John Walker's Electronic House

There Are Wolves In The Trees

by on May.06, 2007, under The Rest

I was chatting to my sister via instant message, gently mocking her for her daft fear of the potential reality of movie monsters. To worry about zombies smashing the windows and eating her brains, at 27 years old, seems just daft. Then she delivered her winning blow.

“It all started when a certain someone told me there were wolves in the trees at Newlands Corner.”

Newlands Corner was a local place filled with grassy hills ideal for rolypolying down, and woods perfect for losing your sister’s Aerobe within the high branches. We went there quite regularly with our parents, suited as it was to picnics, bike riding (especially the amazing deep craters in the woods caused by WW2 bombing – thanks Nazis for your excellent bike courses!) and the consumption of long-begged-for ice creams. I have no recollection of ever telling Catherine that there were wolves there. But apparently I did.

“[It was] when we were little. I remember cutting through the trees at Newlands Corner to get back to the path that leads to the carpark, hearing a rustling and you telling me it was a wolf and mum and dad telling you off. Then you told me that Woofle [my favourite toy – a dog glove puppet] would turn into a werewolf on a full moon and I told you he wouldn’t and you said I was right but there were werewolves out there and then you howled until I cried. Then you howled just too scare whenever you got the opportunity.”

My response to this revelation is confusing. I feel equal measures of guilt and pride. I do feel terrible to know that mean-spirited comments made under the age of 10 could have such a long-lasting, and apparently debilitating effect. But I also feel rather strongly that I met my responsibilities as an older brother with respectable vim. Surely we all have to have someone in our lives who is required to instill a fear of imaginary baddies in our tiny brains? I was recalling yesterday about my mad terror of catching rabies, after a school friend had told me all about how one of its more peculiar symptoms was a fear of water. Such a bizarre ailment was more than I could comprehend, and I became convinced that the only means by which I might ever die would be nuclear war, or a rabid dog bite. So surely I was only fulfilling my necessary brotherly duties for Catherine?

This, unfortunately, opened the gates for other forgotten childhood crimes. Apparently, a few years later, Phillip Kett (a very bad influence on me throughout my adolescence) and I told my sister to ask my mum what a blowjob was. I remember this incident arriving after Phillip said it in front of her, and my not wanting to explain. I think Catherine recalls it as all being much more malicious.

And then I mentioned the Boggle Crime. I was sure we’d already been over this. So much so that I even mentioned it in a review a while back.

“Boggle is perhaps most orientated for a single-player mode. I don’t have to have an opponent when challenging myself to extract as many words as I can from the grid of sixteen letters. In fact, after the way I treated my little sister as a child, I shouldn’t be allowed opponents. She would look up from furiously scribbling down words and ask, “How do you spell ‘COUNT’?” and I would tell her and then say, “But there’s no point in you writing that down now, cos I have it.” And she so naively would comply. Oh god, I feel terrible. I deserve this version of the game to be such a complete mess.”

I hadn’t told her.

“I’m slightly humiliated. When I read it, I can picture me sat on your bedroom floor desperate to find a word longer than 4 letters so you won’t take the piss out of me!”

And there, there’s no pride at all. It’s horrible to remember the abuse of power of being a bigger brother. It’s something over which I have no control. I can’t go back and not be pointlessly mean to my sister now I know not to. I can’t make sure she only has happy memories of our relationship. But I was a child too. It’s so unpleasant to realise now that she looked up to me, and that my brotherly horridness had a reaching effect. Although she reassures me that overall I was a decent brother.

I love my sister very much. It’s nice to say so.

(I should add, in the interests of balance, her greatest childhood crime. At an age far too young to be so ingenious, she would stand at the top of the stairs and shout, “Ow! John! Stop it! That hurts! Stop hitting me!” and then burst into tears and run into her bedroom. An angry parent would come into my room, where I sat innocently, bemused, and would be shouted at, and then moreso for “lying” about it. That racket lasted the good part of a year before she was rumbled).

11 Comments for this entry

  • THE sister

    I am the sister. Yes, he was a meanie to me but I was an absolute bitch to him. I quite like him now. He must have brainwashed me. And yes, when it’s dark, I still hear those wolves howling.

  • Nick Murdoch

    At an age far too young to be so ingenious, she would stand at the top of the stairs and shout, “Ow! John! Stop it! That hurts! Stop hitting me!” and then burst into tears and run into her bedroom.

    Ah yes, I’ve been a victim of that too…

  • Clare

    You are a horrible, horrible person. Go to your room and think about what you’ve done!

    And while you’re thinking about it, think about the Boggle review too. In Boggle, are you allowed to use a letter more than once? I can’t remember, but I noticed that the words on the dictionary page in that review never used the same letter twice and this may explain the absence of ‘need’.
    Or they may just be rubbish!

  • John

    You’re as daft as the commenters. The screenshot on the page isn’t the game from which my words came! It’s possible that I played more than one game.

    The word “need” was absent from its dictionary. They are rubbish.

  • Cradok

    I think every big brother with a little sister has been a victim of the ‘He hit me’ routine. It probably didn’t help my case that on occasion, I did hit her.

  • Clare

    Oh I see.

    *shuffles away sheepishly to think about what she said*

  • Vicky

    I used to shout “Owww! Stop hitting me!” to get my brother in trouble… Worked for ages until I make the mistake of doing it when I didn’t know where he was… at that moment sat at the feet of my parents in the living room.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    I seem to recall something along the lines of ‘I don’t believe in fairies x 1,000,000. There, now they’re all dead’, just to upset your sister.

  • John

    Ah yes. I think we’d seen Peter Pan, and my sister was clapping furiously as I pointed out that I genuinely didn’t believe in fairies. I then added, “I’ll never believe in fairies. There, they’re all dead.” And then much screaming and crying.

  • Kieron Gillen

    I’ve said it before, but my greatest achievement as a Big Brother was talking my younger sibling into believing that Joan of Arc was a duck trained to drop eggs on the English.


  • Mrs Trellis

    I had the benefit of not one but two little brothers to persecute. It’s amazing how you never forget some things, like how to perform Chinese burns and barley sugars with lightning speed, as well as how to convince both the little sods that you’ll give them £5 if they shut up and go to bed.. I must have done that dozens of times and they never once asked me for the money.