Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Comprehensively Testing Time.

This is London 1958. To me, an 11 year old, the big school is an intimidating place. A glass, and concrete fronted monstrosity eight stories high. It was I believe the first, purpose built comprehensive school in London, maybe England even. My first day is a nightmare. I don't know a soul.

The teachers wear black gowns and mortar boards. I find them very scary. The headmaster is a fearsome looking man. He speaks, shouts mostly, in a booming Welsh accent, that seems to shake the very foundations of this hideous edifice, and causes tremors across the floor and up through my nervous body, to rattle my confused brain.

There are official school bullies too. Well they are actually called prefects, and supposed to keep order, but in my experience most of them were bullies. They had a sash type thing to distinguish them from the other boys. But they used to hide them so you couldn't see them coming. I hated prefects.

Coming as I have, from a tiny junior school, in the grounds of the residential children's home, where I had lived my life so far, and where everybody knew each other, this sudden change in my circumstances, and the chattering noise of two thousand boys is almost overwhelming. In these difficult conditions I resolve to keep my head down, and just get on with things as best I can.

This is not a good time for me. As well as starting secondary school, I have at the same time, without, as far as I recall, any notice, been placed with foster parents.

I am far away from any of my wretched life's familiar things. I am a stranger here in this locality, and my former comfort zones, although somewhat frugal, have been left, without ceremony, many miles away.

I am dispirited, sad, lonely, and unhappy. I want my Mother to be here. I want her to take me back with her to wherever she lives. I want her to stand in my corner, and tell me everything is going to be all right. Mind you, this is something I yearn for most days. But perhaps a little more fervently this time.

But that won't happen. It would be a miracle if it did. I haven't heard from her for years. What will happen is that I will get used to the way things are here, I will somehow fit myself into the system, whilst not actually conforming to it, and I will survive the turmoil in my life, and in my head. Because that is the way I am. A frightened but resilient little fighter.

This is just one more testing time in my life. I'll deal with it. What else is there to do?


  1. Your childhood just sounds like something from two centuries ago. And yet, you're only a year older than I am.

  2. I felt sad for you when reading how hard your early life was. Obviously these painful memories are still vivid in your memory. Well done surviving such a difficult start to your life. You certainly are a resilient fighter. I need to limit my compaining as I have nothing in my past that could possibly compare to your sad and hurtful past.

  3. Resiliant is the key word here. And you are.

  4. I am once again amazed by your strength. I am sure many children in similar circumstances would have just given in. I don't believe I would have been as strong as you. How on earth did you do it??

  5. This was a really sad story to read John. You were indeed resilient, a fighter, a survivor. We don't always know why we are put on certain paths. Thanks for sharing your story!

  6. The little fighter appears to have won John. You did well:) B

  7. The thing I remember most about our Headmaster was that he had horrible ginger hairs hanging out of his nose. He took us for maths and I was hopeless at it. He was always picking on me and coming up close, that's how I noticed the awful things. lol

  8. I'm glad you learned to be a survivor at an early age. I can't imagine spending a childhood like that

  9. When did you discover that you had artistic talent? Is this something that saved you, something that gave you hope for your future? I hate to read of these public schools where all this bullying went on...I read the book "Boy" by Roald Dahl and he went into great detail of all that happened to him. Fairly nasty stuff. I am glad you survived it.