Tag Archives: Chernobyl

I’m a lover, not a fighter

When the desire to get into a fight was given out, it’s fair to say that I was probably sitting underneath a table somewhere playing with an Etch-A-Sketch. Given that I never had the punching power of a Ricky Hatton, or the ability to flee from trouble with the pace of Usain Bolt, I used to simply put my head down and hope that nobody would bother battering an awkward looking kid whose biggest interest was collecting football stickers.

That said, though, it’s almost impossible to go 36 years without getting into some sort of fight. Incredibly, I’ve only managed two – and let’s just say that I’ve not shown the kind of talent to worry Manny Pacquiao just yet.

The first one probably came in 1987, in the entrance way to my school. Before school started, kids would throw their bags in a big pile at the side of the hallway, and then head outside to play footballsoccer with a tennis ball, or have a crafty cigarette behind the woodwork studio.

On the day in question, I noticed a kid from the year above me picking up my bag and flinging it across the room. After – erm – politely enquiring as to his purpose (using a succession of choice words from the 1971 edition of The Filthy Sailor’s Dictionary), the two of us squared up to each other.

Now, there are a number of important things to note here. Anti-confrontation though I may be, you have to draw the line somewhere. And for me ‘somewhere’ is just around the point you see your bag (covered in music and football scrawlings) sailing through the air in a perfect high speed arc. That said, I would not have taken matters further with someone a year older than me if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was at least a foot smaller and boasted a body shape that almost certainly made him the original inspiration for the Weebles.

What followed can only be described as ‘handbags at dawn’. Defying the notion that weebles wobble but they don’t fall down, the two of us ended up scrabbling around in the mélange of bags, pulling at each others hair and grappling for holds with all the effectiveness of a partially paralyzed wrestler. Who lost his sight three years ago. Along with a leg.

Finally I managed to hold the kid down with one hand, and pulled my fist back into the air to deliver the coup de grace fist to his irritatingly smarmy face. I took one glance back to admire my fist before it plunged headlong into the sinews and cartilage of my foe’s nose, and shuddered in horror as the face of my Latin teacher filled my vision. Mr Johnson – or “Dickchin” as his student charges so eloquently tagged him – shook his head, separated the two of us, and sent us on our way. I can only assume that he was so piteous of the manner of the fight that he couldn’t quite bring himself to punish us.

My second fight came almost nine years later, after a frankly regrettable evening with one of my longest-standing friends, who now makes his living by offering insightful analysis of the Asian money markets in one of the world’s leading financial newspapers. Back then, he was as easily influenced as me, as became apparent after the two of us headed to the cinema to see the B-movie schlockfest that was “From Dusk Till Dawn.”

For those of you who haven’t seen it (and I’m hoping that there are plenty of you), there’s a scene in the movie where the likes of Juliette Lewis and George Clooney sit around a table at the delightfully named Titty Twister strip club, drinking from a bottle of spiritsliquor. It was probably the one memorable scene from an otherwise forgettable movie, and when my friend and I emerged, we walked straight into the pub next door and ordered double shots of whisky.

Eight double shots and an hour or two later, the two of us found ourselves singing “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” on a snowy Cambridge street, in the general direction of the flatapartment occupied by my friend’s then-girlfriend. To be fair, she’s now his wife and mother of his two children, but from the expletives she issued forth when opening her third floor window, it was touch and go for a moment.

Barely able to focus, let alone walk, I zigzagged my way back towards home. For some reason, despite the fact that it was by now about 1am, I decided that it would be good to take a shortcut through a local shopping precinctmall. Strangely the doors failed to give as I pushed them (the fact that there were no lights on inside should have been a clue to me), and as I turned to walk away, a man sitting on the steps of an adjacent restaurant with his girlfriend laughed and swore at me.

Now, admittedly I shouldn’t have flipped him the v’sbird. But as I walked away I thought no more of him. Until he ran after me, that is. To be honest, I didn’t see his fist until it connected with my jaw. The second time he swung, I remember seeing his clenched hand by his side, but the effects of the whisky meant I didn’t see it again before it connected with my eye. At that point, my French side kicked in, and I legged it. My assailant didn’t bother pursuing me, possibly out of pity, which is fortunate given that I had as much ability to run as the aforementioned one legged wrestler.

Anyway, my point is that – one black eye aside – I’ve never had to bear the scars of battle like some fight-hardened individuals.

Until I became a new father, that is.

One thing that nobody ever tells you when you’re about to become a dad is that your newborn’s nails will grow faster than America’s national debt. Or that cutting them without causing injury is the 18th most difficult thing in the world (easier than getting a camel to peel a pomegranate, but more difficult than getting a New Yorker to say thank you).

Cutting a baby’s nails is like being a trainee bomb disposal specialist. You’ve read the books and seen the videos, but when it comes down to doing it for real, you’re so nervous that you sweat more than Tiger Woods when he’s lost his mobile phone. With each press of the clipper, you’re looking at the baby’s face for any sign that you’ve metaphorically snipped the wrong wire. Because, trust me, when you’ve nicked the skin around a baby’s nail, the resultant nuclear meltdown makes Chernobyl seem like an unfortunate domestic accident with a deep fat fryer.

The upshot of this is that clipping The Little One’s nails is a rarity. As a result, she’s starting to bear a startling resemblance to Edward Scissorhands. And now that she’s discovered reaching and grabbing, she’s single-handedly making me look like someone who’s been twelve rounds with Mike Tyson.

So far I’ve got an inch long scar down my right cheek, a mark on my chin vaguely resembling a knuckle duster, and multiple scratches on my nose. Thankfully her favourite move – inserting one finger into each of my nostrils and pulling as hard as she can – leaves no visible marks.

It’s the emotional scars that last forever though.