Home, but not alone

1st September 2000 at 01:00
Concluding our summer series on adolescence, Caitlin Moran tells how she idled away schooldays watching TV with seven siblings

BASICALLY I was both too fat and too poor to have an adolescence. My family were so hilariously broke that it still makes me laugh until I fall off my chair to think about it.

My parents tried to fit eight children in a three-bedroom house - something that might have worked on a shift-system, but was doomed from the moment they decided to cram us together 24 hours a day by taking us out of school and teaching us at home.

In truth, for us home education consisted of watching Ghostbusters and The Sound of Music over and over again whilst eating Ribena icecubes and practising being sarcastic.

We weren't allowed to invite anyone into the house because, gnomically, "your dad might be having a bath" and we couldn't really go out because we didn't have anything normal to wear.

We were all too fat to fit into the children's clothes at jumble-sales, and so walked around Wolverhampton in 1986 in the clothes cheap adults had worn in 1972. I had the batik wrap-around skirt but it was my siste Cabby who lucked out with the poncho.

We were fat because we lived on cheap cheese, boiled-then-fried potatoes, cream crackers and bowls of rice with sugar and evaporated milk on them. My dad called evaporated milk "the cream of the working classes", and it was a key ingredient in his Christmas 1989 invention, The Sherry Cappuccino.

Our favourite drink, on the other hand, was an egg-cup of vinegar, which we used to down in one whilst shouting: "That stuff kicks ASS!" That was our teenage drinking experimentation.

For drugs, we used to spin round and round until we were dizzy, and then lie on the floor saying "Maaaaaan" a lot.

Our clubbing needs were adequately catered for: we were too ashamed to let each other see our potato-and-evap bodies bobbling around dancing, so we'd all gather in the largest bedroom with the lights off and dance to Stevie Wonder's "Hotter Than July". This was the only record in the house that wasn't from Jon Coltrane's smack period and therefore performed in an undanceable 68 rhythm - on a flute.

Occasionally the teenagers at the bus-stop over the road would catch a glimpse of our vibrating, and shout bad stuff until Cabby drew pentangles on the windows.

But, ironically, given that they were our greatest enemies for almost two years, it was the boys at the bus-stop who put a match to my first votive candle of love.

Up until the age of 15 I, along with the other four girls in the house, had been too scared to look out of the windows at the front of the house after the day my mum came into the room, saw me staring idly out at two kids hitting each other with a hula-hoop, and screeched: "Don't stand at the window! People will think you're a PROSTITUTE!"

Quite how many prostitutes there were in the Midlands working in ponchos from brothels with pentangled windows was a statistic that had been kept from us, but it scared me enough to keep away from all glazing until, at 15, I became obsessed by a long-haired bus-stop boy.

In order to avoid being solicited, I would hide behind the curtain until he looked in the direction of the house. Then, casually, I would bob up and wait for him to fall in love with me.

By September I'd formed a quite impressive psychic bond. However, even our glorious astral connection didn't prepare me for the night when, at around 11pm, and after a full-on, hot and heavy 26-second stare, he threw something up at the window before getting onto the bus. It fell onto the porch roof below, and it was too dark to see what it was, so I spent an expectant night trying to guess.

Logically, it was most likely to be a single rose with a note attached, but it could be a small gift, like his initial on a length of string, or even a book he was particularly attached to and wanted me to read.

When I fell asleep that night, it was with the happiness of knowing that when I woke up, I would have my first boyfriend.

It was a crushed Coke can. And no, there was no note inside.

Caitlin Moran is a columnist on The Times

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