When I was four years old, my mother took me to a ballet class and I really enjoyed it. I stuck with it for years but as I got older, I began getting teased by the kids on the street and at school. By the age of eleven I decided to give it up, in spite of the fact I'd just reached grade 4 and was really proud of myself. I gave it up for several reasons; it's not cool, I’d found new hobbies and beyond grade 4 it gets really hard and really intense. I don't go to ballet any more but I still get teased for it occasionally and still get called 'Billy' by a handful of kids. This often leads to the tiresome 'why did he call you Billy' conversation. Even some of the girls think it's a bit weird when they learn that I used to do ballet, and all have to ask if I wore a tutu. “Nooo.” I groan. “Boys wear shorts and a T-shirt, like Billy Elliot did.”

My mother understood my reasons for wanting to quit, but told me that I shouldn't worry about what other people say. It wasn't just because I was being teased that I decided to quit my twice weekly ballet classes. It was taking up too much of my time and I felt like I was just growing out of it. Plus, taking it beyond Grade 4 is something only prospective professionals tend to do... and my waning interest no longer justified the time, effort or expense of continuing. I'd also found new interests that I enjoyed more, such as playing cricket, making model kids, going karting and playing video games.

One afternoon at school, Miss York, my English teacher asked if I'd stay behind after class. Initially I thought that I must be in trouble for something, so waited nervously whilst the other kids filtered out. Miss York is also the school's Head of Drama. She tells me that she's looking for cast members for the big play that's performed at the end of the academic year, and asks if I do ballet. “No.” I reply. “Not any more.” I added, informing her that I gave it up a year-and-a-half ago.

Shopping With Mother

Mum and I would visit the city every month or two. She likes the much bigger choice of clothes shops and bargain stores whilst I enjoy the gadget and media stores and visiting the museums. Mum likes galleries which can be tedious, depending on the exhibition... but the same can be said for the museums. This time, there's a new indoor market she wants to visit. It's set on three floors of some big old warehouse, so each floor is huge, filled with seemingly hundreds of little stores selling games and gadgets, records, furniture, junk, posters, vintage, modern and even military fashions... all sorts of stuff. There's almost nothing to buy but plenty to look at. It's almost a museum or art gallery in its own right.

Conditions of Inheritance

When I was little, I was convinced the house was haunted. Even in bright sunshine it was an imposing structure. We'd visit several times a year for a few days and I always looked forward to leaving. The joists creaked throughout the night and the nearby trees cast skeletal shadows across the moonlit walls. I always mistook the hoot of an owl for the mutterings of a ghost or ghoul... and in the mornings we had to endure Aunt Agatha and her housekeeper Bernice. Agatha's husband, Uncle Quentin was always away on business until he was lost at sea many years ago. With no children of her own, Agatha's approach to youngsters wasn't ideal. Seen and not heard was the way she saw it.

When I was young I felt it was just myself and my elder sister Mabel that she despised. But as I got a little older, I came to believe that she disliked pretty much everybody. Aunt Agatha was a cantankerous old bag. I don't think a single member of the family liked her either, but the various strands had a tendency to visit her two or three times a year. She's rich... stinking rich. She's also a childless widow and her various nephews, nieces and distant cousins were only interested in one thing: getting their hands on a chunk of her wealth. Agatha has already disinherited Uncle Albert because she didn't approve of his second marriage and often claimed she'd leave everything to charity since her own family are so unworthy of inheriting her wealth.

That didn't stop them from visiting and sucking up to her, trying to find favour and secure a place on her final Will and Testament. After Bernice passed away, Agatha managed to piss off the entire family when she took in one of my cousins as Bernice's replacement. It wasn't the fact that she had a new maid and housekeeper that pissed my mother and the rest of Agatha's nephews and nieces off... but the fact that she'd changed her Will to benefit Uncle Rupert and Aunt Beryl only... my mother and Agatha's other nieces and nephews would receive nothing, nilch, yada, zilch. 

Some strands of the family turned their back on Agatha since they now have nothing to gain, but my mother and a handful of others continued to visit, sucking up and feigning friendship in the vain hope she'll leave them a portion of her wealth in her final Will & Testament.