Our row of soot covered old terrace houses, backed up lopsided against the railway viaduct that carried the main London railway-line and others, with Arkwright Street Station above our house, with a narrow back yard, outside toilets and coal houses built up against the actual grotty soot covered brick wall of the railway viaduct.
You can imagine the soot, oil, and other residues that would fall into the yard and onto the houses as the express belted past, or the commuter trains would stop at the station, and kick out burning embers with the soot, to fall gently down over our domicile.
Thus, the slightly paranoid personality of myself. . . you see, as the embers fell, often it would set fire to my hair, and a neighbour would run out into the yard to me, and start belting me around the head, as they often would when I got up to no good, so I had to wait until they'd finished enjoying belting me about the head a bit, to find out if my hair had actually been set on fire, or if I'd done something naughty!
Thus my baldness, and rampant paranoia?
I grew up with the trains belting past all hours of the night, and despite the fact that they shook the house so violently (the London expresses) that the windows shook, slates fell from the roof, the bed shook, the lights swayed, and the curtains often fell to the floor. The commuters and shunter trains would spew out soot, burning ashes, and shake down lumps of brick from viaduct sides, yet I cannot recall it bothering my sleeping pattern, or waking me up at all!
When we moved years later to a quiet, clean, cul-de-sac council house, I couldn't sleep... The quietness kept me awake!
There I was, a toddler in the company of three other local lads, we were just crossing the canal bridge on Wilford Street, and one or two of the lads stopped to watch a boat going through the lock.
A gang of youths approached, and without delay they picked us up and threw us into the canal!
Now you must be aware, to fully comprehend this story that I was, and always have been scared to death of two things - the dentist, and deep water.
I somehow came up from the depths of the canal, and managed to grab hold of some thick rope hanging from one of the British Waterway barges, and there I stayed, scared I'd lose my grip, unable to utter any sound or word - through shear fear and panic - and watched as passers-by fished out the other lads.
An ambulance and police arrived and they took them away - me, confused as to why I wasn't rescued, still hanging on for grim life to the rope, getting colder, weaker and more and more scared than I ever thought possible!
Eventually, someone did spot me, and came across on a rowing boat (Still don't know where the boat came from, but I thanked God for it), and dragged me ashore. He even took me home in his pushbike-sidecar. I couldn't thank him properly as I was still struggling to find my voice, and shaking like a leaf through the sheer terrifying ordeal, that has left me a phobia, if that is the right word, a dread,trepidation, and panic of deep water, that prevented my ever having learnt to swim - natural really, as before I could learn to swim, I had to conquer my fear of water, but could never do that, despite several periodic attacks of bravery and visits to the baths in an effort to master my fear, all failing miserably I'm still afraid.
You'd have to understand the meaning of fear to understand.
They say everyone has their Achilles Heel - in that dirty canal on that fateful day I confirmed mine, deep water!
When I eventually arrived home, thanks to the good Samaritan, I was so pleased - that was until the Samaritan left, and daddy was kind enough to belt me about a bit for coming home late and with wet muddy clothes.
That night I went to bed bewildered, confused, dysphonic, sad, shivering and bruised, but the bruises caused my by falling into the canal were the least of my pain!
Getting another, good belting for getting my clothes wet, did not help my future sanity.