Memoirs ~ Head Sore

Class six proved as ineffectual educationally as class four. I don’t really remember learning that much in either class, as most of the time the teacher was shouting at the class trying to gain control. It was a losing battle for the teacher most of the time. She was soft, and the kids knew it! Miss Lawrie mentioned previously, was far too nice to be teaching at Kelvin Grove. She might have been safer teaching the infants! What her memories of Kelvin Grove Junior School must be, can only be guessed at but it is my guess that when she left, it was like being set free from a horrible period of punishment.  

At this time in educational establishments boys were still given the cane if they were really naughty. I often remember taking the register up to the Head Teacher’s office, and seeing a queue of boys sitting outside waiting to be caned. It was just accepted as the norm. I was glad I was a girl at such times as boys really did seem to have a much harder time at school. Mind you, I always felt that they shouldn’t be naughty then. Whether the punishment fitted the crimes committed is debateable. 

One day, a day like any other at Kelvin Grove but not like any day I had ever had Miss Lawrie left the classroom, a common occurrence, to fetch assistance from another teacher to help calm the class down as it was beyond her skills to achieve this. While she was away from the classroom a boy named Paul took a ball of hardened plastacine and hurled it hard at the windows between the classrooms; a good throw if he had been playing cricket. One of the windows smashed. There’d be trouble now. Paul hurriedly went round the classroom threatening that anyone who told on him would get it. By that he meant he would hurt them. Even in class six Paul was the best fighter in the school and not someone you upset intentionally, at least not if you had any common sense. He was a volatile and unpredictable boy who could be charming one day and a monster the next. Paul was blond, blue eyed and athletically built. He had a nice voice that gave little indication of the stormy nature that brewed within but he was a troubled boy who was just dismissed as naughty. That was the thing if you misbehaved you were quickly labelled and the label would stick and over time you lived up to the label as if you had decided to give people what they expected.

My mistake that day was being little Miss Goody Two Shoes. Rather than say I knew nothing about the window I told the truth and told the teacher that it was Paul who broke the window. I am sure he got the cane for that, not something that I had given any thought to at the time. I found out later that Paul used to get beaten by his dad at home not because his dad was necessarily a bad man but because that was how he viewed fatherhood and had probably had a similar upbringing himself by his own father. I think if I had known that about Paul I might not have said anything but as it was I thought it was the right thing to do.  With hindsight I know that I was more scared of getting in trouble from lying than I was of anything Paul could do to me. I had been brought up to tell the truth and shame the devil. It was better to admit to a lie than to prolong the lie and get found out that you were lying. I paid the price for informing on Paul. He waited until dinner play when there was the minimum of staff supervision. It didn’t matter that I was a girl. At that age boys rarely think that they mustn’t hit girls. Paul took my bag off me which I recall quite clearly was a dark maroon colour with a white rim or edging that I took off my toy shopping trolley. He roughly snatched that bag, swung it high above his head and then brought it down hard on mine with forceful anger. The pain was excruciating. How my neck didn’t break I don’t know. No one did anything to protect me as they were all too afraid to stand up against him. They could only help and support me in the aftermath when I cried my eyes out. It seems that very few people stand up to bullies, not because they are cowards necessarily but just because they are trying to survive in a tough world and let’s face it they are scared of getting hurt themselves.  At these times you don’t always think about standing together and uniting against the bullies not when you’re children anyway; not always even when you’re an adult.  

I only ever remember one person standing up to Paul. The girl’s name was Sharon. I don’t remember why they fought, just that they did. As the fight started, cheers of “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” could be heard chanted across the playground. The children descended on the fight as vultures to a rotting carcass, surrounding the two figures in the middle. No child present tried to stop the fight; it was n’t the done thing. Paul repeatedly punched Sharon with precision to the head while Sharon’s flailing fists tried to fight back. She did n’t, would n’t back down. Never before have I seen such determination to stand one’s ground. Whether she was brave or stupid depends on where you are standing but on that day in my opinion that girl was the bravest person that I had ever seen. She had no way of beating him; her tear stained face was red with crying but she kept going. She was the first person I ever saw stand up to a bully even though she was scared. Whether he ever felt any remorse for hurting me, Sharon or anyone else I have no idea or whether he felt he was justified in punishing me for telling, again I have no idea. I had been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea and either way I would lose. I didn’t ever tell on Paul again. That was the first time anyone had really hurt me physically. It wasn’t to be the last. I got over it and Paul  forgot about it, even being kind to me when he kicked a football against my head.  He was a strange boy who puzzled me. 

Paul was one of those boys always in trouble for fighting, and losing his temper, yet it was unheard of to involve Educational Psychologists back then. The boy would get in trouble, possibly get the cane, maybe a letter home. At home he would probably get a smack from his mum, even worse from his dad. Parents knew that kids could do wrong, and invariably did do wrong. If the child was in trouble it was a case of “What did you do. You must have done something”. Parents did not go in, and accuse the teachers of unreasonable behaviour. Parents let the teachers do the teaching, and the teachers left parents to do the parenting. There was no overlap. Parents didn’t crowd the playground at the beginning or end of the school day. The minute children entered the school gate ,the kids became the school’s responsibility. Each understood their role in the development of the child, and neither interfered with the other. That’s just how it was.

In Kelvin Grove it was better to just flow and fit in with the main crowd, if you didn’t want trouble. Back then it didn’t do to be too different. The kids that were different were the ones that tended to get picked on. I remember some of the kids that were given a hard time. Among them I remember a boy by the name of Sinclair Hart. What were his parents thinking giving him a name like that, then sending him to a like school like Kelvin Grove.  Personally I think it is a beautiful name! A film star’s name! His name was different, and he himself was a little eccentric to our rather limited life experience. In fourth year juniors he was still wearing grey knee length shorts, another no-no. On top he would wear a tank top over his shirt and sport a bow tie; no kidding, a bow tie. He wore his hair short and smart unlike the other boys who had longer, messier hair that was typical of the 1970’s.  Sinclair looked out of place, and his appearance along with his name made him stand out as did his beautifully pronounced diction. I do not know what became of him but think that maybe his parents eventually withdrew him from the school and sent him elsewhere. With retrospect I now think he was a real character but never attempted to be friendly as it would have brought trouble on me. Yet earlier on in the school my younger sister and I had been among only a few pupils who bothered to wear school uniform. So maybe we were not that different after all. That didn’t last long when we saw that wearing uniform didn’t fit in with the other kids. As I grew up I decided that I did n’t want to be the same as everyone else and tried my best to be different. Sometimes I succeeded, and sometimes I did n’t. It would get me into trouble from time to time but by the time I was an adult, I had learned that it is okay to be different, although to be honest there were plenty of times when I chose to be different just to be awkward, and not because it was the right thing to do for me. Mostly it was because I did n’t like being told what to do.

Another pupil who was treated with disrespect was a young South East Asian boy by the name of Barrett. I think he too was friendly and decent, and never remember him doing anything to hurt anyone else. Yet he was berated at times, which looking back was not only unfair but pretty dehumanising. Children can be heartless at times, and demonstrate a ruthlessness one would not usually associate with childhood. It is often not until we are adults that we realise how cruel, and thoughtless we have been and even though we have been so thoughtless ,we brush it aside as just part of growing up. 

For the most part I managed well enough, just every now and then would I do something that landed me in trouble with those kids, I would have rather steered clear of. Even the nicer kids could sometimes be cruel. Maybe they didn’t realise it at the time. I know that in Secondary School I was guilty of being inadvertently cruel in a secondary sort of way. That in a way is even worse than the ones being overtly nasty. 

I look back, and know that I could have made a difference to the likes of Elaine and Kay  who at secondary school were often the butt of cruel and snide remarks. Both girls acted like they did n’t realise it but I am sure they knew it and felt hurt. Elaine was a skinny girl with blond hair and freckles who reminded me of a pop star called Clodagh Rodgers, a winner of the Eurovision song contest with a song titled  I’ll be your Jack in the Box.  She used to be picked on, and called skinny ribs but it’s Elaine who’s had the last laugh now as I am sure that many of those who made these remarks are overweight with middle-aged spread, and would now die for a figure like Elaine’s.  Then Kay who was very short and busty was given a hard time for being big chested. Some of the girls used to taunt her about having greasy hair as they did Elaine, and yet don’t the majority of teenage girls suffer with greasy hair from time to time. What was the big deal? Kay actually looked to me like a young Liza Minelli, although her hair wasn’t as dark. I never told her or anyone that but had I let her know that she was like the famous caberet star then it may have helped her self- esteem. Instead I watched in silence from the sidelines minding my own business. As an adult I know now what I ought to have done but growing up is difficult. No one tells us how to do it. We just do it the only way we know how.

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Today is the day ~ A Little Princess

The truth is kids grow into teenagers arriving at that crossroads in life when they are neither child nor adult not fitting neatly into one camp or another and my god, do they let you know it at every given opportunity. They are a breed apart from mainstream human society. I do not use the term breed lightly as I believe there is a certain animal quality inherent in any individual between 13 and 19. They think they know it all, they accuse you of not caring and tell you constantly that you do not understand them. They are constantly bored, always critical, totally self-obsessed, self opinionated and make it their aim in life to get on your nerves on a daily basis. Where once they were endearing and cuddly, suddenly they are obnoxious and rude to the point where you really cannot believe that they are yours and that you actually gave birth to them. It seems strange that at this moment I should recall Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein. I guess she was not the only one to create a monster. Perhaps I am being too hard on the little darlings and they are not the least bit like monsters but with retrospect, I sincerely think not. There is definitely some connection. Teenagers really do exist. We as parents often ask ourselves what is it that we did to deserve such treatment from our offspring, when all we ever have is their best interests at heart. Surely they should be grateful to us for putting a roof over their heads, food on the table, clothes on their backs and giving lifts to concerts, clubs, parties, friend’s houses, school, shopping and of course the school run which would not have been too bad but with my middle child that meant to school and from school until he left at 16 and doing the same for his mates was a bonus for me on most days. And what about holding their hands at the dentist, the orthodontist, doctors and in the school playground, well at least until they got too embarrassed by you and would rather you kept your distance. This last observance about distance seems to last well into their teens. God forbid that their friends, most of whom you have known since infants should see them with you, their parents. On the rare occurrence where our daughter granted us with her presence, on the premise that she would get a new iPhone saw her walk several paces behind with her hood up so as to avoid recognition by any of her friends that may be loitering in the vicinity.  In my own particular case the list also included daily trips to the stable yard, and weekly trips to the local golf club. Did I mention the ballet classes and the weekly football? Yet all we get in return for our considerateness is eyes up to heaven, monosyllabic grunts, tuts, shakes of the head  and mutterings under the breath to indicate how irritating they find you. You are old and are not the least bit clued up about where they are coming from or where they are going. They speak a whole new language…’you get what I’m saying like’ and so on and so forth. I have given up correcting speech and grammar in favour of a peaceful life by simply turning a deaf ear when they do speak. However, by doing this I get accused of never listening but then why should I when the language I grew up with has been murdered and mutilated beyond all recognition. I am on my third and final teenager now. My first two are now in their 20s and parents themselves. If what goes around comes around then I will take great pleasure in watching my children suffer the storms and strops of the turbulent teens in turn, a sort of divine retribution shall we say where the Piper is paid back in kind, and when mum can sit back with a smug smirk on her face in an all knowing way. 

Just now our baby girl, currently 16 going on 26, is uppermost in my thoughts. It has been like that a lot lately. Until a few short months ago she was a wild unkempt tom boy who resembled a pikey rather than a little princess. For instance, if I had mentioned the word bra to her she would have recoiled in mock disgust at the thought of it. It was all I could do to broach the subject when she eventually developed sufficiently ample bosoms to require one. I remember one time watching Trinny and Susannah unashamedly grab the breasts of a woman they were restyling on their makeover tv show only to be accused by my daughter of exposing her to pornography. If she had seen a couple kissing on television she would have looked away, genuinely embarrassed. How times change, now she has realised that she has a fine pair of what my husband terms man magnets, a really cringe worthy image, he is a builder and such terminology frequently finds its way into the house, and she is more than a little proud of what she has in common with Jordan and not the least bit shy or modest even. Oh yes, times have certainly changed. My little girl has gone and grown up on me without warning. She is no longer my chicken in the library or my ferocious lion with sharp teeth and claws but has donned the appearance of a diva come rock chick right down to her perfectly pointed stilettos. On the subject of stilettos, she did insist on wearing them the other day to go shopping with her mates. I did warn her. My exact words were, I think “ Are you sure you want to wear those shoes?” well of course she was sure, she liked them and they looked ‘dead good’. I had to agree they looked great but mentioned that she might feel differently about them after wearing them for a few hours around the shopping centre. I was of course proved right, and there was no need to rub it in by saying ‘I told you so’. It did not need to be said…the pain in her feet and legs said it all. I do not believe she has worn those shoes since. To think that we use to watch From Ladette to Lady on television, and laugh laboriously at the dreadful pits to which these young girls would sink. It never occurred to me that I was harbouring a ladette in the making, although I like to think that she still has a few ladylike leanings but that is most probably wishful thinking on my part. Perhaps it is just a passing phase, just one of many. I thought it would be easier this time, firstly because I have done this before with two boys both delightful little cherubs when they were born, well at least for the first few weeks. They do not remain babies for long, and before you know it they soon grow into the men they are to become albeit bit by bit. If the law of attraction is true and I have no reason to believe that it is not the old saying many a true word spoken in jest takes on an entirely new meaning. Why oh why did I ever jokingly liken my sons to notorious twins. What was I thinking? Actually, I clearly was not thinking at all. How was I to know that by saying such things I was tempting providence, and unknowingly urging the Universe to accommodate me.

© Liola Lee 2010

(image is one I took of my lovely daughter who is and will always be my Little Princess)

‘Today is the day’ …was a collection of musings I wrote during the Peri menopause years. It’s spoken in the first person, and was based largely on my journal entries written around that time. Journalling is a wonderful way to express this, that and whatever else needs to be said whether aloud or silently…

Grief

To live in the hearts of those we love, is not to die’.

When our beautiful Dad passed away shortly after Christmas 2013 after wrestling with mixed dementia/Alzheimers, Life as we knew it changed forever.  Nothing prepares anyone really for the emotional roller coaster that is to come. Grief is something that happens to us all at some stage in our lives. The feeling of intense sorrow, and devastating loss of a loved one, a relationship , a job or a much loved pet can be too much to bear in the early stages. We can become overwhelmed beyond belief by this terrible sense of loss, separation, and sadness. Sometimes tears fall easily and incessantly, and  sometimes they don’t fall at all.  At times we may feel as though we cannot breathe or catch our breath. There is no right way or wrong way to grieve. We each deal with our emotions in our own way, whatever that may be, and that’s okay. When we lose something that has been a big part of our lives for a long time or sometimes even just a short time, we may feel empty and hollow with nothing left to give, almost as if our insides have been ripped out, torn apart and discarded in all manner of directions.  We are left with a void that nothing can fill. Clouds and thunderstorms become the order of the day and night. Life goes on but we feel heavy and unable to cope at times, and can feel angry that everyone around us seems to be able to go on as normal. Why can they not see what we are going through? Sometimes we put on a brave face to the outside world but often it is just a facade beneath which hides a turmoil of unexplained emotions which may erupt at any time like a slumbering volcano that’s set to wake up at any time. It seems there are several stages of grief to go through, shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger, depression, reflection, loneliness through to acceptance. I have felt all these and more. There is no set time as to when these stages of grief will happen or for how long but time does heal. We never forget but we do eventually learn to accept and come to realise that we have cherished memories that will last a lifetime, and that the essence and energy of what or who we feel we have lost is merely lost to us in the physical sense. We are all energy and as such energy just changes form. It takes time to heal and we each heal at our own pace and that is okay too. Eventually we arrive at a place of loving peace within. There are still clouds from time to time but now there are bursts of sunshine too and it is okay to feel the warmth of the sun once more. Love never truly dies. I miss my Dad and think of him often but I know in my heart that he is never really too far away. Sometimes I see a Butterfly or a white feather falling from the sky and I am reminded that all is well. This short blog post is dedicated to all those who have felt the desolation of losing someone or something they loved. 

© Liola Lee 2018

Have a great day!

Our choices and actions can have a huge impact on those around us as well as the rest of the World. We are all connected but there are times when we feel the connection has become intermittent or totally lost altogether; a bit like when we lose the signal on our wi-fi and are unable to ring someone.  Sometimes, more often than not we forget that we are a part of something bigger. There are many times when we feel isolated and alone, as though nobody  really cares about us or even knows that we exist. Goodness knows there are many times when I have felt that I must be wearing Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility. Quite recently I deleted permanently my Facebook account for this very reason! In my mind at the time, I felt , what is all this virtual relationship stuff anyway? I truly felt like nobody cared about me! And so, I pressed the delete key and made it final or at least that is what I thought! I was truly feeling sorry for myself  and forgetting just what a wonderful world we live in.   We are all of us  valuable in the grand scheme of things whatever that may be. We do have something to offer, and it does not matter whether it is some grand gesture or just a small token gesture. We have it within us to make someones day; a smile here and there or maybe just even a ‘hello’ or maybe just a thank you to someone who has brought our bins in or maybe even mowed our grass. A couple of days ago as I was walking down the high street to have breakfast in one of our favourite cafes, a guy ran past us smiling, and as he passed us he wished us a great day and then said  make someone smile today’. I thought that was wonderful! He actually made my day! My husband was a little more cynical and said that maybe this guy had won the lottery. And of course, just maybe that was true but I like to think that he was genuinely wishing us a great day! 

© Liola Lee 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could it be forever…

According to my darling daughter I am one of Life’s happy hoarders. I have accumulated a great deal of ‘stuff’ shall we say over a good many years. The problem is that I find it very hard, almost impossible to let go of some, if not a lot of this stuff that has become a part of me. I am pretty certain that this is inherent in my make-up, and that I am in fact genetically disposed to this condition for want of a better word, though I am sure there are many levels of hoarding, and it is only by degree that it can become a problem for some people. My parents were the same, and my sisters also seem to share this tendency to gather all manner of gubbins. The words that come to mind are ‘…it may come in handy one day’; or ‘…I may need it one day’; or ‘…aw this has sentimental value’.  Also, I have to confess to having all manner of items that I have never used or worn which I have bought on a whim only to realise later ‘…what on Earth was I thinking?’, in addition to those items of clothing that I will wear again when I drop a few pounds. I have birthday cards, Christmas cards, Valentine’s cards, and anniversary cards stored in what I refer to as my treasure chest which in reality is a big white plastic box. Not only have I saved mine but I have also saved cards for my children, telling them that they will be grateful one day. Naturally, numerous drawings, letters and school reports have been preserved as any good modern Mum would do, would n’t she? Or maybe I am a little weird, and just perhaps a tadge too sentimental. I have a huge Cd collection as well as a large suitcase full of my old LPs and singles which I just cannot bring myself to sell or throw out, and somewhere in the garage, there is a record player but just now I cannot see it for other stuff that is in the way. I have the first record I ever bought. I was just ten or eleven at the time. It was David Cassidy’s Could it be forever with a B side of a song called Cherish . To many it may just be a couple of songs which I can now download on Spotify. To me though, this small seven inch vinyl disc conjures up childhood memories, and is a small part of the soundtrack that is my life. In every room there are piles of books, and  magazines which at some stage I may manage to read. Many times I determine to declutter to create more space and equilibrium. I roll up my sleeves to wrestle with this mammoth task only to find a few hours on, I am reminiscing over old times and happy memories, and just maybe I will delay the declutter for another day.  These things that I have gathered have made me laugh, made me cry and are part of the archives. So maybe I am not really a hoarder but rather a caretaker of cherished times and memories, and just maybe in the future these things for what they are worth will show and tell the stories that are mine and make someone smile. If like me they love family history and ancestral tales then just maybe I will have made someone’s day!

(Please note that this is just  an image of the picture sleeve. I am not sure who captured the image for the sleeve photograph. I did try to Google it but without success. If anyone knows the Photographer please send details so that I can give credit correctly).

© Liola Lee 2018