Along the same lines as Part I, but I’ve ditched the freakier elements of the ‘stream of consciousness’ style, which I think was unpopular. Here are some select memories from my childhood (all 5 – 11 years old)
- In primary school I waged war on another kid in my class just because he had the nerve to also be called Jamie (which was my ‘cute little boy*’ name growing up). He became the target of frequent bullying and turned into one of the weird loner kids in high school. At the same time, I insisted my cousin Jamie (who is a good seven years older than me so kind of already had the dibs) be called Jim at all times when I was present. Even nowadays, whenever I encounter other people with the names James or Jamie, I can’t help but feel a certain heightened antipathy toward them just because they are using ‘my name’. Stupid I know.
- My birthday is 5th November, which is a holiday in England commemorating the thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament (and the king of the day with it, who incidentally was James I. Come to think of it, it’s the 410th anniversary of the whole shabang this year, reminding us all that England’s democracy is hella old). This means that each year my birthday is marked by fireworks displays and huge community bonfires up and down the land. You can imagine how this fed into the ego of a budding psychopath. I was 10 or 11 before I knowingly met someone with the same birthday, and I reacted in much the same way as with the name thieves. She was a bitch, and she had a stupid name; Ailsa Winter. Now I think of it years later, it’s a pretty name really isn’t it? Quite literary. I wonder if she’s pretty too. Time to look her up on Facebook.
- *By all accounts I was a cute little boy. For the first six years of my life I was blond, hardly ever cried or had tantrums, had good manners and was irrepressibly talkative. I was apparently also very bossy and emotionally manipulative, but that’s by the by. At the age of six I discovered lying and from then until about eight or nine (when the other kids finally caught up) I never understood why nearly all of my classmates would own up to doing ‘bad things’, or dutifully go home and tell their mums they’d been punished. “What idiots,” I would think, “don’t they know they can get away with anything if they just keep their mouths shut or invent a story?”
- The same year, we had a terrible class teacher (who had a nervous breakdown by Christmas and had to leave, not as a result of any of us I might add) followed by a brilliant one (the headmistress of the school). I’m sure we did actual learning too, but my abiding memory is of the headteacher reading us lots of poems by Michael Rosen. They were hilarious for any six year old to listen to, especially when our teacher substituted the characters’ names for kids in the class. If you know any children around that age, make sure they become acquainted with Rosen. If you / they can’t be bothered actually reading something, he performs all his poems on YouTube these days.
- Also at the age of six, I hospitalised my friend due to an experiment whereby I was trying to see how many pebbles from the sandpit would fit inside his ear. Not that many, it turned out.
- There was this boy Cameron who had behavioural problems (looking back, possibly ADHD but I had no clue at the time) and whom I loved winding up, to get him into trouble, but also because ‘Cameron wound up’ was a spectacle to behold. Think tantrums that made the classroom look like a bomb had gone off. I especially liked doing this at lunch, because this really fat no-nonsense lunchtime supervisor would go nuts at him for anything, which would trigger him to lose control and run away in a rage. So I goaded him into hitting me, then went and told Mrs Fatty, which I think was her name. Of course, he ran off, so she would then have to chase him through the corridors, breaking objects and hitting students, catch him and physically restrain him on the floor with her flabby bulk while she waited for the teachers to help her. The memories of these ridiculous scenes still bring a smile to my face.
- There was another boy, Michael, with far more serious problems than Cameron due to a brain defect which made him kind of thick as well as being unable to regulate his emotions at all. Any time a teacher raised her voice to anyone in the class, this would set Michael off crying hysterically. He even cried when his name featured in the Michael Rosen poetry readings. I took him under my wing for several years, treated him as a friend, defended him from any bullying he might have endured, and even comforted him whenever he was in tears (several times a day). He was a curiosity to me, so different, so unfathomable, I was fascinated. But as everyone grew up, Michael sort of didn’t, and by the end of Year 4 (nine years old) he was no longer interesting. The crying was old hat. What’s more, fear and intolerance toward disability (which I didn’t and still don’t share, but it is important to reflect societal norms in your outward behaviour, lest you yourself be an outcast) was turning most of the so-called empathetic children against him, so I let him go.
- Despite being thin and nerdy for quite a few years, I was never the target of bullying. Or to put it more accurately a succession of would-be bullies tried to target me once and never dared to have a second go. I dragged one of them along the ground through a lot of stinging nettles and pushed him head first into a active fox den. He came out all scratched and a bit chewed. Another ‘slipped’ on a patch of ice at the top of some steps. He walked away with a dislocated shoulder and a weird neck.