Growing up… I grew up with a vast wonder with life, the world, knowledge and fascination with people, though I did not realise that was particularly unusual, I thought every child did. I liked school it was an adventure. On my first day at school I loved it, when my parents came to pick me up in the car, I insisted on walking home and they let me, it was just over a mile and they followed me in the car. Which I found a bit annoying, I was 5, could walk and knew the route. When I say I am just me, many people might not understand what I mean, ‘I am just me’, I do not project an ego or facade around myself or pretend to be someone or something I am not, I am just me. Even as a child I did not understand why people would pretend to be other than they were, it seemed a strange thing to do and something to grow out of if they did. Why would someone want to be or pretend to be something other than they were, though my understanding of such things at 5 was neither developed or really an idea or concept that had materialised as a solid thing. It was like lying, why lie, if I had done something ‘good’ / positive and got a gold star at school fine, if I had done something ‘bad’ / wrong and I was told off and got a black star fine, but lying to either get a gold star or get out of a black star was just something I would not even have thought of. Nor telling untrue stories to the other children so I sounded more interesting or intelligent than I was, or to be popular. To be intelligent or not, interesting or not or popular or not was just something you were or you were not, making up things to try to be cool or not seemed stupid. In fact I never had any particularly interest in being popular or I think any real idea of it, I was at school at 5, which meant I was surrounded by a group of boys and girls I did not know and it was exiting and my teachers were really rather wonderful. My fellow pupils were my friends or not, though many were and there was not many people I did not like. Though I have many memories from this time, one or 2 probably stick out more than most. When I was in my last year of infants school at 7 and before I turned 8, Mrs Davies the head mistress took 3 of us to do some paintings, I did not question why she selected us 3, and never asked her. One painted a Giraffe, one painted a Lion and I painted an elephant. I cannot say now why we selected to paint what we did, whether she gave us the project and subject matter or we selected them. What I do remember is that my elephant I gave a tail as fat as its trunk, so was a rather strange looking elephant but highly recognisable as an elephant, as my friends lion and giraffe were just as recognisable as a lion and giraffe. These she framed for some reason, as she seemed very pleased with what we had done and hung outside her office on the wall by the entrance to the school, and so I was told remained there till she retired. The few children I did not particularly like were 2 boys, that were ‘braggarts’, who would boast about their clothes or gold stars, and since I found their clothes unremarkable and I and many others in my class had more gold stars, as well as silver and blue I could not understand why. There were 3 classes in my year I was in the youngest class. Another thing I remember was my rather fabulous teacher in my last year of infants school, as she use to take us outside for lessons sometimes on the playing field on a hot summers day, and also for some music lessons during the summer, when she would play the guitar and sing to us and get us to sing along. It was a state school in a working class area, as we were whatever some peoples presumptions, and we all got along well at school. No one bullying anyone else, a concept which I had some understanding of as my older brothers and sister, had a tendency to be rather bossy, or just ignore me, unless they wanted me to do something for them. Though whether that verged on bullying I did not think at the time. There were a few children in my year that did try to bully others, but as none of us really understood the idea, or like me had older siblings that were a bit bossy, so the few that did try to be bullies at school, we ignored or told them how unpleasant they were, like the braggarts or one being both. They were totally ineffectual as it just made them disliked and if it came to a fight, many could have beaten them as they well knew, so it sort of remained a mystery why they were like that, even though I remember one friend telling me their parents knew one of the braggart bullies parents and they were the same they said, and rather obnoxious, and all of us at school enjoyed being there and having fun so their attitude was alien to us. Though many other things I remember, another that sticks in my mind was my teacher, a very pretty blonde woman about 22 or 25, who had a beautiful smile, use to wear short skirts sometimes and had lovely legs, as well as guitars and singing she was always happy to teach us with patience and a smile, strangely I do not remember her name, then I have always been terrible at remembering names. If you remember those days long ago when you were 7 and at school, with those tiny desks and chairs, maybe you can imagine those long lovely shapely legs next to one as she bent over near you and that huge smile on her face, with that lovely personality. It was not till many years later that looking back I suddenly realised I might have been in love with that teacher and also why I found it so silly the girls trying to kiss me and the boys trying to kiss the girls, for we were children, not like the wonderful woman that taught us. I did love learning new things, not to be ‘clever’ but for the pure joy of it, I should probably mention, since about 5 or so I loved dinosaurs, fossils and at 7 was reading about ancient Greek battles in the little set of red encyclopaedias my parents had bought for us, as well as Greek myths and other history, which lead me to Ancient Egyptian history and myths. As I mentioned no real bullying use to go on, the few times someone tried to bully and push me around at school or walking home I just punched the boy and gave them a black eye, which made them walk away crying, which might sound bad, but they were trying to bully me, were bigger than me and it did seem just and they never did it again. I say I just punched them, not quite correct, because I did first ask them what they thought they were doing and why, but trying to be reasonable with them and talk, did not work, it made them swing at me, which I avoided and returned the favour much more accurately. Though I was never prone to violent or aggressive behaviour. I think you know that kind of person, children or grown up, that wants to bully people, and is totally closed off to any thought or caring and just wants their own way, so I did not feel guilty why should I, they had tried to bully me and give me a black eye. I remember one called me a smart arse when I tried to be reasonable and laughed in that false way, that ha ha ha rather tat real laugh if pleasure and joy, then took his swing, miss then wham, my fist contacting with his eye> Saying I did not feel guilty, neither did I feel proud for doing it, it just seemed reasonable and just in the circumstances. As I said bullying at school was not really a thing; fun, learning, sociability and sports, yes. Also the few boys I am talking about were either the braggarts, or someone from another school I past walking home from school. Looking back it was remarkable compared to some stories I have been told by other people about their school days, as we all got along at mine, with only 1 or 2 children that were exceptions, and we were, I suppose a diverse group, some from council estates, some from other housing estates, some where parents owned their own homes, terraces, detached houses, blocks of flats. And no I am not looking back with rose tinted glasses, it was filled with a lots of fun and laughter for a lot of us, though I cannot say for everyone, also it did not matter whether intelligent or stupid, as though it may not be ‘politically correct’ these days to say so, but some were intelligent, some were average and some were stupid, but we all got along. And if there was a competitiveness it was a fun playful one, not nasty, malicious or vindictive.

Me at Junior School. People do seem to like pictures to go along with writing so from that time.  Though when I was born, so my mother told me, I had blue eyes like many children, and black curly hair. Which fell out as my eyes when darker and then my hair grew back white blonde. So from 1 year onwards my hair was white blonde and gradually darkened so by the time I went to school it was sandy brown darkening to the colour  in this photograph by the time I was 9-10 years old.

Going to Junior school was a change, though not much, the junior school was next door to the infants school, both having separate grounds. Though I was not into football (soccer) I was a swimmer and gymnast, I mention the sports as we had to do all the sports as well as the academic and enjoyed that too, there were obviously a few that did not, for various reasons, either the academic side or the sports side but most did and we all except those few participated. For a week we did lots of tests, we did not know exactly why, and they were not just written, maths english etc… but draughts (checkers) cyphers, chess, puzzle solving etc… We were streamed by age up until then, Infants and the beginning of Juniors, I being in the youngest class in my year, but a week or so after all these tests etc I was moved to the oldest class, which was a change, as though I knew them all in the oldest class or most, I had spent the first several years at school with one class, the youngest class in my year, but I had friends in all the classes, as we all use to mix in and out of school. I was the only one I think moved from the youngest to oldest class, and one or maybe 2 from the middle class to the oldest. It did not really matter, neither I or anyone else made an issue of it. I was still friends with people from all classes in my year, and no one was ‘off’ with me because of the move, and it was just another thing that happened, no big deal. Two of my best friends from those years, though I played and went round many friends houses, was the most popular boy in the oldest class I had just moved to and another in the middle class in my year. Not that popularity concerned me, we just got on very well, the boy in my new class was the best swimmer in our year and very good at maths, his mother was a math teacher at another school and I use to joke with him as he use to be given homework to do by his mother and I didn’t though we were the 2 best at maths in our year, at least going on tests, and the other boy in the middle class was the best footballer (soccer) in our year and also academically good. Me I thought I was neither popular or unpopular, just all friends. Though I use to find it highly embarrassing to often arrive at junior school to open my desk to put my exercise books in, and find sweets or chocolates there. I know they both did too, the 2 boys my friends that were both very popular, though finding it embarrassing did not mention it to them or talk about it with anyone else. I just assumed most of the boys did if not all, I also assumed that it was from one girl, the sweets and chocolates in my desk, though if I would have thought about it, which I did not as too embarrassing. It was quite regular and use to happen more than once a week, though not always, if it was just one girl they would have been spending a lot of pocket money treating me. Both wrong as I later found out in secondary school, though by chance. One reading this might not understand, it was not till later at 12 or so when I started reading philosophy, though not in the school curriculum, one of my older brothers books, that I was I suppose quite a stoic and existentialist child. By that, I mean I realised I was bright academically and good at some sports, say I was a fast sprinter but several boys were faster, and the boy in my class, my friend whose mother was a math teacher use to sometimes get a higher score on his maths test than me and other times I did. But it was all fun and to be enjoyed and just who I was. Stoic about the good and bad if there were any and with a love for life, learning and with a sense of self responsibility, existentialist. Good at some things and not so good at others, as many were. And since I never liked braggarts, bullies or boosters and was brought up to be very polite. Though it was more than that, it was a wonder of things, and talking to others at school of the wonder of the world, and wanting them to enjoy them too and get better at them, not that they had too, but so they would enjoy more too. Though if they did not that was fine too, each to their own. But I often use to bubble and percolate with stories with dinosaurs, Greeks and math. Sometimes out loud talking to people in my class. Maybe not put quite right the way I have said this, but I found the things we learned in school and I read outside school exciting, then so did I climbing trees even when I occasionally fell out of them and laughed at my own clumsiness, I was a gymnast so balance etc, though falling fifteen feet out of an oak tree and landing flat on my back once on hard mud, I remember having the wind totally knocked out of me and slightly stunned, so could only start laughing when I got my wind back. Then saying about falling and laughing, I just remembered another fall. It was just after I moved from infants to junior school, I had seen some older boys, in the oldest year swing between the bar across the ceiling in the toilets. The bars, well supports, part of the design use to run parallel across the ceiling, watching one boy would lift the other, who would grab the bar, swing back and forth, release and grab the next bar along the ceiling then drop down. Seeing this, the next time I went to the toilet, as it looked fun, I climbed on one of the sinks, leaped up, managed to grab one of the bars, shimmied along it. Then swung my legs back and forth to build my momentum, then released, flew through the air, grabbed at the bar, but my hands being so small could not make it around the bar to get a good grasp, and fell like a stone to the tiled floor. I did manage to get my left hand and arm beneath me, though I fell down backwards at an angle so could not get both, which though it broke my fall and saved my head or mostly, twisted my left arm up my back with all my weight on it as well as the momentum from falling from the ceiling. Not so fun, I think the whole school heard my scream. The pain was excruciating, also those toilets were very near the Headmistresses office Mrs Bentley and the school nurse’s, who both rushed in to see me rolling around on the floor. Luckily it was neither broken or dislocated, but severely bruised, literary black and blue and extremely sore. I was told to explain as well, as I sat in the nurses office waiting for my parents to come pick me up from school, with Mrs Bentley standing over looking fierce and angry. She did explain how incredibly dangerous it was and how stupid I had been, and how naughty I and the boys I had seen doing it the day before. Also them being older and bigger than me, how the gap between the bars was relatively much smaller for them, and the bars themselves for their hands. All true and I knew. She did decide the pain it had caused me was punishment enough, and though I was going home early that day, if my parents agreed and the doctor they were taking me too, to get my arm and back of my head checked, I would be back in school tomorrow. Which happened which I was happy with, not wanting to be kept at home sick. My parents were none too pleased, and also thought I had been stupid to attempt the feat, and since it was just bruised, sort of told me that is what happens for doing stupid things. They also asked me if I was showing off for anyone. I said no, I was in the boys toilet alone, which seemed to make them temper any anger towards with me, they did not like ‘show off arses’. They did explain though I loved gymnastic and was good at it, doing what I had I could have fallen and smashed my head open on the tiles and could have killed myself. Which I also realised was true. Also what trouble I would have caused for Mrs Bentley and the school if that would have happened, apart from the fact how many people would have been upset especially them. Though as they realised I was truly sorry for being an arse, not that I said that, they did not punish me apart from the telling off. I went to school the following day, to be rounded laughed at by my friends and told what an idiot I was. Though falling out of the oak tree and other falls happened after this incident, it did cause me to be much better at judging climbs, leaps and falls…

To be continued…

Russell Hand © ® 2019