My Glasgow posts and 1970s posts seem to be popular so I thought I’d share a wee insight into 1974 chez Nettie
Blood wasn’t a stranger to me.
Of course, there was childhood blood: grazed knees, cut hands, red blooms from lost baby teeth. In our bathroom there were specks of blood on the towels from my dad’s shaving mishaps, toilet paper scabs that had been used to staunch the flow. Later, there would be blood where he had tried to cough up the cancer that eventually took his life.
From a lifelong cheek chewing habit I often had blood in my mouth, the metallic taste secretly, and temporarily, relieving my anxiety. It still does, accompanied by crushing guilt that I have yet again mutilated myself, and worry that what I read about the repeated trauma possibly causing cancer niggling and making me anxious. It’s self perpetuating, as are most anxieties.
I knew vaguely about ‘the curse.’ I was a sheltered child, kept in the dark about most adult things my mother was unequipped to talk to me about. I was told, once, that women have to bleed every month so they could have babies and when it happened to me I’d have to wear a sanitary belt and a Dr White’s. That was as far as home education on puberty went. Hair grew where it didn’t before and I said nothing, assuming it was normal or I was dying. And as for sex education, my initial teachers were the Cathy & Claire pages of The Jackie and the dictionary. Neither was comprehensive.
One day there was a fight, somewhere on school grounds. Some lad had been stabbed and was brought into the school dinner hall to be laid on top of a table while he waited for an ambulance. Knives and swords were common in Glasgow schemes in the 70s. This was the era of gangs having running battles on waste ground, each asserting their superiority, fighting for their team. I’ve talked about gangs before and, no doubt, I will again. But a knifing IN school during the day…this wasn’t at all usual. Thankfully, I missed the fight and its immediate aftermath, but later in the day I remember looking down and seeing the table and some bloodied cloths. I was scared.
I was scared because I knew how easily it could have been me. I had been threatened so often and by so many that it was only a matter of time before they made good on their threats. That afternoon I went home, walking quickly along the main roads instead of across the pedestrian bridge over the motorway. My journey was about twenty minutes longer, but it felt safer.
I told my mum when I got in. She managed to turn it around to me upsetting her, how worried I’d made her, how much she needed the cup of tea I had to make her.
That night, I started to bleed.