When I was a child, my family moved around a lot. By the time I was 16, I had lived in seven different houses and was enrolled in my 5th school. There was no real reason for us moving, my parents just got bored with where they lived.
Between the ages of 12-15, I lived in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. A pretty little town across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh. Overall, I was excited about the move. The town we were currently living in was rough and I was being bullied really badly so a change of scene seems like a brilliant idea. I had these visions of bright green mountain sides, nature on your doorstep and kilts. Kilts, everywhere.
Well that wasn’t exactly what I got. Surprisingly enough, Scotland is very much like England just with Scottish people and bagpipe buskers. That being said, our flat couldn’t have been in a better location. Planted in the middle of a hill, there was a huge park at the top of our road and if you stood just outside our home, you could look down the street and see the ocean all the way out to the horizon. The location of Kirkcaldy was even better during New Years where people would gather on the promenade, overlooking the sea and watched the sky light up with fireworks from all across Edinburgh.
Up until this age, school hadn’t been my favourite place. Glasses, bucked front teeth and now a different nationality, I worried about how I’d fit into another school in a different country. Well, the bullying continued, though not as aggressively as before (There was a lot less hair pulling and thorny bushes). Mainly name calling. Turns out the English aren’t too popular in Scotland. But something different happened when I joined Balwearie High School… I made friends, good friends. I was part of a small group where I felt valued and not like that annoying tag-along friend. Every break time we would congregate to the hill next to the science block and just catch up.
One of my favourite memories was climbing trees in the forbidden forest during our lunch breaks. The forest merged into our hill at the far end of our playground and it was strictly forbidden that any pupil entered without supervision. You were only given supervision during science class when you were learning outside (which was rare). These woods were huge. As we did this every day, we’d managed to map out the safest routes to descend to the bottom of the hill and would use to trees to help climb back up. It was a great workout! The embankments were particularly steep and it wasn’t uncommon for us to attend our afternoon lessons with mud caked down our legs and shoes. We did this for about a year before a particularly bad day put an end to our escapades.
Lunch time started, same as any other. Four of us went into the woods (we usually left 2 or 3 people to bag watch while we were gone) and took our normal path. Recently a wasp’s nest had been forming along a popular path of ours and on this day, it was fully active. No one likes wasps, they are natures jackass’, so we made the decision to bypass the nest and descending down the closest embankment, a steeper one. Usually going down one at a time, Zoe lead the group. I was second, Steph 3rd and Claire 4th. At this stage, I should point out that Claire was the baby of the group and the least experienced out of our climbing brigade. As we were still close to the wasp’s nest, we decided to decent as soon as possible. Once Zoe reached the halfway point, I began to climb down. I got only a free trees down before all of a sudden I heard a scream and Steph whizzed past me. She had slipped and was effectively skiing down the embankment. We watched horror as she collided with an old tree stump and hit her head. She settled, lifeless. Zoe and I raced to her while Claire, sobbing, stood at the starting position. Steph had started to move by the time we reached her. Besides a few cuts and scrapes, she seemed OK.
So now three of us are at the bottom of a rather steep, unfamiliar embankment, one of whom may or may not need medical attention, we don’t know. One thing for certain, we weren’t going to re-climb this hill. The problem with forests is that they are complex mazes of trees and bushes and all though in reality we were probably only three minutes from our normal climbing spot, we were completely lost. We knew that if we could find the viaduct, we’d find our way back to school, so signalling to Claire to guide us, we tried to navigate though the undergrowth. We were like explorers in an Indiana Jones movie. I remember cutting my leg on a stray bit of bramble, nothing more than a graze really but at the time it felt like a war wound.
After trekking for what felt like ages, we came to a path but to follow it would mean we’d lose sight of Claire as her path led a different way. There wasn’t much of a choice for either of us. The closer to the viaduct we got, the more civilization we could hear. The end was in sight! Or so we thought…
So…. So. The path lead us to the viaduct, except it has somehow lead us away from school and behind a mesh fence. We were no longer on school property and period 5 was about to start. I probably began to freak out here. Luckily Zoe knew whereabouts we’d ended up and it wasn’t too far from Balwearie but to get back into the school grounds, we’d have to go through reception and explain ourselves. WORST. WALK. OF. SHAME. EVER.
We did make it back, obviously. Heads hung in shame. Misses all of 5th period and were put into isolation for the rest of the week. Oh, and our actions resulted in the forest entrance to be monitored every break time so we had to find a new spot to hang out on. But even though that was our last memory of our climbing adventures, I don’t regret a single thing. I had the best time at this school and I so wish I could go back, just for one day and be a teenager again.