Written by

Simply Red – Fairground

At five, I didn’t do much. I watched cartoons, I listened to the radio, I read books, and I drew pictures. I drew a lot of pictures. I wanted to be a cartoonist, you see, and pausing videos to try and draw my favorite cartoons was the pastime for most afternoons.

“I’m going to be a cartoonist.” I was adamant. I bought scrapbook after scrapbook with the change my mum would spare me, and sketched daily, ripping out the pages where I’d made a cluster of mistakes. Some scrapbooks would finish with only one or two pages in them out of a hundred.

Mostly I’d draw with a photo by my side, and sometimes for the more elaborate pieces I’d trace the outline and try to do the rest by memory. Eventually, I’d draw regularly from memory, and started to try my hand at a range of subjects and materials. Portraits and landscapes, pencils and paints, crayons and markers – you name it.

Sometimes in class, people would ask me to draw things for them. If the person who asked was somebody I wasn’t altogether fond of, I turned these requests into some sort of deal involving Pokémon cards, red frogs, etc. If I liked the person who’d asked I’d do it without question. Just for fun. I was damn near an adult.

The edges of my fingers were always smudged with lead – I have a peculiar way of holding pencils and pens – and I never remembered this. Smudges of lead could be found anywhere I’d scratch: shoulders, cheeks, the backs of my ears. Combined with the torn knees and ripped sleeves of my school uniform, and my reliance on my parents for any kind of food or drink, I was the primary school equivalent of a struggling artist.

I was starting to make inroads into the cutthroat world of courtyard success. People were telling me they liked my drawings. The pretty girls who had once laughed when I professed my love to them were now always around, pushing me and then running away in a giggling fit. I considered changing my hairstyle. Maybe piercing an ear. I mulled over the multitude of brash changes I could make, and weighed them against the likelihood of my mother agreeing. But I had change on the mind, and that counted for something.

It wasn’t long before there were scraps of paper everywhere. Days, if that. Everybody was drawing something. Some were even drawing the same cartoon characters I was, and better! Soon, I couldn’t turn a corner without seeing smudged hands and ripped uniforms. I was done for. I sat dejectedly in classrooms, rolling my worn-down red pencil (the red pencil was my thing) along the desks, not knowing what to do. It had slipped from my fingers, the fame. I let the red pencil roll, dk-dk-dk-dk-dk-dk-dk-ing its way off the edge of the desk.

I decided there: I was never going to be a cartoonist.

[Buy Life here.]

5 Responses to “GROWING UP (I)”

  1. J.R. says:

    Very well written, Joan. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

  2. Jess says:

    Very, very good. ‘Twas odd actually. I grew up with that song thanks to father dearest and the story was so…reminiscent of something that happened to me in primary school.Very nostalgic. Except this kid evidently had allusions of struggling-artist-grandeur since they were tiny. I didn’t have that. I envy them. Good writing, write a book already…

  3. Encyclopedia Victim says:

    True story.

  4. Oracolo says:

    Interesting childhood you’ve had, Joan. Liked the song too, as did my mum.

  5. Milad says:

    This song just opened the nostalgia floodgates.

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