If you haven’t been following my other blog, the serialisation of my book “A Fruit Cake Just Exploded” I am up to Chapter Thirty now. It’s not for everyone but there may be something of interest in my observations of a difficult but character forming part of my life. It has a happy ending so what more do you need? Click below to take a look maybe.
This is a prose poem that is an extract from a much bigger work that I might share over time. I had the pleasure of reading this today in a public performance given by one of the writing groups I am part of; Writers Without Borders. Check them out if you would like to know more about a great group of talented people.
Suddenly all mysterious right out of the blue, school days approach all unknown and new with only one saving grace it seems, a big brothers singular job to look out, Just, if he must, for shy little you only, with the safe sight of home gone he quickly, cruelly, lets go of your tiny trembling hand and walks on at a pace that leaves you blind, while you shuffle reluctant feet, scanning all around, all alone, uncertain of where to go, you run on to where hopefully there should be Others that might somehow happen to know.
Then you see all the other kids, running riotously around, they seem to know each other quite well, not that you can really tell, but doubt delights to confuse you and you’re still not all that keen.
Then recognition intervenes and there, two you smile at but being oh so painfully shy, you still only manage a limp ‘Hi Ian’, and ‘Hi Jimmy’, but they pass you right on by. So you try ‘Hi Helen’ but it’s the same and fully daunted you don’t go for the ‘Hi Peter’, who’s the one that you favoured, it’s sadly all to clear that even by this one impossibly perfect pal, you’re still not really counted.
A bell rings loud and it’s into class rooms all strange with seats that give cold comfort but you diligently do just as you’re told…. is this really what school’s like, till you grow up and get, so very old?
But then with paper and pencils and writing and sums, it all somehow seems to add up to something that actually, quite possibly, could just be fun, so perhaps it’s not all that bad and you decide to give it a go, just for today though, only on trial, you might go with the flow.
Soon then it’s playtime and with cold milk and growing hope you corner your pal Peter, “Hello, would you like to share this?” but with hard spoken “No!” he leaves you all alone again, to just sit and stare into your clean fresh iron hanky and here your disappointment you blow.
Despite many such hardships, this little school turns out not all that bad, days roll into weeks and soon fast forward to unimaginable years, what was all that fuss about, those cold academic concerns, those febrile confusions, bound up in such ridiculous childlike fears. But you have yet to discover that, in whatever educational age, you;’re never going to break into real school society where despite teasing glimpses you remain on the rim of those circles of seemingly impossible friendships .
Perhaps it’s just your mind that blocks such views with perceived incompatibility or can you allow yourself to make that small yet massive move to lift the impenetrable veil of Inclusion…but already you know you’ll suffer the wastelands of Exclusion.
This short prose poem is derived from difficulties that I had at school and certain bullies, It is accompanied by what I hope is a Haiku on the matter.
School ties tied in any number of odd ways despite being regulation width and colour and stripe they all look so different somehow. Some are tied short some overly long some friendless not tied round a neck in any way. Mine, clean, almost anyway, starts off neat, just touching trouser top till in the playground if not on the crowded, stale, stifling bus some half-witted buffoon decided to lop most of it off. New day, yet another new tie what adventure will this morning sway. Should such a thing be consigned to a hidden history, for many a reason it doesn’t, it won’t and a curious counter obsession grows into a wardrobe stuffed, if not overstuffed with things of the perverse and diverse in colour, pattern, patina and pronouncement. Things that should never see the light of day, fortunately, remaining inanimate, they don’t – do they?
Tie knotted neatly
soon parted in violence
a bully brokered obsession
This is another extract from memoire that I have recently completed,
‘A Fruit Cake Just Exploded’ ;
the book is available on Lulu.com and also Amazon.
This piece is the account of a
13-year-old pubescent boy having a close encounter with another.
Being at that peculiar age of 13, I had no care for the sacrifices that my parents made. It was my father actually who amazed the rest of the family when one afternoon he asked if anyone was ever going to notice that he had given up smoking. It had been two weeks and no one had. In the early 70’s it was still socially acceptable to smoke although I was the only one in the family that never did. With suitable mock horror and exaggerated surprise, we all pretended that we knew all along, but of course we didn’t. Being suitably uninterested in how my father had managed to give up his 40 a day habit from well before his RAF days, the important result for me was that he had been putting the cash equivalent away and, after a few more months of frugality and healthy living, I got to go on the school cruise.
Leaving the chill of a very British February, we flew out to Naples and then spent 14 days visiting Italy, Sicily, Crete, Turkey, Greece and finally flying back home from a very wet and cold Venice. It was a whirlpool of culture, sightseeing, sea sickness and stupidity. Despite all that or perhaps because of all that, I am left with what is most likely, a rather rose-tinted memory of having a splendid time. Dozens of rolls of film, copious notes and drawings, every daytime minute filled with history and histrionics, trips and trivia. These generally good things thankfully managed to overshadow the more difficult aspects of mass living that I had never experienced before. Dormitory sleeping arrangements, intense airless sweaty heat, constant crowds and noise plus the diabolical food managed to cripple my already fragile confidence. While I lost about two stones in two weeks, not that it should have done me any harm, I did decide that if this was being part of society, mixing with fellow humans was not going to be something I could relish.
The night times were always the worst nightmare; for me anyway. Having hardly ever had to share a bedroom at home I was not used to sleeping with other people, let alone this company of hormone brimmed boys. As you might imagine, night-time was not necessarily for sleep not with all that fun and freedom to be explored and exploited. The teachers were billeted just across the gangway but only made token attempts to control the mayhem.
My role in this chaos seemed to have been decided very early on in the trip, from my already dubious reputation I was the marked the miserable one, the too serious one and in the end, I thought I played my part very well. All I wanted was to sleep and not get into trouble, but it hardly ever happened without one big fuss or another. Eventually, very eventually, the self-styled pirate hoards and their merry followers would get just too tired, fall into their bunks and drift off to the steady rocking of the ship and the background hum of the engines only a few more decks below. It was in this relative quiet of the night that my most feared and yet deeply desired dream nearly happened; it might have actually been a dream but it was certainly very real at the time.
This particular night, everyone was settled although you could always find someone getting up or quietly moving about. Thinking that it was just another toilet call, I lay there and hoped for sleep to finally fall. My assessment had been right and I listened and pictured the relieved bladder as it came back into the cabin and padded quietly, feet slapping gently on the hard metal floor. What I wasn’t expecting was someone climbing under my blanket at the other end of the bunk. Peering tentatively over the edge of the covers, the dim night-lights allowed me to recognise one of our own boys. One of our classmates was a sleep-walker. We all knew about it as it had nearly stopped him being allowed to go on the trip altogether. He lived in the same village as me and was unfortunately, one of my early somebodies on whom I fine-tuned my voyeurism; mainly because of his tightly curled beautiful blonde hair. This now unkempt hair settled itself down seemingly with no notion of where he was, I couldn’t help wondering if this was my reward for being patient or if it was just one big sleep walking mistake.
Not knowing what to do nor wanting to miss any chances, I could only lie there and wait to see what might happen. So I waited; and waited. He made himself comfortable and that was it, so what was I going to do now? As I had no frame of reference, I still did nothing. No one else seemed to have seen him get in the bunk or be bothered about it if they had. Silently, although almost forgetting to breath, my heart and head were getting close to a state of pure panic. Frozen to the sheets rather than animated by my fears I tried to take in what might be happening.
His breathing had slowed and his warm smooth weight had settled comfortably against my legs. He didn’t react as I eventually managed to lift my head up enough to see if there were any clues about what I should, or even could do next. His eyes were shut tight in his angelic face and the blanket gently rose and fell over the contours of his rounded torso, he was fast asleep.
The bunks were narrow but long so although so we were very snug, lying head to toe there was no other option than to be touching at several points along our length but. Despite my normally fantastical imagination, my fear, if that was what I was feeling, couldn’t contemplate any action.
Someone else got out of bed a few bunks down and also went to the toilet, passing right by us as they did, fortunately neither of us moved to attract attention until they had passed. This terrifying moment for me did prompt Owen to roll over, still asleep, to face my legs curling and sliding his one leg up over mine and planting his foot unintentionally in my groin. The move had me completely pinned down. As there was little that I could seem to do, I was interested to find that some of my fears were being calmed by this rather intimate contact. To add to the confusion I could feel my groin expanding at the gentle attention of this soft warm foot. Equally mechanically, I felt the added pressure of his not inconsiderate genitals pressing against my knee; I had no idea what was I going to do with it.
We were both in our fully enclosing night-clothes but this degree of closeness was something that I had longed for and had dreamed of so many times, I couldn’t believe that this could actually be happening, not here, not now! Despite my visualised and now potentially real pleasures, I couldn’t find the strength to make any kind of action. Being so close and yet so, so far from something turned out to be far worse than having nothing at all.
Eventually because of the pain building up in my extremities, I did slowly move my one arm from beneath his outstretched and rather heavy leg. With this one piece of freedom I desperately wanted to reach out to at least make myself more comfortable but the inevitability of touching my soft erection. My rather darker consciousness was pushing for me to reach out further and touch him instead so I did; not being able, or even wanting to resist. A tentative and gentle touch to the back of his enfolding leg didn’t seem to get any negative reaction. He stirred a little but to my surprise, not very much. He rocked a little from side to side to settle himself further and he was now facing down over my outstretched legs and I felt the twitch of his penis against them which in turn stimulated mine even more.
After what seemed like a lifetime, I slid my arm further out into the covered darkness and it met with the firm but relaxed roundness of his buttock cheek. Beautifully warm, it clenched up firm and round to the almost feather light touch of my palm and finger tips. The minute but perfect movement moved more than the earth of my obscure erotic fantasy and I had to quickly grab my now solidly erect member to stop it from exploding its sticky mess over both of us.
With my legs tensed against the possibility of ejaculation I hoped that the immediate danger was ebbing, Owen rolled back off me with a soft groan. His hand brushed against mine as he searched for and then stroked his own tented pyjamas. Knowing that I was closer than I had ever been to another fully erect and seemingly compliant contemporary, I couldn’t move the last few millimetres to actually touch the enticing member. He moved again and I pulled my free hand away as he slipped sideways silently onto the floor from under the blanket; fortunately we were on the bottom bunk. Even in the dim light I could just make out the shadowy outline of his still distended pyjama trousers. With the coldness of the floor his eyes flickered open momentarily before closing again as he made his way silently back to his own bunk just opposite mine. All I could do was lie there, disappointedly gazing out into the gloom as he settled into a deeper unknowing sleep, leaving me with improper hopes and dreams dashed and a puddle of now cold seamen sitting in my hand.
This is an extract from memoire that I have recently completed,
‘A Fruit Cake Just Exploded’ ;
other extracts may follow or the book is available on Lulu.com and also Amazon.
Living out where we did in the countryside, there was a school bus laid on to get us there. From the very first day on the coach there might as well have been a bull’s eye painted on my back not helped in anyway by being the last to be picked up; I had no option but to endure the daily, ritual humiliation. The fact that the bus always full, almost over full by that point didn’t help one bit. If I had friends they were only of a fluid and formless sort that, in this hostile environment there was no way of them showing any allegiance to the ‘targeted one’. My already limited associations were almost nullified by the trouble that developed around my wholly unwarranted notoriety.
Having squeezed my rapidly growing frame through the tight mass of bodies, the only spaces left were always well away from the lady escort; she always seemed oblivious to anything that went on there anyway. Having run the gauntlet, on reaching the back of the bus I would be confronted by the consistent trouble makers waiting for their fix of fun. Every morning I hoped for a space near the front but it hardly ever happened. Although the term ‘special’ had been with me for what seemed a very long time for so many different reasons, most I hadn’t minded; sticks and stones and all that. Here in the crush and chaos, what should have offered a pleasurable enforcement of physical closeness with my peers, I sadly stood no chance at all in gaining anything but pain.
It was the time when you still paid for your school dinners, every day, in cash. Unfortunately I was not ‘special’ enough to get free meals, more’s the pity. Of course my tormentors soon knew this and although I was not the only one that had been fleeced, it seemed that I was an eminently easy target. On my way out of the house each morning I would pick up the plastic bank bag with just the right money in it, slip it securely into my inside pocket knowing full well that there was little chance of it making its way to the dining hall. Except fop the first time it happened I never made any fuss. Other kids had dealt with it all in the past and it was just my turn. I had seen the results of making a stand for yourself. Bruises were hard to hide; an empty feeling in my stomach during the afternoons was not. When I got home I would generally lie about what we had eaten for lunch, that is if I couldn’t manage to avoid the questions altogether. At least my avoidance strategy was being honed by the activity however ineffective; week in, week out. As long as the bullies got what they wanted it was all relatively manageable, tolerable even but, a slightly bigger problem was looming as yet unseen on the horizon.
At the start of one new school year, the relief of the long summer holidays was now lost and the school dinner money system was changed. Meals would be paid for at the start of each term and directly to the school. What was going to happen now? Would I be left alone if I had nothing to hand over? That would be have been great but sadly, it was not to be. Once the loss of revenue was noted it took only a short time to decide what I would have to do or supply in its place. While the details were formulating it was considered great fun to belittle my appearance, my size, my clothes or anything else that they thought would make good sport instead. My hopes of any relief were a lost cause.
The trend for hair cuts was to wear it long and generally in an unkempt look, I couldn’t even get that right. I was developing an interest in hair styles even then but it didn’t seem to help with my problem. My father had always used Brilcream, a throw back to his days in the RAF I expect and of course I had to try it, like it and so used it regularly. At least I tried many times to emulate other men’s looks, I never quite managed the smart suave sophisticated style that my father always had. This tonsorial fopar, amongst my many other failings, became the principle reason for what would become my classroom nickname, ‘the greasy slime’; I railed against it every time I heard it and yet did nothing to get away from it. If that wasn’t enough my obvious weight problem became another easy target along with my dress sense and inarticulate attempts at any kind of retort and in the end felt that I just had to live with it all.
Back on the blitzkrieg of the bus, not having any money allowed me to get away with only the infliction of verbal abuse and a bit of roughing up now and again; I was happy that at least I didn’t get the full beating that others had in the past. However, the lull in proceedings wasn’t going to last for long. Those involved eventually got bored but just couldn’t seem to leave me alone. Instead of the steady stream of cash, they had been looking for an appropriate replacement. Anything would do so, I lost books, a few pieces of equipment, pens, rulers, compasses, some expensive, some trivial but none of it seemed to be enough to satisfy their febrile minds. Most of these missing items were easy to explain away compared with the occasional tear in my shirt, writing on my blazer or the disappearance of items from my little used gym kit. Sometimes you could see these items hanging from the hedgerow where they had flown out of the bus window. Although I managed to explain all sorts of things away over the many months, it got more difficult all the time.
My physical size, obesity as it was although not spoken of, was not helped by an unsubstantiated insistence that I needed to be fed all the time. It was something that we as a family had always indulged in, food, food and yet more food. Early excuses that my so called ‘puppy fat’ would soon disappear apparently did not raise any concerns and i just keep eating, a growing boy, needs lots of energy, all sorts of nonsense. To this barren end I had open access to and was supplied with numerous treats, just in case I got hungry before lunch or on the way home or anytime really. Each morning I would help myself from a large brass bowl in the lounge, Mars bars, Topic, Crunchy, Bounty; it seemed like every type of confectionery known to man was available. All that was on top of whatever I was given openly. It was this excess of bounty that became my antagonists new currency.
You might have thought that this was an easy, acceptable option, I got to eat less junk food and they stayed off my case but oh no, that was far too much to expect. Cash had been divvied up between the gang relatively easily; now, just one or two chocolate bars didn’t divide up so well between the group. This meant that I had to supply more, and more, and then more. In the end I had great trouble disguising where the household supply was disappearing to each week. Of course I lied about eating it all despite the fact that no one actually saw me eat very much, nobody ever questioned the fact that I could have eaten the amount that went missing; I would have been hospitalised if I had. Despite this general malaise at home, in the end on the bus it got just too much for me to cope with and without knowing quite how I did it, I stopped it, dead. At least I thought I had anyway.
Thinking that I had been cleaver and had nothing to give them they had nothing much in the way of new interest to taunt me with, my arms were very sore from the thumping that I received on the first morning. Suffering it all in silence I eventually just melted into the school day. Knowing that I should have felt some pride at my resistance, having anyone share in my small glory would have meant having friends that held any degree of interest in me or my problems; there was no-one. Being invisible was nothing new or difficult and I managed to keep out of the way of any other potential repercussion between lessons. At lunch time the game was up.
The head bully boy supported by his rather unattractive henchmen confronted me in the play ground well out of sight of any staff. Despite it not being any real surprise, I panicked when a pair of scissors appeared from his pocket the blades glinting in the sunlight. He grabbed my tie and I waited for the pain and the blood. His bad breath whispered sickly into my ear that I needed to pay more attention to getting them what they wanted and not being such a sad sick bastard. He pulled his face away and sneered grotesquely as he hacked my tie right through just below the knot. The small ugly group evaporated into the background.
Uniform was very strict at that time and I only got through the afternoon by saying that I had lost my absentee tie somewhere in the lunch break. When I got home I had to use the same excuse.
Using one of my brother’s old ties the next morning but still with no chocolate I was very determined on the outside, while bricking it on the inside. My arms were even more sore that day. When I was pinned up against the brick wall later on I was definitely thinking that I would feel the cold steel this time. Fortunately it was only the tie, again. That would be the last warning I would be getting, apparently. The teachers fell for the lost tie line again but my mother didn’t.
In the busy kitchen at home I was grilled about it for what seemed like hours. With no plausible explanation I had to clarify matters for my father when he had finished work; this was almost unheard of as my mother normally dealt with this sort of thing. Thinking that I had fudged my way out of it even to my sire, I was rather disappointed to find that it was not going to be ignored this time. Getting more concerned by the hour wasn’t helped by not getting on the bus the next morning; I was taken to school instead by my parents.
Being a generally good student I had been fortunate never to have seen the inside of the headmaster’s office other than to help with some menial project or other. This was different, this was serious. In no uncertain terms I was made to tell him what had happened and his normally quiet, pleasant, leadership style changed to the one that he reserved for such injustices.
Having only given up one name, the offending student was summoned to the office and the matter was discussed with him there in front of us all; I didn’t know who was more embarrassed. His semi literate protesting wouldn’t constitute a discussion but later that morning, once my parents had left, he received several strokes of the cane. It was not the first time he had heard the whoosh and felt its sting. Although I didn’t get to witness the event, to add insult to the injury he was told to produce two new ties for me by the end of the week. He did produce something but it was just the half of another one of mine that he cut off the very next day. He left the school for good very soon after.
As with many bullies they rarely work alone and when the beast looses its head, the rest generally fall aside helpless; I was lucky that this was how it fell for me. Although that small part of my life was much better, I didn’t get away from the verbal abuse about my hair and clothing and of course I still couldn’t shake any of the derogatory nick names. In fact it probably all got rather worse in many ways but I had managed to develop a thick and thickening skin. My splendid isolation, I think that’s where it all started and I must have found it beneficial if not mandatory for survival from then on.
About twenty years later I saw one of the former bully boys at a wedding reception. Fortunately he didn’t recognise me but, for just a fleeting moment, I considered asking him how he thought things had worked out for us all; for whatever reason, I couldn’t be bothered.