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Thursday, 17 April 2014

I Could Be Happy...

“I would like to climb high in a tree
I could be happy, I could be happy…”

We spoke about escape.  We spoke about the uncertainty of being thrown into the big world.  We spoke about the space between.

L-R Colin, Me, Roy, Alex 2014

Then and now.

We spoke about kickings and kicking out.  We spoke about punk Sam with his Mohican on the steps of St Pauls Cathedral in 1983. We spoke about our families and our houses.  And we spoke about Clare Grogan and fish suppers in the Rosamar and Scappaticci’s.

L-R Colin, Alex, Me 1983

I met up with 3 of my school mates today. It was the first time in 32 years all four of us had been together. It was brilliant. Positive.  Good.

It really helped me put some of that part of my life into some sort of context. I had, I think, blocked a lot of school out- I had left it far behind, and for reasons that through the years don't matter so much now, and for some reasons that mattered at the time that have ironed themselves out.

Formative years that, more than I would have acknowledged until recently, had a huge effect on everything I did; the choices I made; after I was 16.

Like lots of teenagers, I had jumped out of the restrictions and socialisation of school wholeheartedly. It was, I had thought at the time, a place that had taken the enjoyment out of any learning and life I might have wanted to live. 

“Or go to Skye on my holiday
I could be happy, I could be happy…”

We talked about qualifications, and what we didn’t get and what the streaming system did to; for; about us. And how different it is for our children.  And each of us are thankful.

I remember saying to my friend Roy back then, "I want to try EVERYTHING." Meaning all of the things "they" told us not to do, or at least where frowned on by our culture, media and the generation who had reared us. I didn't do "everything," but lots of those things I did do, I realised were quite destructive and negative, not for the non-reasons they told us, but for the sore heads, regrets and pain they caused. Regrets, I've had a few. A few.

“Maybe swim a mile down the Nile
I could be happy, I could be happy…”

The memories that meeting with the lads stirred were amazing. Everything from who we had fancied (girls in the class and teachers!).

We talked about a comic we sent a picture of our teacher to – it published a page with pictures of teachers school boys fancied.  Our pic wasn't published.  I had forgotten.  I was the photographer and photo-processor (she consented – oh how times change! What teacher would consent to this nowadays?  And what pupil would think this was “right?”).  The late ‘70’s / early eighties… really the dark ages.

We had meetings with the head teacher- one particular meeting I had forgotten about. On this occasion it was not for a telling off.  It was a meeting in which Roy and I had drummed up the courage to go to him and tell him about the bastards who were making our lives miserable with fights and threats and setting their pet hangers on us. It led to something being done and the bastards leaving us alone for a while. Its something I'll have to spend a bit of time trying to piece together, and I hope meeting the guys again will remind me more about. I do remember the struggle - should we, shouldn't we. We did, and now, looking back, I am proud we did.  A small piece of truth.  A fightback. A small revolution.  I had blocked out much of this part of my early teens because of the really exhausting pain the bullying had caused. There were days I left school so dejected, wrecked, sore I vowed never to go back. 

But of course had to. 

And I vowed revenge. But I never did. 

But what I realized today was that actually lots of that time was positive, including the really sound, solid friends I had. And I really can now put to bed the beatings and mental torture some of those others put me through. And I guess my march out of school into a completely different world; into a different me, without looking back, shows I didn't dwell on them. I just wanted to discover and run.

“All of these things I do
All of these things I do
To get away from you…”

We remembered the music, the classmates, the school plays, the now long demolished school, the teachers and the head teacher, who, really strangely, as we spoke, walked past our table. I wish I had have spoken to him. He is and was a good man who did a great job in difficult times with a difficult, hard school.

We remembered discos and school plays and trips and books and characters and summer days lounging on the grass "studying."

And after we four parted today, other memories came slamming through. I suppose I realize my bitterness at those 6 hours a day, was really only bitterness at part of the story- part of the day- the rest being actually positive. But I know it is the difficult parts that shaped me- as I scrambled and grabbed at alternatives. 

The positives did too.  

But the kickings; the rigid peer, societal and school culture led socialisation. They were the things that were part of what pushed me out of the unnoticed, sensible, stable aspects of Banbridge and towards escape. The things that cause teenagers to rebel -perceived persecution and imperceptible environmental and social change around the million miles an hour personal, hormonal ball of change - and how I rebelled!

And now, in lots of ways I look from the outside in, but not down, on this wonderful, damaged, recovering, stable beautiful place- a place that if I had stayed I would have continued to kick out at to my detriment. And now I am beginning to look from the outside in on me. Fighting ghosts that were damaged before they damaged me. And now I only see a place, for all its faults, I love. Another place where I feel at home- my first home. A place I am lucky to have. A place I escaped, but now escape to and from. Another choice. A positive one.

My persecution (teenager imagined and real) in many ways was less than those of many, many other people, like the school friend who liked to smile and run and get chased in Primary, whose difficulties with school nowadays would be addressed, but in those days led to being streamed with others with difficulties ranging from social to mental and who suffered badly at the hands of damaged people to the point the stress made him completely shatter both physically and mentally. A victim of harder times.

I was no angel at school. I did get punishments for stupid things I did. None really bad, I don't think. Though I look back on some of what I did; my interactions with some of my school peers with regret. Consequences of my actions on others probably didn't come in to my thinking until my mid twenties. Selfish, stupid. That probably describes a huge part of me back then- and hopefully a much smaller side of me nowadays.

The three guys I met up with, Roy, Colin and Alex had changed little. We are all older and hopefully wiser, and have had the ups and downs life throws at people, and we are steeped in our own beliefs and prejudices, but pre-meeting apprehension and thoughts really gave way to really relaxed and comfortable conversation as I realized they were still essentially, fundamentally the same guys. And I suppose I am still that wee show-off, relatively unstable person- but one who is much more comfortable with who I am - and where I have come from.

“Get away, run away, far away, how do I?
Get away, run away, far away, how do I
Escape from you?”

I don’t need to now.

1 comment:

  1. The effect of bullying can persist for years... http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/04/19/304528674/mental-and-physical-toll-of-bullying-persists-for-decades


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