2. Bullies and Queers
Clearly, I somehow made myself a target for bullying. Victims, I have learned over the years, often show themselves as such to the predators in society. The School, of course, did not discourage bullying. The whole system set in place by the English Upper-Class lent itself to such practice.
The signals I gave out must have been born of my deep unhappiness. If I had been a loner at Christ Church School, I felt moreso now. I had little in common with so many of my fellow pupils. And, from the Headmaster downwards, it was made clear to us that local Wolverhampton accents and passing an exam to get to Grammar School was simply not on. So we were talked down to as befitted working-class oiks.
For the first two or three years, I was the butt of rudeness and of physical attacks from all and sundry. Even those younger than I and who hardly knew me had a go. One lad simply stuck out a fist as he passed me in the Quadrangle. His punch all but blacked my right eye. I never knew who he was.
Neil Fullwood was a clever scholar. He hated me. He had a cruel streak. There was no finesse about his hatred and he attacked me, physically and verbally, at every opportunity. He kicked me often and hit me with books or whatever came to hand.
John Pitt, while we were still in the first year Remove, pretended to be my friend at first. One lunchtime, he wandered round the trees and field surrounding The Mansion with his arm around my shoulders, just as a mate might. Then, thinking he was out of sight of anyone, he sat me down on the grass on the top of a redundant air-raid shelter and held me in a vice-like hug while he undid my fly. He exposed himself (somehow!) at the same time. In my terrible embarrassment, I found the strength to push him off and escape.
A few of the Masters were effeminate and/or sloppy speakers. We could tell “what they were like”. It was an “absolute truth” – and one guessed who had put it round – that all lads in their early teens go through a homosexual phase. I did not. No crush on any other boy, or Master, or sportsman, or any male person at all. Girls, in all their glory, were exactly what I was looking for and had been since I was a tiny-tot and realised that they were . . . different!
Then, for a reason I never found out – chance, planning, or Fate lending a hand – Dad got me a book about Jiu-Jitsu. This was well before Martial Arts had become popular. He didn’t practice it with me, but I read it and sort of practiced in my bedroom, unseen. I used Silent Ky-aa. Jiu-Jitsu was a way of turning an attacker’s own strength against him (and, presumably, her).
Derek Birch was not a bad lad. A little dull, perhaps, but he had never been aggressive towards me. Alas, he must have been influenced by seeing so many others have a go at me. So, one lunchtime – it was always at lunchtime – he started to shove me round the Quadrangle in front of our peers.
To push, he put the flat of his hand against my chest. Copybook stuff! So I did what I’d read about and practiced against an imaginary assailant. My memory tells me that I did it a little slowly and ponderously. But it worked.
Birchy went down on his knees, me still gripping his hand. I put my other hand behind his elbow and swung him in a circle, letting him go suddenly. The poor lad was flung across the tarmac. I don’t think he was hurt.
My being bullied stopped dead at that moment.
Many times over the years I have wanted to meet Neil Fullwood again. I would remind him of old times.
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