Coins from the Fields of Culloden
A short anecdote from my childhood...
When I was ten I lived on the edge of a town in a house surrounded by paddocks filled with finches and pheasants and bright yellow buttercups. A train line connecting us to a larger world ran fifty metres from our small home and on Sundays I would lie in concealment in the long grass with the pennies intended for the church collection box placed carefully on the steel tracks, watching in fascination as the 10am train rushed by, crushing them into bronze wafers.
One day my father discovered my growing collection and noticing a still vague resemblance to a British monarch on one of my pulverized coins, surmised the truth. Wielding the dreaded riding crop, the usual rod of retribution for 'serious' offences, he pursued me to the bathroom where I took refuge and locked the door. "Unlock that door young man! If you're not out on the count of ten I'm going to break it down." Then the slow, suspenseful counting would begin... "One, two, three, ... nine, ten!" "Start again, start again!" I would shout from behind the door. "One, two, three..." and I would open the door and face my punishment "like a man" as he would quaintly put it.
At age eleven, my crushed coin collection still intact, I was excused any further dealings with our local church - a milestone day in my life - but instead subjected to Scottish dancing lessons, also ominously on a Sunday. There I met Alwyn, my thirteen year old red headed Scots dancing partner – in a moment of ingratiating foolishness I presented her with one of my treasured train modified coins, claiming it was a priceless ancestral relic handed down through generations of our clan from the 1746 Battle of Culloden.
Standing four feet two inches tall in my dancing pumps and tartan socks, clad in a red and green kilt with deerskin sporran and clutching my counterfeit 'Battle of Culloden' coin collection, I must have been an irresistible sight to the impressionable Alwyn – she was smitten! Whether it was a glimpse of my unscotsmanlike knobbly knees or growing suspicions about the authenticity of my coins, Alwyn's interest in me began to wane and then evaporated entirely when we came last in the Highland Fling end-of-year competitions. I had stumbled on and scattered the crossed swords over which we leapt and pranced and a distraught Alwyn had stormed off and abandoned me for the sanctuary of the changing rooms. It was here in the middle of the Aramaho Community Centre, attired in my ridiculous kilt, that I first knew anger. Spurned by the fickle Alwyn, alone on the wooden dance floor, I could have swept one of the ceremonial swords from the floor and pursued her to a terrible revenge, a demented eleven year old, then run rampant through the horrified audience carving my way through a wall of kilts and human flesh before fleeing into the night.
All my willingness to attend any further dancing lessons was gone and once again I had to lock myself in the bathroom while my parents pleaded and cajoled from the other side of the door, finally relenting and agreeing to an end to all my Scottish highland dancing. Rebuffed by the Scots, my dancing days now behind me, I was free to explore new pathways in life – my childhood coins, so artfully crafted under the wheels of the mighty train, eventually disappeared out of my world the way all things do, living a life of their own.