Me, myself, I
One of the great truths and cliches of life is ‘we come into this life alone and we will leave it alone’. And one of the great truths about living alone is that you are confronted with yourself virtually 24/7. Most of it is OK but some of it hurts. I was tidying up in the lorry and caught sight of myself. Not in the mirror (I try to avoid that scary confrontation), but in a small sculpture which Pat (my mother) had done of my brother and I in Christ’s Hospital uniform. Christ’s Hospital was the mental institution, sorry school, we both were sent to as children. Well that was my view at the time. Both the mental institution bit and the sent bit. I’ve changed in my thinking about it somewhat since. Anyway here’s the sculpture and I caught sight of myself in it.
I’m the older one, standing studiously with my arm around my brother. That’s one of the parts that hurts as a) I don’t think I would ever have done that as a child and b) we haven’t spoken properly for almost forty years. Maybe one is linked to the other. The other part that hurts is the look on both our faces. Mine slightly bemused, vacuous even, contemplative at best, mindless at worst. His sad, about to cry and angry. That’s what I see, my subjective angle viewed across the fifty years that separates the two selves, me now and me then. Anyway, that’s what I caught sight of this morning, and it stopped me. It made me think again about myself and my childhood.
Christ’s Hospital was one of those English Public schools that had been built on providing the fodder for Empire builders. It was founded in 1553 by the boy king Edward VII and was for many years in the city of London before moving to Horsham in Sussex in the early 20th century. The yellow socks were to keep the 16th century London rats away and they believed in maintaining tradition so we still wore them daily in the nineteen sixties. The school also maintained its links with the city. Once a year all the boys marched through London to the Mansion House to be fed and lectured and given a shilling. Marching happened a lot in the school. Marching to the dining hall for three meals a day, marching to chapel and assembly, marching to the band and of course, over history, marching to war. The boys were being prepared…
When I was asked to leave (the polite way of being expelled), the headmaster in his exit interview said, ‘Well ***** (I wasn’t called Alexander then, and they only used surnames to address you), it’s been a somewhat chequered career.’ I have this impression of me at the pearly gates (if only I believed in such things) and St Michael saying the same.
I hated the place. There was a lot to hate. But the biggest regret of my life was that I was too young to prevent my parents sending my brother there too. Then, and now, it was too late. Of course since I’ve done the CBT thing and comforted the twelve/thirteen year old that was me and said, 'It’s OK, it’s not your responsibility, not your fault.' But it doesn’t really work. Well, to be honest, it works for a time, for some of the time while I am mindful and in the adult part of me, but then sometimes I catch sight of myself, the child part, unawares, as I did this morning and it all comes back. The loneliness, the aloneness, the isolation, the anger and the regret.
But hey it was all a long time ago now and there’s other fish to fry. Get over it, Alexander. Particularly I have to move ahead with painting the props and varnishing all the woodwork of the theatre for the impending new season. And try a few stretches which I promised in the last blog but still haven’t done!
It’s been half term in Wales this week so no Cat’s Paw Theatre work. In March we are out almost every day so the month is going to disappear fast. The week off has been productive both in the garden and following up leads for shows. The diary has been filling up and cabbage and cauliflower seeds are planted in the greenhouse. A new member of the Garden team has arrived. A new resident, just out of hospital, and fragile as a feather, said he enjoyed planting seeds on Saturday. Well, at least I can make up in part for those mistakes of fifty years ago!
Just have to be careful not to catch sight of myself too often!
All the best from a road near you,