A SIX-week pressure-free school holiday, the summer of 1979, leaning against a wall arguing about who was going in goal, characters moving in and out of the scene.
Andrew would be the first of us to go, dead by his late-30s. A lovely, gentle lad, whose life took a wrong turn in his teens and he ended up in borstal before alcoholism and spells living in hostels preceded his passing.
Stephen would be next. A promising sportsman, but in prison for football hooliganism by 20, in a mobility scooter by his mid-30s and gone by 40, lost after years spent in the seedy back streets of a seaside town.
Peter would follow. A nice, but troubled young man who, in hindsight, was never going to live to be old.
I wouldn’t see the third Andrew in our circle for years, then one day he shouted me as he was being bundled into a police van wearing full army gear. In a cider-addled frenzy he had threatened to shoot his father. Adjusting to life on Civvy Street had been difficult, he would tell me later. He had never really been in the Army though and has since spent most of his life in the psychiatric wards of hospitals.
Paul would commit suicide in his 20s after years struggling with life following the death of his brother in an accident.
Another of the ‘gang’ was Ian, one of four brothers and sisters with learning disabilities and other issues. We saw nothing wrong with him playing football with us even though he was a good decade older. It probably wouldn’t be allowed these days. He still walks around the village, radio perched on his shoulder, informing my mum, among others, of all the latest football scores from Inverness to Plymouth.
Across the road a man committed suicide. On the next street Kathleen was murdered by her husband.
Yet they seemed like innocent times. Jimmy Savile on TV, Gary Glitter on the radio, Jonathan King presenting Top of the Pops and Rolf Harris creating art with the kids.
All this comes to mind because, with the sun out, a slight chill in the air, less people on the streets, barely any traffic and not much doing in the outside world, it has the feel of the summer of 1979 when I thought nothing was happening in my apparently normal little world.
But what is normal? We have little idea as to what is going on behind closed doors, the real worlds of those we think we know.
It all came flooding back as I walked past houses and flats, curtains drawn, doors closed, no sign of life, and wondered how people were coping with the lockdown restrictions, no escape from all the problems they already had, now magnified by being imprisoned in a room, perhaps with a person or people who could be the root of all of their anguish.
They are all potential Andrews, Steves, Kathleens, Ians and Peters whose lives aren’t what they may seem as they idly kick a ball about with their pals, the most important issue on the surface being who’s going in goal.