Written by Annie Caulfield

Voices

Letter to a past me: Annie Caulfield

Annie Caulfield has a reeeeally urgent message for a shy five year old who is, due to an unfortunate incident on a climbing frame, just minutes away from being renamed “Wee Wee Girl”.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

Dear Annie

This is urgent. I am writing to you on the day you’ll learn that even though they are all the way across the room at the gym door, your teacher and the other kids will be able to see if you wee on top of the climbing frame. Perhaps this is your first scientific discovery: falling liquid is visible at a distance.

You’re five, at a new school, and have been too shy to ask where the toilets are. You did go searching at break time but some big boys were shouting and pushing each other in the corridor, so you fled.

Now here you are, leaving a damp climbing frame, with a puddle under it, in your damp pants. Children are pointing and sniggering. Your teacher is striding over.

Perhaps I should write to you earlier on this day, so you know about the liquid visibility thing. Then you’ll be spared weeks of meaner kids making hissing noises and calling you Wee Wee Girl. And your teacher won’t have a word with your mother when she collects you. Your mother’s been stressed with moving, she’s pregnant and now she feels she’s neglected you. The fussing and hormonal weeping on the journey home will convince you that your climbing frame mistake is bringing the world to an end.

Then again, if I prevent the climbing frame wetting, will it do you any good? Some people might say that the subsequent bullying was character forming. Eventually you did snap and hurled small beanbags at chief bully Keith Appelby’s head, and were joined by Fiona Glass who threw a football at him. Then Mark Roberts threw another football… And you realised that you did have some friends and everything would be fine.

The bullying weeks will be terrible though. On reflection, you are only five and have quite enough to learn, without needing to know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, blah blah blah…

“Your mother’s been stressed with moving, she’s pregnant and now she feels she’s neglected you. The fussing and hormonal weeping on the journey home will convince you that your climbing frame mistake is bringing the world to an end.”

So I’m telling you now. The toilets are the first door on the left in the main corridor. Oh, you don’t know left and right yet? The door on the side where you have an L on your mitten; in there. Also, you’ll soon be moving to another school anyway. At that school you’ll be friends with Celia Fogden who has a colour television; imagine that. The technology improves, by the way; that green fuzz around people’s heads is dealt with.

So because you’ve read this, and I hope I haven’t used too many long words, you will avoid the climbing frame disaster. Remember this anyway; whenever someone’s calling you names you will always have friends to throw stuff in your defence. You’re lucky that way. You will frequently embarrass yourself: I can’t help you avoid that, it does seem to be a character flaw. But it will matter less when you realise you’re good at the friends thing. The friends thing – that’s what really makes you stronger.

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Written by Annie Caulfield

Annie Caulfield is a dramatist, travel writer and broadcaster. Originally from Northern Ireland, she lives in London or a Spanish cave. www.anniecaulfield.com