Thinking about what kind of personality I had as a child, I suppose the description that springs to mind would be, a quiet boy, usually somewhat timid, but with a spark of temper at times, a bit of a loner, and eager to please.
Indeed, I am fairly sure that if I were able to gain access to my files from the council children's home where I spent most of my formative years, those would be the among the words in it.
Children in those days, I'm going back to the early 1950's in my case, were not empowered in the way that modern children are. We were truly, in the words of the old adage, expected to be seen and not heard.
Personally I was happy to keep my head down. To stay below the radar. Of course in this case, I am referring to kids who did not have the strength of a loving family around them.
Occasionally though, on those rare times when my Mother would visit, I was able to experience for myself, the strength which love can bring to a child. My Mothers presence brought with it a sense of security, both mental and physical, which I never felt at any other time. This safe feeling would reveal itself within me by a sense of self awareness. Naturally happiness was a great part of it, but I remember too, that in my Mothers presence I acquired a boldness, a self confidence, a cheekiness. Feelings normally alien to me, but which, because I felt safe in her love would come to the surface.
Looking back on it now I realise that I was perhaps, exploring the boundaries of just how far I could go. How much would my Mother put up with before she exerted her authority over me.
I can tell you it was a lot further than the staff in the children's home allowed. Egos were not encouraged. We kids were all just part of the greater mass. It was therefore a delicious feeling to be allowed to be myself. Even if it was just for a few hours and on too few occasions.
When Mum said her goodbyes to me, at the gatehouse of the home, I would quickly revert back to the quiet timid persona which was my other, more usual, self. Or was it?
Let us travel forward a few years to 1958. I am now in a foster home in London. Eleven years old. A small child for my age. A quiet boy, timid even. The old saying 'he would not say boo to a goose' could fairly be applied to me.
This day I am unwell. Or perhaps I do not want to go to school. Whichever it is. My desire to stay in bed causes a terrible rage to come upon my foster mother, Aggie Davis.
I know what is about to happen. It is a common occurrence. The blankets are pulled from me. I curl myself into the foetal position and she begins her onslaught. I am pulled onto the floor, she screams incoherently, kicking hard into my ribs. She kneels on me heavily, her knees on my chest, as she punches, slaps, and pinches, releasing her full spitting ugly fury on me. Fortunately for me, this witch, this harridan, is unhealthy in body as well as mind, and, is soon too breathless to continue.
But Aggie is not quite finished. She has a parting shot. A practiced routine. She grabs my private parts and twists and squeezes with all her remaining strength, until I scream in agony. This is the only way she can make me cry. They are tears of shame as well as pain.
As I plod my way to school, I take the threepenny coin she always gives me after an assault and hurl it over the fence into the park. I don't want her money. She cannot buy my forgiveness this time.
This is a momentous day. I determine to fight back the very next time she attacks me. I feel my Mothers strength within me. I feel emboldened. Empowered. My determination grows.
The next attack is not long in coming. I have returned from an errand to the local shop with the wrong amount of change. It is a shilling short. Aggie is furious. Accuses me of stealing it. She delivers a painful stinging blow to my head.
I punch out with all my small power, and land a blow on her. She staggers back, holding her beak like nose, and I see blood issuing through her fingers. It is enough for me. I take to my heels like a frightened rabbit.
My welfare officer later finds me sitting on a bench in the local park. He does not ask me about the incident, and I do not tell him my side of it. He has obviously listened to Aggie's version of events, and that will do him. As I say, in those days children were expected to be seen and not heard.
Eventually I am returned to Aggie's care. My retaliation is never mentioned. She never hits me again. I had achieved the desired effect.
Soon after this incident I leave the foster home for good, when I am reunited with my Mother.
It is the beginning of a slippery slope for me. I will never allow myself to be bullied or beaten again. I am a different boy now. Still quiet. But no longer timid. This will be a new beginning. I am stubbornly determined about that. Trouble is looming for me. Aggie Davis should take her share of the blame.