Bert – My Imaginary Friend

I can’t remember why I called him Bert, but I can remember the first time I saw him.

A helicopter flew over our garden, my eyes squinted in the summer sun and my neck craned backward to get a better look. I raised a finger to point at the aircraft and said to my mother ‘that’s Bert.’

Bert wasn’t just your regular helicopter pilot, he built houses too. I understand him being a builder, our neighbour was a builder so that part makes sense.

I wore a pork pie hat and dungarees to go and help Bert build things. We would while away the hours building imaginary places, driving fast cars and of course flying.

My mother wrote a story about him, at least I think she made the story up, sometimes my memory plays tricks and I can’t help but believe it really happened, I don’t remember the whole story but the gist of it was that my family would tease me over dinner about Bert and told me they could not believe he actually existed without proof so one night I arranged for him to tap on the bedroom window and to everyone’s surprise he did.

To me Bert was very real, to my family he was just another thing to tease me about. My brother and sister liked to tell me I was really a boy, a boy without a willy and the only person in the world with a belly button. They’d leave me by bushes and tell me the snakes would get me if I moved, as much as I hate snakes I gave up believing them and went home unimpressed. This makes them sound very mean but quite honestly I have always been grateful for all the teasing I endured in my childhood years because it never really hurt me, I knew they were just having fun and at one time I’d have been quite happy to be a boy, even without a willy. I liked doing what the boys did, I badly wanted to be a Cowboy, but preferred my bow and arrows to guns, I wanted boxing gloves and I loved playing football. So having builder Bert as my imaginary friend seemed very normal to me and I didn’t care if anyone believed in him or not.

My mother encouraged my imaginings. Sometimes I’ve come across parents who refuse to let their children believe in mythical creatures or fun characters as they believe everything must be ‘truth’ but I don’t believe that at all. Anyway Bert was my ‘truth.’ Our imaginations are an important part of who we are and how we grow up, they help us develop.

I don’t remember much about Bert now but I vividly remember the day he died. Maybe I was beginning to leave my tomboy phase behind. The clue could be in that the moment he died I was playing with a couple of dolls, a more feminine pursuit (or considered so in those days) or maybe I simply didn’t need him in my life anymore. Maybe a psychologist could work it all out. Suddenly I saw a mountain road, Bert was speeding around a bend in his red open top sports car, he misjudged the bend and flew off the mountainside crashing the car as he went. I clearly remember thinking, ‘Bert is dead,’ and feeling sad but I didn’t cry, I simply accepted it.

The thing is I didn’t consciously decide Bert had to die, it simply happened, almost out of the blue, much like when I create characters now. The weird thing is, I can’t tell you what he looked like, only what he did, apparently that’s not uncommon with imaginary friends.

When I make characters up for my stories, they become like my imaginary friends. I feel what they feel, see what they see, live through their experiences vividly, in my head. If my mother had quashed my imagination as a child and not encouraged it, maybe I would never have started writing. I don’t write much physical description as I like to leave that up to your imagination…

If you had an imaginary friend, human or animal, please tell me about him/her. I’ve not known many people who had one. I enjoyed the film Drop Dead Fred, it was the first time I found out other people had imaginary friends too.

Look out for my next post tomorrow, at 7pm.

Please follow me on Instagram and Twitter for daily updates.

Visit my Facebook page if that’s where you hang out.

Please feel free to comment, ask questions and tell me what you are up to, wherever you are in the world, it’s a great time to connect.

Author: Petra Kidd

Norfolk UK is my home, I live in Norwich by the River Wensum where everyday there is something different to see and learn. I feel a big affinity with the river as I grew up in Cambridge, another great river city. My childhood and teens involved many walks along the Cam where we would watch 'The Bumps,' raft races and as we grew older we enjoyed adventures on our punting pub crawls. Growing up in a multi cultural university city definitely influenced my reading choices, I am a big fan of Japanese fiction, love French literature and enjoy Shakespeare. As a young teen I entertained myself with Jilly Cooper and Dick Francis and then became quite obsessed with Henri Charriere's Papillon. At school all I cared about was English, Art and French, in that exact order. When I finished with school I went to live and work in Greece for a wonderful year before returning to study English Literature and Sociology. At this point I read more classics like the Wyf of Bath, Wuthering Heights and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man plus poets such as Wilfred Owen. My first UK full time job was with Heffer's Paperbacks where I devoured several books at a time, excited by the fact I could borrow what I liked. Bizarrely for me I remember reading The Zurich Axioms, I have no interest in the stock markets but it had me gripped. I can't remember why I picked it up but I have never forgotten it. Heffers introduced me to so many authors, via their books and sometimes in person. It was here I learned about all the genres, it fascinated me that science fiction and horror were so popular, I tried reading it all. Aside from writing letters, it didn't really ever occur to me to write anything myself for many years as I worked my way through a variety of interesting and varied jobs. Then on a visit to the London Aquarium I became struck by an idea so powerful I sat down and wrote my first novel. It went nowhere as really I wrote it because I wanted to. I wrote another novel and again, didn't have the persistance or determination to take it further, I simply enjoyed the process of writing and my characters. Then years later another idea struck me and during a severe bout of Pleurisy where I couldn't do anything physical for months, I wrote the Eight of Swords and The Putsi. This time I published them as ebooks and they became pretty popular. When I fully recovered, I had to concentrate on my business and looking after my mother who has various health issues and the writing went adrift again for many years until 2020 when the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world. March 2020 I moved to my apartment alongside the Wensum to live alone for the first time ever. During the first lockdown I began to write a diary and then the idea for a new set of short stories came to me and in February 2021 they will be published. The Covid-19 Pandemic is not simply a scary virus, it is a historical time and here we are trying to live through it. To many it will feel like a punishment but to me as a writer, in some ways, it came as a gift. Please stay as safe and as well as you can. I hope to entertain you with my stories as we all try to get through this together, even though we are apart. Petra

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: