SIMON MARK SMITH’S
Before I write these chapters I often hear parts of them spoken in my mind. So much so that sometimes I’m sure I’ve written some of it already. To check if I have done, I do a word search on a document with all the chapters in. If I can’t find these “remembered” pieces I can’t help but think I’ve deleted them somehow. As my father once said, “I’m not sure if I’m psychic or psychoneurotic”. I also have a structural plan, listing out what’s in the chapters already, as well as a list of chapters to come with notes about what I’d like to cover in them. Whilst a lot of what I write about are things that happened to me, often the characters come back to me as if I met them in a dream. Often, they no longer have a face that I can remember, just a feeling of who they were.
* * *
Before the Internet and mobile phones, there was often only a brief opportunity when you met someone where could make it possible to stay in contact. One could ask for an address or phone number, but that could feel a little imposing. Often you could meet someone, feel a connection and know you’d never see them again. There was a sadness if that happened, but it was a sweet pain.
When I was 16 on a journey to Devon for a family holiday we stopped at a filling station in the early hours. A girl was serving who I chatted to. She told me her name, I think it was Wendy, and I was Peter Pan for a moment, or was it a lifetime? A few weeks later I sent her a letter, which I addressed to “A girl called Wendy at the filling station on” such a such a road between this town and another. A few weeks later I got a reply, the post office made an effort to find her and she remembered me. We corresponded a few times and that was that. Writing letters was a very different process to communicating electronically, it was full of ceremony and emotion.
Nowadays, it’s much easier, one just says to an acquaintance, “shall I add you on” whatever social network your age group uses, and then, possibly if you bother to send a message it’ll merely be a simple “good to meet you”, and often that is that, bar a few interactions. I expect it’s different for different people, but for me, I didn’t like not having that option to stay in contact so it seems like a fair price to pay.
Even now, I think a lot of people experience moments of connection and feelings of yearning and loss, probably because they need to. It could be as fleeting as looking into someone’s eyes as they pass on a train, or maybe someone who you share some moments with for a while, and then they are gone.
These are of course, romantic illusions, but I am often struck by how accurate our intuition can be, that even before talking with someone we can often tell if we will click with someone or not. There are probably many subconscious cues involved but sometimes the amount of information is so limited that it leaves a bit of room other possibilities.
* * *
Tavistock – Therapy
“Do you think your childhood experiences could have affected how you are today?” asks Mrs. H.
“No,” I said
* * *
Summer 1977 – Butlins holiday camp Bognor Regis
I am in one of the amusement arcades. I’m near the front of it. Big glass doors and windows with aluminium frames. The daylight is strong. I’m singing along to something on the tannoy. A girl, about my age, maybe slightly older, is nearby. I can’t remember her face now, but she has blonde hair and is looking after a young child.
“You’ve got a nice voice,” She says smiling at me.
I didn’t know I was singing loud enough for her to hear. I smile, but I’m embarrassed.
“Oh, thank you”.
I know I’m turning red. I’m so embarrassed I don’t stay to chat more and just walk away.
Later that day, it’s night time and my friend Peter and I are on the way back to our chalet, we pretend to be drunk and loud. We are only 12, fooling around, staggering and shouting “We’re drunk”. The same girl sees us, she looks worried, tells the child she’s looking after to not worry, says “They’re just being silly” then rushes off but stays in my mind for decades.
* * *
My friend Ian Owles and I are walking near Tottenham Court Road in London, he’s about 46 but looks a lot younger, lots of curly hair and a gypsy/rock and roll face.
“The first rule of love”, he says “is, those you want, well they won’t want you and those you don’t want, well they will”
“What’s the second rule?” I ask laughing
“The second rule of love is this. When you’re alone no one wants you but when you’re with someone you get loads of offers”
We’re getting into my Saab. A couple of women pass by and one says to Ian
“I love Saabs”.
This was fortuitous because I was trying to get Ian to buy it and after that he did.
He was buying the dream, whilst I was trying to get rid of reality, the cost of running it.
* * *
It was the last year of junior school and our class was taken to a local swimming pool every week. There was a girl in our class called Debbie who I was in love with. On this occasion, she was standing at the other end of the pool in a green bikini. If this was a film then this would be a slow-motion moment. For the first time, I looked at her and saw her as a goddess. Long black hair, big hips, a small waist, and long, long legs that went all the way to the top. After school, I asked her if she fancied a lift home on the back of my bike, she said yes, and the rest might have been history (highly doubtful) if I had been able to peddle and steer with her on the back, but I couldn’t. So, instead she cycled and I sat on the back.
Probably from the age of 9 till about 16 I had a massive crush on Debbie, but no matter how much I tried to let her know I couldn’t. Even when she asked me outright if I fancied her, because obviously, it was obvious to everyone anyway, I still couldn’t tell her. And the reason why was because I knew that if I did I would have to face reality, and, deep down, I quite liked yearning, because partly that was what I’d always known.
When I got older I would see this as a lesson, that it’s better to tell someone if you fancy them (when the time is right and if it’s appropriate of course). Better to be rejected than to waste years yearning.
By the way, if anyone reads this, takes my advice then ends up getting married because of it then please let me know. However, if they end up in jail, I probably won’t want to know, but then again.
* * *
1977 Wilsons School
I’m waiting outside a classroom with a load of other kids. Somehow I get into a fight with a boy called Paul. The other kids start chanting. I take a few steps back then run towards him. I leap into the air to do a flying kick (I was always useless at jumping so probably went downward immediately). He steps sideways, I land on the floor. He restrains me, I can feel he is stronger than me. Everyone starts laughing, including him. I can feel the humiliation.
The teacher turns up soon after so everyone behaves as if nothing’s happened. As we walk into the class one of the other boys taunts me about losing the fight. I push him with my arm, he staggers back, hits a chair and topples backward. The class laugh at him spread-eagled on the floor.
For a moment, there’s some redemption for me.
* * *
1977 Wilson’s School
At 10:30 there is a break between the lessons. Downstairs on the ground floor in the foyer, a large metal hatch opens in the wall. This is where a couple of parents volunteer to sell sweets to the school children. I tend to go through phases of buying the same sweet every day until eventually, I get bored. One week it’ll be a peanut Yorkie, the next a Lion Bar, this week it’s 50 aniseed balls. They take a while to count out, there’s a groan from the queue behind me.
There are two types of the people in the world, those that divide the world into two types of people, and those that don’t. You can also divide people in to “biters” or “suckers”. “Suckers” take their time with a hard boiled sweet, “biters”, no matter how much they try to not bite it, they will. Some people (ok it’s me saying it) say it’s because “biters” feel less nurtured, so tend to be a bit more eager to devour, whereas “suckers” are more content deep down and don’t need to possess the sweet so quickly.
* * *
1976 – Roundshaw park
Franny, who is about 1 and a half years younger than me, is playing on the swings near to me. No one else is around. I think she’s pretty but we are not on the same wavelength in many ways and I certainly don’t idealise her like I do Debbie.
I ask her if she wants to come to my camp in the woods. She laughs and says “OK”. So, we make our way to the woods, where we crawl into some bushes which have a hollow area in them. I take off my parker coat and lay it on the ground and we both sit on the orange lining.
“Do you want to kiss me?” She says.
“OK” I nod
I can’t remember what kind of kissing we did but we ended up laying on the coat side by side. I like kissing her but I don’t want anyone to know, that age difference even then was a bit much. Just as I lay there thinking “Now, how am I going to make sure no one finds out we’ve been kissing without annoying her” a group of friends cycle past us, then pull up.
“Hello Simon, Hello Franny… Ooooh, What are you two doing then?”
She looks at me
“Do you want to be my boyfriend?” she asks
“Nope,” I say
Still, there were times when I would want to see her. So, as mentioned in the last chapter, I’d get her to pop around, or we’d bump into each other anyway at the youth club. That’s where she sang “Hopelessly Devoted to You” to me as we danced. I think the last time I saw her was in 1979, all I can recall was having a kiss with her near some garages, but when she lit a cigarette and started to smoke I said I didn’t like smoking, and that was the end of it. Even now I feel for her because I could identify with her. The dynamic of the first rule of love dominated my life, in both directions, wanting and being wanted but rarely at the same time.
* * *
I thought it might be a good idea to get in contact with Franny to get permission to use her name in this story. It didn’t take long to find her on Facebook. Still the same pretty face, she looks happily with someone now. I feel a bit worried about contacting her now, but then again, maybe she can’t even remember me.
* * *
When I was ill in hospital my mind felt like it was dealing with an archetypal type of reality too. It felt heavy, dark, threatening and unavoidable. As if I was in cloisters and the people moving around were archetypal nurse, doctors, and religious figures. The fact that some nurses are called “Sister” does historically relate to nuns being the main source of nurses at certain points in the past.
I was heavily sedated still and felt close to death, so it was as if many layers of my day to day existence had been stripped away. The thing was, it scared me to recognise those around me as archetypes, because through that process they can lose their human face and take on a more fixed persona. Maybe that is why people fear clowns so much because they lack a feeling of being “human”. They are programmed to behave in a set manner, and no matter how much you try to appeal to them, they can only react as their role permits. They also symbolise the frightening reality that everything is programmed. From DNA to our daily routines, to our inescapable destiny. Archetypes remind us we are part of a programmed system that we cannot avoid or bargain with.
* * *
Franny’s sister, Debbie, who’s now a friend of mine on Facebook, had just shared one of my posts, so I went to her page to like the post as one does to be polite. The post above it was about Justin Sandor who is an excellent Elvis impersonator. I can do a good impersonation of Elvis’s voice, but nowhere near as good as Sandor can.
On August 16th 1977 Elvis Presley died. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention, I don’t think it even registered with me. At the age of 12, the adult world, the evening news, even pop music was barely of any interest to me, but within a year Elvis and his music started to become a big part of my life and would have a profound effect on me.
At about the same time as Elvis died my childhood was dying too, I wasn’t aware of that either.
* * *
Mum had some money left over from her mother’s inheritance, she decided to spend it on furniture and a HiFi. This meant I could have her old stereo in my room. Each night before going to sleep I would listen to a side of a vinyl LP or cassette album through big bulky headphones. Tom Jones, Neil Sedaka, or the latest Top of The Pops album would help send me off to sleep. The Top of the Pops albums were compilations of popular songs recorded by cover artists, and often they were quite good as well as being rubbish too, but to the untrained teenage ear, all quality issues were compensated for by the soft porn covers and life-size posters of women in bikinis. No doubt some people fell asleep next to them too. Mine were safely on the wall along with posters of the Wombles and David Cassidy. It took a lot of soul searching to admit that I had a poster of David Cassidy to you, so if you don’t mind, a little less mocking, please.
* * *
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”
Those famous lines from Ecclesiastes, they touch us deeply with their truth but they scare us with it as well. For me, they remind me that no matter what I write, or sing, or paint or photograph, one day it will all disappear forever. Even in the short term, most artworks have a short shelf life. The ripples that we send out don’t go far, but sometimes they cause other ripples to happen. We never really know what effect we had, good or bad.
When I brushed up against archetypes in my hospitalised mental state, I could feel their season of reigning was an ancient one, going all the way back to the beginning of human-kind. Karl Jung had stated that there were “identical psychic structures common to all” influencing all of us in how we experience the world. What this means is that whilst different cultures or individuals create differing symbols or characters there will be a commonality between them because deep down the psychological makeup of humans will always create them. For instance, the feelings we have for our mothers, fathers, authority, ourselves, strangers, water, the moon, the sun, the stars or that which we believed created us, all these things, will nearly always fill our inner worlds wherever or whenever we come from.
* * *
I’m listening to the radio
Interviewer “So you’re suggesting that every school should have a police officer attached to the school, and they will visit the kids often so they get to know them?”
Interviewer: “That’s all very well but we all know that some people see the police as good and some don’t. Is this not going to be met with some negativity?”
We all know that authority figures can be good and bad. What was your immediate reaction to the politician, even though they only said one word? For that moment they probably became more archetype than human for you.
Deep down we know that everyone is capable of being good or bad. The same goes for archetypes, each one will be one face of a two-sided coin. There will always be duality. The paradox of explaining the human psyche using archetypes though is that whilst they touch us with their ability to illustrate reality, they are unrecognisable as humans because real people tend to switch between archetypal roles all the time, whereas archetypes tend to take on only one.
In addition to our cultural archetypes, we’ll all probably have some which we have created individually due to our own very specific experiences. So, if for instance, we look at our dreams to get an “insight” into our inner world, but were only to use cultural references we could well miss out on an individual’s take on a symbol or archetype. That’s why a psychoanalyst will often ask, “What does it mean to you?”.
None of us can deny that we are programmed to some extent, programmed by nature and our environment and experiences. Our instincts are clearly still very influential in terms of who we are even if we are also controlled by other factors. So, whilst there have been many attempts to reprogram people to act and think in certain ways, whether it be, for example, via religion, ideological dogma, education, hypnosis, or the media, there are still limits. Try to program people not to fall in love, not to feel turned on, not to feel jealous, not to fear loss. If you do they’ll be errors that lead to a “crash”, straight into a wall that is our subconscious.
But what of this cowardly new world we’re making, where we will be manipulating genes and building new versions of humans? Will future generations have their primal characteristics genetically modified out of them? Will this be a way to control the masses, or to even destroy them? If you’re programmed not to feel lust, then will you not want to procreate? If you don’t feel passion or fear, will that affect the way you vote? And if changing our psyches via genetic modification, technology or drugs were to happen, then one could argue that the archetypal structures within us might also change. Would prove that even for archetypes, there’s a season?
Newsreader: “Barry Island has banned the performance of “Punch and Judy” amid fears it is too violent and contains “inappropriate hitting”. The show which portrays an abusive relationship between Mr. Punch and his wife Judy has been claimed by one councillor as treading a fine line. The Punch and Judy Fellowship argues that by their logic Shakespeare and Tom and Jerry should also be banned. Several other councils have banned the show too.”
Along with the belief that if you treat people well they’ll treat others well, the idea that people can be easily programmed seems to be permeating our world. Yet, deep down, we all know other factors are at play, and some of those factors are the ancient archetypes that inhabit or inner worlds. And from what I can tell, they are not that keen on the scripts our current stage directors are handing out.
* * *
I look out my window, the sea is breaking hard against my house. I can also see hundreds of battle craft along the shoreline some are semi-submerged, it’s scary and awe-inspiring at the same time. The waves are dark and swirling. I wonder how long the house can remain standing for.
After I wake up, I am, of course, relieved to find just a dream. I think about it. My initial interpretation is the sea is my own feelings and desires, crashing up against my home, which symbolise my day to day version of security. The battle craft represent my own resources, conscious and sub-conscious, to either defend or attack myself or others. When I thought about it like that, it felt like it made sense and reminded me to be cautious. It was a reminder that I am never far from parts of myself that can be very self-destructive. Saying that I did also check that my house insurance covered flood damage, you know, just in case it was me being a bit psychic.
* * *
I’m in the stalls in The Old Vic in London. I’m watching an opera called Carmen Jones. I feel nauseous. There’s something about the character of Carmen that makes me feel very anxious.
Maybe it was seeing one of my own archetypes in the flesh. The woman who is not faithful to me, maybe feelings about my mother, but then it is who I have become too, I have a strong desire to be unfaithful. And if I am like that then I can’t be a good partner, and if I can’t be a good partner then I may be alone forever, trapped in a world of unfaithful relationships.
* * *
South Kensington Underground Station
I’m waving goodbye to a young woman called Carol, who came to visit me for the day, we’d only met once before. We had had a lovely cold Autumn day walking, talking and laughing in Battersea Park then cuddled up in my room in the student halls of residence. We kissed till it went dark and she had to go. In a matter of hours, I had fallen in love with her, well it wasn’t really with her, was it, and I knew it.
As the train pulled away I waved and bowed my head to say goodbye. In this underground world, I had a moment of ”understanding”. I knew something was wrong with me. It didn’t seem appropriate to have such strong feelings for a stranger, even a perfect stranger. This wasn’t the first time either. I had met this archetype many times in both my dreams and reality.
* * *
As the days passed I stopped working and grieved for the loss of a relationship that didn’t exist. I decided to talk to the student services advisor about it at the college. He asked me a few questions about what had happened and suggested I try out an offer of 4 free counselling sessions in the adolescent department at The Tavistock Centre. So, I did.
* * *
I’m in a plain room, a desk near the window, a filing cabinet, a small sofa, a couple of chairs, some prints on the walls. A middle-aged woman, who I immediately warmed to, has brought me here from the waiting room. She introduces herself to me. I’ll refer to her as Mrs. H.
We sit opposite each other. She doesn’t say anything. I feel a bit uncomfortable with the silence.
Eventually, I get what’s happening.
“I’m here because I think there’s something wrong with me”
She nods her head and quietly says “aha”
“I recently fell in love with someone, it didn’t feel appropriate but my reaction was as if I was losing someone I was actually with”
Yep, more silence.
“Why do you think you have reacted like this then?” she asks
“I don’t know, that’s why I am here”
“Well, can you tell me a little about your life?”
“There’s not much to tell really”
“Well tell me a little about it anyway”
* * *
I had found a magazine called Disco 45 which not only had articles about the pop music artists I was beginning to take an interest in but it also had the lyrics to many of the songs I liked too which meant I could sing along to them. Somewhere in my house I still have them all. I know hoarding isn’t something I should show off about but I can’t help myself.
It was because one of these had the lyrics to Elvis’ “The Girl of my Best Friend”, that I started to sing along to it and discovered I could sound a bit like Elvis. Even in this song, there was an archetypal yearning situation that must have resonated with me, just as much as the music did. Even in Elvis himself, there was an archetypal character that I longed to be, the “hero-lover” and the “eternal boy”. All those films I’d watched in the afternoons of my summer holidays had helped me make that connection, just as those who made them had wanted.
* * *
I’m in another fight. This time the other kid grabs my lapels and throws me to the floor. I get up, he throws me again. I’m not hurt much but I am aware more than ever that I’m no hero. Which seemed appropriate given “No More Heroes” by the Stranglers was in the charts. Still, that didn’t console me one bit.
* * *
Mum had sent in a form to the school to say she wanted me to go on the school trip to Italy, this time they decided to raise the funds for another boy to come with me to act as my carer. In real terms, he hardly had to do anything. By this point, I could take myself to the loo, wash and get dressed independently, even so the school thought it a good idea to have one person focused on me if a need arose.
In order to raise the money for his fare and board, a local appeal was made to a charitable organisation. I could not help but feel some discomfort in being used as a begging bowl. Maybe that made me more determined not to use his help. Often I had felt that by taking help there was a price to pay, especially in terms of my feelings of self-worth and standing in the community. I think there was a mention in the local paper about how the money had been raised and for what good cause it was being used for. Just like the typewriter bought for me via charity, I got a feeling that someone was gaining something at my expense, whilst I was gaining something I didn’t really want or need at a price I didn’t want to pay. However, in terms of a long-term view, this trip allowed the school to see that I didn’t need a helper, so on subsequent trips, there was never an issue of bringing along anyone to help me, so maybe in this instance, it was a price worth paying after all.
* * *
I was bored, it was a Sunday, so mum gave me an oil painting set. First I painted a landscape, maybe it was a copy of a photo, then before it was dry I painted over some of it to make it look like a cabin on a boat with a window through which part of the original landscape was still visible. Then I painted a severed hand on the windowsill of the cabin with some blood coming out of it.
“Oh, why did you have to ruin it Simon” implored my mother.
I had no words to say.
She walked out huffing.
“Some people just don’t appreciate great art,” I thought to myself.
* * *
When I’d go out to play I’d often call on a girl called Jackie’s house around the corner. She and her parents lived on the top floor whilst her aunt and their family lived on the bottom one. There was no dividing door between the two areas. It was a world away from my home.
Jackie was skinny, looked like a boy and acted like one. She and I would roam the local neighbourhood. Sometimes we’d link up with a couple of brothers whose dad was known to be violent and would often come out and show off to us. They looked a bit like him and were already beginning to act a bit aggressively.
Another boy befriended us, he must have been a bit older and had an electric guitar. We’d sit and listen to him playing.
Then there was a couple of girls I met who lived nearby, they were very pretty and their father always came out to play and chat with us.
I don’t think Jackie was allowed to come to Roundshaw with me so I’d still frequent it alone, mainly meeting up with friends or going to the youth club. It would be a while before I took the boy out of the estate, but I would never be able to take the estate out of the boy.
* * *
The second year of school began to feel more routine. Most mornings there was an assembly. The main highlight of it would be singing loudly and avoiding sitting on a hymn book that the person behind would place standing upwards so that as the person would sit down on it their body would automatically convulse to avoid further pain. This little dance would normally garner a great deal of attention from everyone else who had managed to sit down safely. Even now when I sit down I always look behind me.
After assembly, there’d be a rush to get to a class. It would either be a single lesson then a break for some refreshments at the tuck shop and then a lesson followed by another one in a different subject or double lesson of one subject. If you think reading this list is painful I can assure you doing them was somewhat worse.
The smell of lunch would fill the air and then there’d be an hour of what was often close to anarchy. Not in the chaotic sense, but more in the wild west / Lord of the Flies sense. Dangerous things could happen suddenly before a teacher or prefect could intervene.
The corridors were lined with grey metal lockers, the lighting was white fluorescent, the flooring was grey, the walls were yellow brick, the students were in black uniforms with yellow and white highlights. It was a color scheme based on wasps, which in many ways was very apt.
After lunch, it was a slog to work and digest food simultaneously. Then after two hours of toil, there was the ecstatic relief felt by all, as we were saved by the bell. People escape terrorist incidents slower than school children getting out of school at the end of the day.
* * *
One day I got home after school to find my cat had been killed. She’d been run over. I was in shock so didn’t react much. That night I could hear another cat that she’d often played with at the back of the flats, calling out long droning meows.
The next day on the way to school someone told me what had happened. Ginny had run across the road and was clipped by a car which stopped. Her back legs were no longer working but she tried to crawl across the road back towards where we lived. Someone picked her up, took her back to the other side of the road then slammed her head against a wall and killed her.
When I got to school, I was still in shock. Our teacher took the register, as he finished I could feel I wanted to cry so went to ask him if I could go to the medical room. I wasn’t speaking clearly so he asked me to repeat myself. I burst out crying and somehow communicated to him that my cat had been run over, so he got one of the other boys to escort me to the medical room.
I think the elements of tragedy, her attempts to get back to our side of the road, the frustration of being taken the wrong way, and then being killed rather than be taken to a vet, all added up to an overwhelming feeling of sadness and anger.
There were also other elements to this. The cat and my feelings for her were more connected to a real sense of love compared to the selfish quality of being “in love”. There was compassion in this situation. On top of that, there was a feeling of disconnection going on in my home life so in some ways this was another nail in the coffin.
Milan Kundera wrote that one of the reasons we love animals as we do is because we recognise in them the innocence we lost when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. I doubt he meant it in any literal sense, but, there’s definitely an innocence that we attribute to animals that when set against our darkness fills us with a sense of sadness.
* * *
I’m in our form’s classroom, this is where we would meet at the beginning of each school day for 5 years. A couple of boys have placed a large needle in the cushion of the teacher’s chair. It’s pointing vertically straight up. Mr. Shaw, our teacher, walks in and sits down. There’s silence.
Suddenly there’s a startled look on his face. Some of the class start to laugh. Still, Mr. Shaw doesn’t say anything but leans forwards and takes out the compass needle, which is at least 2 inches long. I don’t remember laughing, I think I was one of the boys who thought it must have hurt a lot.
“Who put the needle in my chair?”
The boy who did put his hand up immediately.
I can’t remember what the punishment was but if there was one I doubt many of us would have complained.
For all my delinquent behaviour, there were moments of compassion beginning to show through.
* * *
Mrs. H: “We’ve had the four sessions offered by the scheme. I was wondering if you would be interested in going further and undertaking 3 sessions per week. I can sense in you that there is something I can work with to help you in some way?”
“Yes I’d love to, thank you”
And so, my journey into the realms of psychoanalysis began.
* * *
1977 Wilson’s School
There must have been something about maths that brought out our aggressive tendencies. I didn’t even see the beginning of this fight. Paul, the guy who I’d done my spectacular flying kick on was being held down on a table by a boy called Tim. Tim had got the blackboard rubber in his hand and was bashing it on Paul’s head. Paul was a bright purple colour. Tim was looking calm. There was a kind of conversation going on between each whack of the blackboard rubber. Something along the lines of “Do you submit?”. To which Paul was nodding in affirmation but Tim was obviously doubting his sincerity so for good measure was going for a more convincing answer. I couldn’t help but admire Tim’s brutality and was especially pleased to see my enemy’s enemy in action.
* * *
I don’t know how it was that I then managed to get into a face-off with Tim a few weeks later. I can remember thinking I had to be extra abusive to him because he had already said he didn’t want to fight me because I was disabled. That really made me angry. I think my taunts were very weak, something about him smelling bad, but they did the job or maybe he didn’t need too much persuading after all.
A bit later I was in the loo and one of the other boys told me Tim wanted to fight me. I said I was on the loo so it would have to wait. There’s always a difference between a fight just breaking out and having one arranged. The waiting allows for a certain amount of fear. I was definitely scared, and probably rightly so, lucky I was on the loo really. Tim was tough, as the years passed by I would get to know him more and his whole direction of life went along a path that would put him in the top band of tough people in society.
Years later he told me I was the only person in school he had some concerns about fighting because he wondered if one of my kicks might catch him. But I think we both knew that I wouldn’t have stood a chance.
* * *
There were only a couple of other fights I experienced at school and both involved a degree of guilt and empathy on my part. The first was in the music class when I kicked a small table out of the way then kicked the legs of the boy until he started crying. He was quite big so there was a feeling of accomplishment but I could see in his tearful eyes that he was not a fighter and that there was nothing to be proud of.
Then there was the fight I mentioned in Chapter 16 where I cornered a boy in a porchway. On both occasions, I had felt sorry for my victim.
Something was changing in me.