There were bats in the attic of my uncle Chris and auntie Helen’s house in London.

Or so I was told.

When I was 9 years old in 1977.

I never actually saw them.

But they still terrified me.

This is all part of childhood, I think.

Childhood.

Another thing that was part of my childhood.

Was a problem I had with roles.

Roles were never clear for me.

My dad disappeared regularly and then permanently before I was 11.

And as I had a younger sister.

It wasn’t clear whether I was to be a brother.

Or a dad.

It wasn’t clear whether it was OK to be playful and silly and adventurous.

Or whether, instead, I had to be watchful and sensible and protective.

So when I was at my uncle Chris and auntie Helen’s house in London.

When my uncle Chris told me about the bats in the attic.

His wide eyes on mine as he let out a deep, shoulder-wobbling laugh.

His face close enough to mine that I could smell him.

I was unsure whether this was a childish yarn.

Meant to excite and entertain.

Or whether it was a call to arms.

To beware.

To be on guard.

Bats.

You see, a 9 year old me was scared of bats.

A 9 year old me was scared of most things I had not yet seen.

And I remember thinking to myself that – if a 9 year old me is scared of bats.

Then my seven year old sister is probably petrified of bats.

And that was a concern.

The Sentry.

That night, I lay awake.

The room pitch black.

In the top of the house.

And whilst I realised the non-sense of being afraid of these things I’d never seen.

I really was frightened.

For myself.

And for my sister.

My role as sentry was real.

50.

At 50 years old.

I still, sometimes, silently fear things that I’ve been told about but have not yet seen.

Sometimes lying awake in bed.

Imagining.

Not about bats.

But about the new threats.

The new threats that people have told me about.

Things that I have never actually seen.

But that are real to me.

This is all part of adulthood, I think.

Bats.

There were bats in the attic of my uncle Chris and auntie Helen’s house in London.

Or so I was told.

I never actually saw them.

But they still terrified me.

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