Why are we wacky?
I’ve had an epiphany.
For a while I’ve wondered why our life hasn’t followed any sort of conventional course. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change anything, but what really made us go down the wacky route we did. Yes, a large part of it was Jan getting poorly and when you think you’re running out of time, it changes your outlook. But something allowed me to actually MAKE the change. It’s all very well talking about it, but doing it is another matter.
I think I’ve found the answer.
My subconscious fired into life a couple of days ago when I was talking about how crap I was at history at school. Disappointingly, I started clueless and got worse. My first history essay began, ‘Richard III was rock bottom of the popularity ladder.’ The essay was perhaps six or seven hundred words but that first sentence killed it and the whole thing was returned with two red-penned slashes right through it. Written at the bottom in the same red pen, ‘that is not how you write a history essay.’
I felt an idiot obviously. Or more accurately, my teacher had made me feel an idiot. My initial feelings referenced the teacher, ‘you miserable sod!’ Then I thought, ‘why the f*** do I need to know anything about Richard III anyway?’
But it was the 'miserable sod' thought that stuck with me and to which I later returned. Why would the teacher want to humiliate me like that. If he’d said, ‘there were a few decent points in there, but you don’t start a serious, factual history essay like that,’ next time I would have done it differently.
What he did was stoke his own ego by making me feel little. I know this because he had done it before and he did again. He was a big fish in a small pond. He had power over us lads, particularly those less gifted academically, and used it. We had no redress; we just had to sit there and take it. It's easy being a pompous smart-arse when you've got the answers in front of you - think Paxman. It boils down to, how well people cope out of their comfort zone - if they have the bottle to step ouside it.
So, who or what was my teacher? To start with, he was institutionalised. He lived in a grace and favour apartment within the school perimeter, worked from a pedestal before his flock and socialised with other teachers. In effect, he lived a closeted life where everything was laid on for him. Accommodation, food, salary, all ‘included’. Safe within a closed, comfortable environment associating with like-minded colleagues. The only thing he had to cope with was plonkers like me!
The further I get from school days, the less I like it. While you’re in the middle of it you tend to just get on with things, but I’ve had a few instances in later life where I can trace an historical connection back to school days. For example, why I’ve tried not to be a bully.
This teacher was a big man both in his limited world and in his own mind. I’ve since wondered whether I’ve instinctively rebelled against the institutionalism he stood for. In other words, would I have wanted a career enclosed within a rigid cage - banking, legal, accountancy, teacher god forbid? Once there, it seems to me you’re in it for life. Moulded and fixed within your profession. Good money maybe, but clipped winged.
I wasn’t very academic and I didn’t really like being told what to do, which is a toxic mix educationally. The only reason I fitted in at all was sport. I had friends and was somewhat respected for my abilities. I had status in other words, but not the academic sort enjoyed and heralded by the school hierarchy. This is probably the reason why I rebelled, in my own feeble way. It might have been an educational own goal, but it enabled me to seek other ways through my difficulties. The first problem was how to get through my school years. Humour and sport I think were the two key ingredients.
I made a seamless shift from school to adult life by joining the local golf club. Ironically, I became a reasonable sized fish in a small pond but if I red-slashed anyone, I did it in jest, and was invariably slashed back over a pint of ale. No harm done.
Actually, when I say, ‘made a seamless shift to adult life,’ that’s not quite right, because I’ve never really grown up, not in the conventional sense. Life has nudged me here and there instead of me plotting a course and sailing it. Then Jan joined in and we continued to be nudged by circumstance. No real masterplan. Big decisions have been made for big reasons not of our own manufacture. Looking back, we’ve had a varied time of it. Big highs and terrible lows, both of which we’ve tackled with humour.
My humour and writing are a bit wacky sometimes. But none of that would have happened if I’d been institutionalised. Jan and I hoisted the sail and let the wind blow, red slashes diminishing, but not forgotten, in our wake. AND we’ll carry on being a bit wacky, after all it’s a bit late to stop now!
All these years later (45) I would love to go back and begin my essay, ‘Richard III was so unpopular he might well have ended up buried under a car park.’ Sure, that would have been red-slashed too, but oh, the satisfaction when I took the 2012 newspaper article and wallpaper-pasted it onto my teachers head stone. See, wacky thinking. I’d never have written this paragraph if a) my initial essay had been word-perfect, or b) my teacher hadn’t been such a pillock.