pills deep in the recesses, but not hidden sufficiently well to prevent me finding them and ODing as a three year old. I was cold free for years.
She also kept two sex education for children books on the top shelf. One was for my older sisters and the other for me and my brother. My mother had covered both books with thick brown paper which she had cut with her pinking scissors, giving a beautifully symmetrical zigzag edge. I had poured over both books, the Virgin Mary peering down at me from her vantage point above my parents’ mantelpiece. Her head was slightly tilted, seeming to give an understanding approval of my research.
The first picture in our book had a picture of a naked baby boy lying on his back on a changing mat. He was in full flow, an arc of wee shooting skyward. I’m not sure what message the author was trying to impart apart from warning parents that baby boys are armed and extremely dangerous. By the time my father had delegated the messy birds and bees business to my mother, I had conducted the bones of a PhD into the subject.
My friend, Simon Cudworth, had helped with the project. He filled in the bits I didn’t quite understand and was a font of sexual know how. By the age of nine, I thought that I could have probably lectured on the Kama Sutra, such was the extent of my knowledge.
Of course I played dumb and when the book was produced I dutifully took it and pretended to read the contents which I already knew off by heart.
My mother thought ‘duty done’ and turned their attention to the education of my already well informed younger brother who had to feign complete ignorance, exactly like his older brother.