For a short time, I was friends with a boy named Brian Jones. So short, in fact, that I don’t remember much about him other than that he had curly hair, a brother who had a motorcycle and lived on a main road near a park we called The Waterworks.
On the other hand, we were obviously good enough friends that he was one of only four guests at my tenth birthday party. And we only stopped being friends when, shortly afterwards, he moved away from the area.
All of which is slightly surprising, after the way that things panned out the first time he came to dinner with my family.
I am not sure how it happened, but it seems that he and I were playing out in the field behind our house and only my mother was at home. We were playing football up towards the top of the field and I clearly didn’t register Mum leaving the house (at the bottom of the field) and walking over to friends in the bottom corner.
This was unfortunate, because shortly afterwards I, as the goalkeeper at the time, dived to save the ball, landed on the ground rather heavily and bit my tongue.
So hard that I bit through about 80% of the tip.
Being me, I didn’t realise that it was a serious problem (something that has dogged me throughout my life) and carried on playing, until the point that Brian felt obliged to tell me that my tongue wasn’t stopping bleeding. Which then created a problem, because when we got home there was no-one there.
For some reason, I decided to go to the family over the road and ask if they knew where Mum was. Now, the Burts were a lovely family and very tolerant of me, but so far as I know they didn’t have tracking devices attached to my parents, so goodness knows what Ann thought when confronted with me dripping blood all over her doorstep. With her usual kindness she took me in and had my rinse my mouth with warm water, at least until Mum could be found.
Ultimately, I ended up at casualty, where I was told that I had come within a very short distance of needing to have my tongue sewn back together. By that time, Brian had been dispatched home, unfed and probably wondering if this was an every day event in my house*.
The result was a couple of days off school (during which I watched Mike Proctor take a hat-trick for Gloucestershire against Hampshire, because I was a cricket nerd even then), a lot of ice-cream (very good for injured mouths and tongues, apparently) and a scar in the shape of two front teeth which I have to this day.
*not an every day event. We saved them for special occasions, such as visitors or my parents’ wedding anniversary