My legs are weak. My knees are buckling. Oh help! What is going on here? My head is swimming. Looking up at the high ceiling it appears that the lights are spinning crazily. I am going to fall.
Concerned faces loom over me as I regain consciousness. Someone picks me up and carries me to an empty classroom. A sit down and a drink of water later I am feeling better.
The school nurse asks me what had been wrong. My six year old mind struggles for an answer. All I can come up with by way of explanation is that I had an empty hollow feeling inside.
It seems that morning assembly at school had overwhelmed me, and I had fainted. That's all it was. The heat probably, and the lights, had got to me. If only I had been able to state it so simply all those years ago. But I couldn't. As I say I was only six years old.
Several days later, the housemother -this is a children's home- tells me that I am to hurry and put my best clothes on. I have been summoned to the main office. Usually this happens because some prospective foster parents have arrived to give me the once over. See if I meet their requirements. My own requirements, even if I could think of any, don't come into it. Several people have looked me over, but I haven't been chosen yet. Does a lot for a child's self esteem, this process. Anyway I don't want to go anywhere. I've got a Mum. Somewhere.
My best clothes are the same as my normal clothes, gray. Except that they are newer and have not been subjected to repeated washing and mending. I have to wear shoes instead of the usual hob nailed boots. Oh yes, and I have to wear a tie. I hate ties. In fact anything which involves tying a knot or bow causes me concern. I can never tie anything up properly. Apparently, being able to do things like tie shoelaces or neckties should be simple for a small boy. I invariably get a cuff around the ear due to my lack of these essential life skills.
The cuff around the ear punishment is meted out on a regular basis for small, so called misdemeanours. Things like having elbows on the table at mealtimes. Or holding your knife and fork wrongly. Using the fork upside down to eat peas is very wrong. Deciding suddenly, that you need to go to the toilet. Not sitting up straight. Not realising that you are being spoken to. There are so many ways to irritate an impatient adult. The cuff around the ear is apparently an essential commonplace practice.
When administered with full on venom and uncontrolled anger, it then becomes a heavy smack around the head and is highly dangerous. Probably the cause of a great deal of brain damage. Hey! That explains a lot.
There are no prospective foster parents on this day. Instead I am ushered into the office of Mr Stevenson, the deputy superintendent of the home. He glares at me over the top of his wire framed glasses, "Stand up straight boy".
I have only ever seen this man from afar. He has a fearsome reputation. I am about to experience it for myself. "So. This is the boy we don't feed properly, is it?" He is looking at me, but his words are obviously addressed to the housemother. I sense that I am in trouble for something. I am right.
It seems that the school nurse has reported my fainting episode. My childish explanation has been misconstrued. She has reported me as being undernourished and hungry. This has caused a heap of trouble for the housemother. Mr Stevenson obviously does not like his staff to be criticised. He takes it personally. A loud and frightening verbal onslaught begins
Perhaps I tried to explain. But I was in fear of this man. He shouted a lot. Accused me of being ungrateful for all that was done for me. Anything I may have said would not have helped. We kids were, as the old saying goes, expected to be seen and not heard. I was left in no doubt that the whole situation was all my own fault.
The punishment for my 'crime' was that I must have double rations at every meal. For a picky eater like me this was very difficult. Luckily the ordeal only lasted a week. But it was a week of much crying and upset on my part, and much anger and intolerance from the housemother. Her right hand was well used that week.
It was only a faint for God's sake! I still don't know what caused it. But I'm pretty sure I wasn't hungry. Well, not for the food they dished up to us ungrateful little wretches anyway.