Sunday, July 12, 2015
The Making of a Child Psychiatrist (6)
On Friends (continued)
There are many things I do not remember about living in Norfolk. I cannot picture the school at Watton, nor do I have clear memories of how I got there each day, or who the teachers were. Perhaps the move to Watton , the increasing closeness of the family with the birth of my sister Andrea when I was 7, the freedom to roam with my friend Chris, made me less prone to need to show off, or perhaps I was just more settled. Anyway, it would seem that I did not create any dramas within the school environment. There is a story that I had a liking for the principal’s daughter (whose name, sadly I can no longer remember), but I have no active memories of what may have happened; probably shy smiling, some attempt to hold hands, and considerable shyness on both sides. Apparently the principal was somewhat bemused (or maybe ‘amused’), but from what I have been told there were never any sanctions.
There are photos of me in uniform as a cub scout, so I must have joined a local troop. Again, sadly I have no memory of this, but it was of importance in that when we returned to Kent, I transferred to a local pack, where I eventually gained the illustrious position of a ‘senior sixer’ (“woo hoo” do I hear you say?).
And one final incident of great importance did occur. Apparently my parents had bicycles in addition to mine, and we were cycling along a main road into Watton. An RAF truck with a trailer carrying bombs, having almost overtaken us, swerved to avoid some oncoming vehicle, and knocked my mother from her bike. I believe she was not seriously damaged, but it was one of those lessons about the suddenness with which life can change, that were to become prominent in my later life. There were more immediate implications for my mother when we later gained a car, and she began to have driving lessons. She never did overcome her anxieties about traffic, never felt totally confident, and always preferred my father to drive. This had implications for her mobility during the day, and for the number of outings we were able to take as a family. Home was a safe haven, and my mother was always more comfortable in her own environment.
I seem to have always preferred the company of women. And this may have made very comfortable in my roles later on working in psychiatric clinics where the vast majority of clinicians and all the support staff were women. When we returned to Westgate, and I completed my last 3 years of primary school, the girls were segregated from the boys at recess and lunchtime. That did not stop us making comments or passing notes through the railings. In the last couple of years I became interested in a Marlene Wright, a super bright quickly maturing young woman with dark curly hair. I guess it began as a competition in class where out marks were neck and neck. Once you notice someone, and focus on them that way, you also begin to notice other features, and by the end of the next to last year we were friends. We did not meet during the summer; our social circles were very different, but during the last year we chose to sit next to each other, sometimes holding hands under the desk, and later even ducking down when the teacher’s back was turned to sneak a kiss. There was a rival, of course. A tall much more mature individual called Greg, who eyed Marlene with doe eyes, and perhaps an early form of lust. He was also bright, and competitive in class. But he began to become more competitive in the playground where we had several physical fights; I cannot begin to remember how each would have begun, although name-calling might have been prominent at that age. I think it was one of these that ended with my being caned.
Marlene and I stayed best friends through to the end of the year. When we both gained the 11+ with Marlene going to Clarendon House in Ramsgate (the girl’s twin to the boy’s Chatham House), we swore undying love, and looked forward to an ongoing relationship through grammar school.
It was not to be. Marlene’s parents owned the rather high-class dress shop in Westgate, and clearly did well, given the cars both parents drove. They were a kind of local royalty, and I am not sure our respective parents would have recognised each other on the street. In retrospect, I suspect they originated from East End of London, and a dynasty of salesmanship, and moving to Westgate had been a step up in the world. I did meet the parents, but only briefly after walking Marlene the mile home. I suspect she was taken to school in the parental car each day; I never saw her on the buses, and we met up only a couple of times with that distance which tells of past, but now absent, relationship. Without knowing it, though, Marlene was part of my early training ground in gaining respect for women. She and I had been competitive equals, but as joint members of Red House at school, we had strived together to make Reds top of the year two years in a row. Of course all of this would have been against a backdrop in which equality was not generally an openly raging issue, and was much more about equality of opportunity in that post-war rebuilding of Britain era.
My next friend was a boy, Alan Haydon, whose parents were also strongly linked in background, given his father had only just retired from the RAF to quiet old Westgate on Sea. We met at the bus stop going to school. He, a couple of years older than I, had gained a place at Chatham House in 4th form. He was unsure about which buses to catch, and given I was in uniform, it seemed likely I might know. He lived almost opposite the bus stop, and so it seemed quite natural at times to drop into his place on my way home. Katie and Doug were most welcoming, and I was made to feel at home. On some occasion, their television had broken down, and Doug, a keen tennis watcher, had been deprived of watching the coverage of Wimbledon. We must have talked about tennis, though I had never played. I had however, seen my parents play one occasion, and had been impressed by my mother’s style. I raved as only a 12 year old with an Oedipus conflict can rave. Doug asked must have asked if she had ever played at Wimbledon, to which I must have responded something like: “Oh yes, she has...” I also had let slip that my mother was probably watching the paly at that moment. So Doug walked me home, to an empty house. I switched on the television, and he became engrossed. When my mother did return, she was somewhat surprised to see this man sitting in her favourite chair in front of her TV. The conversation must have been somewhat hilarious, as it unfolded that I was bragging – she had only played a few games in her life. But all was smoothed over with a cup of tea and a biscuit, and the fact that Doug had recently retired from the RAF. The families became firm friends, and I was never allowed to forget my slight embellishment. Just one more lesson along the road to learning that you will always eventually be found out!