A boy to be watched
I had not made any connection between the final line in my last blog and the fact that I do really like being watched. The eight year old I was at the time liked being at the centre of things and maybe that’s what I was doing by scratching the swastika. It’s difficult to say as it was so long ago and 'the past is a foreign country' (L.P. Hartley, The Go-between, 1953).
However it wasn’t the first time I’d been in trouble, but it was the first time it had become public. I remember angering my father at home on many occasions to the extent that he would hit me. I think he was hit as a child and didn’t know any differently. Maybe he should have done as he was a teacher, and a good one, who rose to become a respected and loved headteacher in the salubrious confines of Highgate Village, not far from Southgate. But Richard did hit the three of us quite regularly and as children we were a bit frightened of him. I’ve mentioned we were encouraged to call them Pat and Richard. I think it’s a potty idea and I wouldn’t recommend it. It made the distance between us even more pronounced. Richard was a teacher at the school. At the time of the swastika incident he was on the staff of the school. The difficulties that made in the staffroom can only be imagined and it wasn’t long after that he took another job elsewhere.
What makes a boy who is brought up religiously and with love and care become the rebel I grew into over the following three or four years? Richard would have blamed ‘bad influences’. It surely couldn’t have been original sin. I think he believed that my friend Geoffrey Monk lead me in the wrong direction. I don’t think Geoffrey was to blame, even though he was a strong figure in those last two years of my life at Walker Primary. Next week’s story tells of another incident which stands out in my memory. It involved Geoffrey directly and I think was the final contribution to the moves made by Pat and Richard to distance me from such influences and look for a school that would, in their eyes, give me a better education than was available locally and would give me a chance to make a new start. They weren’t to know that Christ’s Hospital would, far from making a new start, confirm my outsider status for once and all. But I’m hopping ahead to the story after next. Next week, it’s Geoffrey Monk and the Policeman.
Back in the damp twenty-first century present, Cat’s Paw Theatre goes from strength to strength. The welsh language team has just finished the second week of touring with ‘I think I can wait’. Despite some inevitable first week teething troubles, I watched it yesterday and I was enormously pleased. They’ve made it their own. The welsh culture is very different from the english. It’s not just a language difference, there’s an entirely different approach to all aspects of life, and this is nowhere more apparent than in a welsh-speaking school. The welsh team understand that of course and have developed the piece we originated for our culture fully into theirs and the results are there in the evaluation and feedback we are receiving from the teachers and more importantly from the young people themselves.
Back in the English culture (although I admit still geographically in Wales), Andrea presented a one woman show which I directed for Stepping Stones (www.steppingstonesnorthwales.btck.co.uk), the organisation that offer counselling for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. This wonderful third sector organisation has been operating on a shoestring in Wrexham for thirty years and the afternoon was a celebration of that fact. We were honoured to be asked to develop a one-off piece of theatre for the occasion and presented to VIPs and well wishers. Andrea’s performance as a survivor was memorable. Touching, moving, in parts funny and entirely appropriate for the occasion. I was immensely proud of the result, and proud to have directed this piece of invisible theatre. Invisible because the audience is never told it is theatre. So for many of them it’s real. An interesting thought which I will leave in the air until another time.
All the best from a road near you,
PS The music project is now fully funded thanks to many of you who have contributed. If you haven’t done so but would still like to there is still time, until the end of November, to make a contribution. Check it out on
Any extra over the target will add more musicians to the band.
Mr Alexander’s Ragtime Band, of course, it had to be.