All children have nightmares. In the history of my life, I have only known one person who remembers every dream when he wakes up and is certain that he’s never had a nightmare. I don’t suppose he’s especially normal.
It’s only natural for parents to raise their children to be cautious of strangers, roads, commercial television, the dark, all manner of obvious evils – it’s about survival. Of the less common but terrifying frights when I was a child was.. the chain letter.
I was raised to fear the chain letter. I’m not even sure if they exist any more, but they were the stuff of sleepless terrors.
In case they have ceased to press on the minds of the young, here’s what they were: a chain letter was something received in the post, which threatened consequences including several years of bad luck, failed relationships, deaths and financial ruin, unless the recipient forwarded the scary missive to six friends (who would soon not be friends and might have started to view the sender with angled suspicion, if not wide-eyed genuflection, rapidly followed by a swift exit).
No-one ever wanted to receive a chain letter. Sometimes they promised great riches if the recipient followed the instructions, often they were just threats, and they seemed to be the domain of the pre-teen, before we had the expression ‘pre-teen’.
The closest approximation I can make to the chain letter is – and oh, God but they’re awful – the confusing post on Facebook which, if you understandably react to it or make any kind of comment, leads to a private message from the original poster, and instructions to make the same kind of post, to raise awareness for some sort of illness or disorder.
Now, I will explain, I have nothing against people. Of any kind. My mother was disabled and any awareness that leads to funding, protests and a cure, is all good with me.
However, it’s when the original post is something like: I’m going to be a dad, or I’m moving to Skegness, or I’m getting a pet monkey, etc. etc, I feel the will to live seeping away from me.
The fact is, you can’t not react and it’s all rather tiresome. Surely this is going against the very grain of raising awareness when people see them and make surly-teenage face?
And it rather puts me in mind of the – nice idea, badly done – of my childhood forays into home cooking.
I had most certainly watched my mother baking. I had seen my dad line and grease tins like nobody’s business, and I had had a crack at building a bonfire on the kitchen floor when I was a toddler, which resulted in a small burn-mark in the lino. I managed to confine the area of destruction to that square inch because the bonfire, made from a piled up box of my dad’s matches and lit with one of the same, went out when I poured table salt on it.
It was clearly time for me to create a dessert. I think I was around five.
Perhaps I’m being a little generous with myself there, but in any case I was small. I took a cereal bowl and filled it with cornflakes and dolly mixtures, and topped it off with a decent glug of undiluted orange squash.
Honestly, no matter how awful it sounds, it tasted much worse.
And that will be my attitude to forwarded nonsense. I won’t do that again.
My Facebook friends will just have to come to terms with the fact that, from now on, whatever random craziness is written on my wall: it’s just me.