Martin B was a troubled character from a wealthy East Lothian family, with the sort of pursed-lipped mother (her name was, distinctively, Mauville) who was bound to be disappointed. Martin had suffered from psychiatric problems (he said it was "LSD psychosis"), but had become a nurse, and used to horrify and fascinate us as children with tales of his experiences: decapitated pillion passengers, the wrong limbs sewn on in the mortuary; death in the ward, the body lying unnoticed for hours; making up the faces of dead bodies for family viewings, trying to cover the terrible injuries to protect their sensibilities; drug mishaps; and gruesome accidents of all kinds.
It was around the time that Elvis died (1977), and the 17-year-old brother of one of my classmates died the same year in a motorbike accident; all those images are bound up together in my memory. Many of his stories were, on reflection, probably exaggerated, but the temptation to elaborate for his wide-eyed audience must have been intense. He bought us sweets and gave us silly nicknames. We knew there was something not quite right, and teased him for the way he ate ("like a washing machine"), but his fiendish stories were plentiful and he was incredibly generous.
We never had a TV at home and longed for one. Things got worse for Martin and he lost his job, but the obvious thing for him to do with his disability money was to buy a TV for his favourite kids; and for a glorious few days we had a tiny TV, with poor reception because our cottage didn't have an aerial, until his mother insisted he return it to the shop. It seems callous, but we had no idea of his personal circumstances, so we were hugely disappointed, having no inkling that he was penniless.
Martin died 16 years ago, of an accidental drug overdose (or deliberate; no one seems to know). He's another of those oddly charismatic people from my childhood whom I can never quite believe is gone.