When I was 7 years old, I fell off a climbing frame in the school playground. It was a new design at the time – 4 pieces, each a different colour, that could be bolted together in a variety of combinations so that it was like getting a new climbing frame each time. They’re not provided to London schools anymore – my fall sparked a safety enquiry because I cut my finger and head on one of the bolts, badly enough to require stitches in hospital. I still have the scars.
Growing up, I was very self conscious about them. One marks a line above my left eyebrow, missing my eye by no more than an inch. More pronounced is the one on the side of my left ring finger, snaking across the joints like a railway on an Ordnance Survey map. I thought for a while that it would mar my wedding day because of its key position.
And perhaps I’m more aware of my scars because of the memory associated with them. I remember being harried by Sandra Allen to jump and swing from the overhanging bar of the frame before I felt ready. I remember my headmaster taking me in his car to pick my mum up from home and then ferry both of us to the Casualty Department of the local hospital. I remember the argument when the impatient doctor mistook my mother for a school dinner lady and tried to get her out of the treatment room. I remember how he didn’t explain what he was doing. I remember the pain when a nurse later tried to remove the stitches, only to discover an infection caused by the doctor not cleaning the wound adequately. It was a momentous event at the time for me, an intense memory still.
But I’ve learned to live with my scars. And by that, I mean that I’ve learned that others don’t notice them as much as I do, that everyone has scars of some kind, and to look at them in perspective with the rest of my appearance. They seemed so prominent, so large when I was young; now they seem much smaller, insignificant.
I suppose I’ve also put them into perspective with the rest of my life. I’ve had quite a few trips to Casualty with the rest of my family – for fractures, a suspected aneurysm, falls, as well as several less serious issues – so my trip for just 15 stitches in total can be seen for the minor injury it was.
And I guess such perspective is useful for a lot of things. I’m not so different to others as I sometimes think I am. My issues are not as important as I think they are at the time. As I have got older, I have become more sure of the knowledge that I am loved, that I don’t need to earn it, and that my scars don’t prevent it. Or to put it another way, by adapting a Bible verse: ‘Love covers over a multitude of scars.’