32 – Sixteen Today (part 2) (1986)

“A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves — strong, powerful, beautiful — and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.”~ Pam Brown

So I had been to Northampton. I had felt as normal as it was possible to feel considering all the stuff that was going on in my real life. Now I am back and looking “forward” to my sixteenth birthday.

I had a scratch down my cheek from where a fight with a friend had resulted in me getting it hit with a rusty Stanley knife blade, and by some miracle, it not cutting deep enough in to leave a deep scar. That tale is for another day. It is not a nice one and is still an episode I am deeply ashamed of.

The drugs got worse. I was taking all sorts of speed and tablets now. In fact, as soon as my mum brought a prescription home from the doctors, I had tried her pills to see if I could get a kick out of them. Wee TL’s was where I hun around with JJ and the guys. I snorted speed at this point. That is, I inhaled it through my nostrils. I hated the taste of it and the feel of it. We did an awful lot. It would already be common for me, not quite sixteen, to be staying out nights. I would still be at work the next day though. That was important.

My mum and dad were actually already helpless at this point. In denial over how bad I already was, but not over the fact that I was using drugs. Many people try and blame the parents over how their kids turn out, and maybe sometimes that is true. Me though, I was a product of my choices. My parents did the best they could under the circumstances. They loved us and they accepted us. My mum did whatever she could to try and provide a stable and happy home. I was stubborn. I was screwed up. I made my choices. I cannot remember much about my sixteenth birthday. It was 13 February 1986. That’s pretty much it. No great parties. No celebration. I would probably have avoided the house to be at TL’s anyway.

I was still on my YTS with Alex Munro. We had another trip coming up in the spring. This one was more of an outward bound one. We were going to Southampton. Actually, it was Brockenhurst in the New Forest, but Southampton was the closest big town. We were going to spend a week outdoors and I could not wait. I had loved the Northampton trip. It was an escape, and without realising it – that was probably why I was so excited about this one.

It was the same guys that had been to Northampton that were going so that made it a wee bit easier. We also knew that we would be meeting up with the same four English guys. Off we all headed on the train to be picked up at Southampton and taken to our B&B at Brockenhurst.

This trip was to be a highlight of my life. I loved it. We did orienteering and long walks and a whole host of other stuff that was, apparently, normal behaviour for great swathes of British 16 – 18-year-olds. I remember vaguely walking down next to all the yachts in Southampton, on a day trip there, and being blown away. I had never seen anything like it. All these different boats that people actually owned. And they weren’t quite the pedal boats of the Glasgow park lochs either. Proper big, bold vessels designed for the open waters. The highlight for me though, we were going horse riding. It just seemed ridiculously out there. My closest experience to horses were the two in the field by Easterhouse train station (the field is, of course, now houses), that we used to pass on our way up to the garage at night to get munchies.

It was the same people that organised most of our activities that were organising the horse riding. I was mouthy. Very mouth. Not in your face or anything like that, I just always had an opinion and insisted that my opinion was correct. So, as a reward for being so wise and knowledgeable, they told me I was going on the biggest mare they had. She, apparently, had the same attitude as me so that was a perfect fit. After a brief prep session, we were assisted onto our horses and we set off around the beautiful New Forest. At one point they even took us up to a fast gallop on the horses. It was brilliant. I remember my backside bumping up and down on the saddle, and even still recall the pain. But it was no match for the sheer joy and freedom of being on a saddle on a magnificent horse, in a line galloping around such incredible scenery.

Then, one of the leaders called us all to a stop. A band of wild horses had been spotted just up in one of the gentle hills. It seemed that the stallion was taking an active interest in our horses, and either had taken a liking to one of them or had taken an exception to this encroachment of his territory. Either was apparently bad for us. Here we were 430 miles away from Easterhouse territorial gangfights. In the middle of one of the most beautiful places in England, and it seemed like I was about to be caught up in another territorial fight. Who knows, maybe the Easterhouse gangs are closer to nature than many give them credit for.

Anyway, I loved the buzz of it. I loved the sense of apprehension on the leader’s faces, and I loved the panic coming into the rest of the team. I was too ignorant to understand this could actually be serious. Apparently wild horses will behave like deer, for the most part, when they sense danger. That is that they will make their escape. The danger here was that the stallion was actually working his way closer towards us, and the rest of the gang was following. They were sizing us up, or maybe he was sizing up one of the females. Yeahhhh, right back in Easterhouse I was.

The decision was made to keep the horses in single file and very slowly keep trotting away. The hope was the stallion would lose interest. He was a cracker. I can picture him slowly making his way towards us, head up, sizing us up. Wondedring what his next move should be. he played us.

As we moved away, though, he did lose interest and turn back to his gang. It really was like Easterhouse. the rival gang left the territory and the danger subsided.

naomi horseAnyway, moment over we continued for what seemed like hours but was only two. It was brilliant fun. The strange thing is to this day I have never managed to go horse riding again. I have taken our Naomi a couple of times and she has loved it. It just hasn’t happened. Maybe it’s better that way. Keep the memory as a flashbulb moment from my past rather than sully it with a different experience here.

The week continued. Then it was over. I was now sixteen years old, I had managed to have two weeks of the past five months behaving what life should probably have been like. Now I had to return to my real life.

Last Friday evening Tracy and had dinner with two friends we had made at Port Ban. Brenda and Adrian very kindly took us for a meal in Cumbernauld. In the few years we had known them and enjoyed fellowship with them, there had never really been time to find out too much. So it was with great amazement I learned that this wonderful older couple were from Southampton. They had lived and served God in Scotland for a lot of years. Adrian used to work in one of the very first computer data analyst centres in the 60’s and had been involved in that right up until his retirement. We enjoyed a really nice evening.

New_Forest_orienteering_goproIt was wonderful, though, for the first time since spring 1986 to share with locals of the New Forest, the tremendous experience I had in their area. To have made a connection to the beautiful village of Brockenhurst. I recounted my joy of discovering how good I was at orienteering, (no sat navs or Google Maps in 1986) a map, a compass and some cryptic clues. We trashed the other team (yes it was Scots against English again) by almost two hours. Our final destination was a pub in the New Forest. Honest, we sta and drank cokes (honestly)  as we waited on the others finally arriving. They insisted we had cheated. We laughed. It was simply down to me discovering I could navigate those clues and a map and my sense of direction so well.

Such a pity I could not do it in my real life.

isaiah 30

This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.

Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.

If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:

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