The Bubblegum Chronicles ( pinch three ) .
I was looking out from my bedroom window . This was something that I regularly did . I had just witnessed Mr Kilbride from across the street , and down a bit , fall over his garden fence . This was something that Mr Kilbride did on a fairly regular basis . Usually at about 10:30 p.m. when he could be fairly sure , I suppose , that nobody would be watching him . Except an eleven year old boy at a bedroom window perhaps .
Looking out your bedroom window late at night is something of a clandestine activity but certainly well worth engaging in , there is just so much to see and it is anything but the lonely vigil that some might expect .
My mother would send me to bed each night promptly at 09:45 p.m. and allow me fiftteen minutes of what she referred to as 'cooling-down time' . This usually consisted of sitting up in bed , cutting pictures from old comics and pasting them into a cheap cardboard scrap book . This was a completely useless and pointless exercise that , with the benefit of hindsight , served absolutely no purpose at all , and was a complete waste of time , because I could just have left the pictures in the comics to look at . What was the point of all that cutting and pasting ?
My mother would appear in my bedroom doorway at 10:00 p.m. prompt , and would immediately scold me for using glue in bed , it made the sheets stick together . Actually , I once woke up in the middle of the night with the pillow firmly stuck to the left side of my face as a result of earlier in-bed scrapbook activity , and that caused a certain amount of personal anxiety for a few minutes I can tell you .
So my mother would scold me for having the glue in bed , but my brother who was five years older than me , in the other bedroom , would get absolute hell if he got his bed sheets sticky . So much so that my father would get involved and there would be a bedroom search for goodness sake . I never understood that , and my brother didn't even have glue or scrapbooks anyway .
So my mother would put out the light , and that was that . I would hear her , as she padded away down the hall , muttering about irrational behaviour and hyperactivity and a womans work is never done and other things like that .
Then , after about ten minutes or so , I would get up in bed and kneel on the end of it with my arms on the window sill and the curtain draped over my head and spend a pleasant hour or so watching the very interesting nocturnal activities of my town , or at least what went on up and down my street .
People act very differently at night when it is dark , and a lot of it seems to involve not being able to walk correctly anymore . This was strange because these same people walked perfectly correctly in the daytime , but at night they seemed to have some difficulty . Particularly the men , but women too , would be prone to this strange behaviour . This wobbly walking was quite often accompanied with raised arms , sometimes elevated at the sides like a large bird about to take off . or occasionally raised out in front , like a zombie or Frankenstiens monster . There would also be vocal self-accompaniment , the wobbly walker usually singing , a tad too loudly and untunefully I might add , or sometimes there would be a bout of cursing which involved coming to an abrupt halt in the middle of the street , and wobbling about on the spot , whilst simultaneously searching all pockets and swearing profusely and voiciferously to no one in particular , except perhaps another wobbly person who happened to be weaving erratically past at the same time . Some of these very unsteady people were so good at it that they ended up falling over , on the street , into gardens , over hedges and fences , there was just no stopping them . The fallover was usually preceded by a mass wobble that rapidly turned into a sort of bent over run and then a dive of sorts into whatever was available . This was sometimes executed in a full-blooded forwards direction , but was more likely to be sideways with just a hint of slightly backwards influence thrown in for good measure . The whole thing being carried out in complete silence with no little panache and splendidly dexterous footwork that was a joy to behold .
Once the fallover had been completed , they would lie there for varying lengths of time . From a few minutes until God only knew when . On one particular occasion I recall seeing our postman fall full length into a neighbours hedge and remain there motionless untill I had to give up watching , get back in bed , and go to sleep . In the morning he was gone , but I remember my father muttering about the post being very late that day , and my mother commenting that the postman had a badly scratched face and appeared somewhat fragile .
Women in particular were very adept at recovering quickly from the fallover .
One May day bank holiday just before 11:00 p.m. I personally witnessed the district nurse come wobbling up our street and collapse sideways through Mr Robertson's newly erected garden fence in a flurry of blue gaberdine mac and twirling handbag . She immediately struggled to her feet in a somewhat crab like fashion , smoothed herself down and continued on her unsteady way , seemingly completely unperturbed by the whole event .
Mr Kilbride was , however , the undisputed champion of the fallover . It was one thing to fall through other peoples fences , or into their hedges , but to do it over your own garden fence , and on a reliably regular basis at that , was something that Mr Kilbride specialised in . And extremely good at it he was too .
My mother used to say that practice makes perfect . She would quote this old and timeworn adage at every opportunity , although I am sure she knew nothing of Mr Kilbrides nocturnal exertions . I thought it was very apt though . Mr Kilbride had had a lot of practice down through the years and had obviously honed his technique almost to the point of perfection .
His garden fence was approximately chest height and to fall over it you first had to climb it . Plus , Mrs Kilbride had the rather expeditious habit of locking and bolting their garden gate , from the inside , every evening at about 09:30 p.m. whilst Mr Kilbride was off out somewhere seeing a man about a dog .
This was something , by the way , that a lot of men did when I was a boy , going to see another man about a dog . My own father did it regularly . We never did get a dog though , and as far as I know neither did Mr Kilbride .
So anyway , at about 10:45 p.m. most nights Mr Kilbride would come weaving up our street , wobbling merrily , and dogless as usual , with his arms up like airplane wings , singing 'Molly Malone' or 'The black velvet band' or even sometimes , being of good Catholic stock , 'It's a grand old team to play for' in a very tuneless but jolly style .
He would arrive at his garden gate and unfailingly attempt to open it , and of course he unerringly found it to be securely locked and bolted from the inside . This would cause him to mutter profanities , whilst simultaneously doing the on the spot wobbling about and searching all pockets routine . He would then take two or three unsteady steps backwards and assess the situation , this involved much pursing of his lips and several adjustments of his spectacles , followed by some tie adjustment and a hitching up of the trousers . Finally he would take several more steps backwards , at all times utilising his big bird arms to maintain a semblance of balance . Once out in the middle of the street , and satisfied with his positioning , he would take a run at the fence and make a grab for the top of it . This was certainly quite interesting to watch because as he reached his fence he did not attempt to jump up as you might expect , but rather he had a strange technique of just attempting to run straight up the fence without stopping . The word scrabbling comes to mind .
Anyway , he was usually successful and then hauled himself bodily upwards with one leg trailing down the fence and the other stretched out along the top to give himself balance . There would then follow several seconds of complete inaction as he presumably gathered his thoughts before simply falling unceremoniously over the other side into his garden . Being a somewhat rotund , some would say portly , fellow , he always landed with a thud that I could hear even from my lofty vantage point across the street . He would lie there for a minute or so , probably getting his breath back , before raising himself up and staggering off into his house .
There would then be shouting , lots of it , from his house . Mrs Kilbride used to get so upset , I think she wanted a dog so badly and he never bought one .
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