SOPHIE JO JOTS: STUFF I BELIEVED AS A KID

(SPOILER: a lot. All of it kind of ridiculous)

That the ‘black market’ was an actual market down the road

In the mid-’90s, my family would occasionally swing by the local market. Not often, because it only really sold knock-off Rimmel make-up and home-made jam with poorly-designed labels, but we still liked to head over there from time to time.

My dad would sometimes talk about things being sold “on the black market.” I listened hard. The black market, it seemed, was not at all like the market I’d bought my Charlie body spray from. It was all CRIME and DODGY DEALINGS and PIRATE VHS TAPES.

Before long, my imagination had turned poor Steve’s throwaway comments into a Where’s Wally world, stuffed with skull + crossbone flags and broken video players. In my head, the black market was held in the same venue as the normal, friendly market – it was the follow-up to the daytime event. The traders from this evil market would wait, poised, for the blueberry preserve-purchasers to leave, and then BAM, they would begin their own trading, in a specially-built underground lair.

That a nasty bear lived in my parents’ bedroom

I think deep down I KNEW that my mum and dad had not adopted a grouchy grizzly who slept under their bed and had a vendetta to frighten me from 11pm each night, but something inside me still turned to jelly when I woke up in the pitch black to that familiar growling sound. What WAS it? Why did it only seem to start when my parents were asleep? Why didn’t anyone ELSE wake up and say “What is this loud, scary noise coming from the middle bedroom?”

One night, close to tears, I faced my fears and scurried in, whispering “MUM! The bear is back!” My mum woke up with a start and we listened together for a moment. “CAN’T YOU HEAR IT?” I pleaded. She could. And then she laughed. It turned out that the bear was in fact my dad, snoring so loudly his child believed he was some sort of cave-dwelling creature. No-one in my family has ever forgotten this story and I still find snoring kind of terrifying.

That every town in England had an identical Town Twin somewhere else in the world

Have you ever driven through a place and seen a sign that says something along the lines of “Welcome to Epping – twinned with Eppingen, Germany“? One of these signs used to reside about five minutes from the village I grew up in, and – being unable to hear the word ‘twin’ without thinking  ‘IDENTICAL’ – I spent many of my formative years under the impression that somewhere in deepest, darkest France was a place that was an EXACT copy of where I lived, right down to the houses and the shops and the road names. A parallel universe, of sorts. I pictured explorers trekking through various corners of the world until they stumbled across a match: “We’ve found the Spanish Bognor Regis!” they’d shout, “Look – there’s the Dog and Trumpet! Quick, write this all down!”

That I was actually secretly magical and just didn’t know the full extent of my powers

One of my favourite and most recurring childhood dreams involved me standing at the top of the stairs in my house and then slowly flying down them. It wasn’t like flappy-wings-flying or Superman-flying – I just sort of rose up in the air as I stood on the top step, and then I floated down, slowly, with my arms out, a bit like I was in space. I had this dream so many times that a good 80% of me believed it might be a sign I was ACTUALLY ABLE TO FLY. Luckily the remaining 20% said “Probs isn’t a good idea to risk it,” so I never did, but I can still remember that dream and how real it felt as I wafted down towards the kitchen.

After I watched Matilda, I became obsessed with the idea of being a Magical Child. When I’d finished practising my violin I would also practise my magic skills, which usually involved sitting in front of a plastic cup and saying “Glass, tip over… Tip over, glass!” in an American accent until I got bored. When I moved on to Harry Potter in 1999, I kept poppin’ out to the garage to “have a look” at the traditional broomstick my mum had picked up at a garden show. I may or may not have sat on it and jogged around a few times okay, YOU HAVE TO TRY THESE THINGS.

I still secretly sort of believe that maybe human beings could fly, if only they knew how. Maybe there’s something we haven’t tried yet, like a secret button somewhere on our shoulder blades or a magic word no-one will think of until 2164. You never know. Well, you do. But you know what I mean.

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