What’s Up Doc?

Photo 2016-07-24 10.21.36 (3)

My teenage years, what can I say about them. Well, I can’t honestly remember if I was a ‘typical’ teenager or not, I’d have to ask my Mum that question.  I remember being fairly quiet at school but I wouldn’t say I was shy.  I would occasionally speak up when I felt like I had something important to say but I would never talk for talking sake. Sometimes my brain would shut down if I have to listen to monotone, uninspiring and uncharacteristic monologue. I couldn’t help it, that’s the way my brain was wired I guess. If something didn’t interest me, I would act as if it did but I could never remember what was said… the words would end up being stored to the very back of my brain along with all the other information which didn’t serve me at the time. I do love a good conversation, but it’s got to have some meaning to it, bring something to the table… have a point, you know?

My style during the early part of my adolescent years was metal braces, short hair and Doc Marten shoes… oh and Dunlop trainers. My eating was still out of control and I was fairly large for my age, my idea was if I looked like a boy, nobody would come near me or cause me any grief.  I suppose I was a little bit rebellious, not only with other teens but with a few of the teachers too. There was one particular teacher I remember who was referred to as the ‘Doctor’ of English. This teacher happened to be my English Language and Literature teacher for a number of years and for some reason he took an instant dislike to me. I had no idea why, maybe it was because he couldn’t work out if I was a boy or a girl.

There were many occasions when we had to take home a book the teacher had chosen for us to read and then for homework we had to write down our thoughts and feelings about it. Of course, I was honest… maybe too honest because there were a fair few books I couldn’t get my head around no matter how hard I tried, the words just didn’t sink in, instead they would escape into a distant corner of my grey matter, never to be disturbed again.  ‘Doc’ wasn’t happy and whenever it was marking day, my workbook would always return looking like somebody had suffered a severe nose bleed all over the pages… bright red pen marks, scribbled comments with huge question marks and ‘see me’ written in the margins. I never did see him about any of his comments, he obviously couldn’t cope with my constructive criticism.

I remember one morning before school, I was eating my breakfast in front of the TV when there was a news flash with regards to the Poll Tax riots. The footage was shocking, people pushing and shoving each other, shouting at the cameras and what I witnessed next made me almost choke on my toast. There was my English teacher amongst the rioters, red faced, shouting and shoving with the rest of them. Well, that confirmed my thoughts about him, this was a man with major anger management issues. Rather than to address the issues he was experiencing in his life, his way of coping was to project his anger and frustration out onto others.

I felt sorry for ‘Doc’ but our relationship never did change and he carried on marking my work down. So the outcome was… yes, you guessed it… I failed my English GCSE, along with Maths. I was never any good at Maths, even though I had lovely Maths teachers, I could never get my head around it all and I found it quite boring. Thankfully, on a wing and a prayer, I managed to pass both subjects the second time around. I also had a different English teacher, who at first, gave me the impression that he didn’t like me very much either… maybe because I used to skip most of his lessons due to my A Level commitments, or maybe it was because I managed to achieve the highest grade in his class…  ‘I can’t believe you got a B!’  he had announced, with a half smile. I felt a little guilty for not making the effort to attend his classes, but I did thank him for his help and support, he was a good egg.

The Fear

bare feet boy child couch
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After Dad passed away, I slept in the same bedroom as Mum.  I wanted to stay as close to her as possible because I was so scared we would lose her too.  This might sound daft, but when it was Mum’s birthday, I would find out her age and then try to calculate the remaining years up to 100… because there were loads of people who survived until the ripe old age of 100, that’s what I liked to believe anyway. As time went by, my fear and anxiety became a lot worse and I dreaded night time, I was so scared to go to bed.  Mum would let me stay up until she was ready to ‘go up the wooden hill’.  We would sit and watch whatever was on the small portable black and white TV,  I remember watching episodes of The Sweeney or Rising Damp.  It wasn’t until the late 1980s, when we eventually purchased a colour TV.  This was a luxury for us, because most of the items we owned were either second hand or family hand me downs.

I always smile when I think about the days when Dad, in exchange for his handiwork, was happy to accept items instead of money. This must have frustrated the hell out of Mum, but she never got angry… well, apart from the one time when Dad gave me fifty pence so I could buy some sweets from the shop around the corner. Mum went up the wall ‘that fifty pence could have gone in the meter!’ she said. There was me, feeling like all my birthday’s had come at once, munching away on fifty penny sweets.  I’m surprised I didn’t have a mouthful of fillings back in those days.

I will never forget the time when Dad brought home a ZX81 with a metallic printer. Chuffed to bits he was, this was our first computer and we were so excited, until we switched it on. Sadly, it wasn’t in 100% working order and my brother, a budding computer genius, decided he would have a go at fixing it… so he took it apart and that was the end of our ZX81.  I also remember when somebody gave Dad a sofa and a couple of armchairs. They weren’t in great condition and the design was straight out of the 1960s or 70s… but they were a lot comfier than the ones we had.  One of the chairs spun around and I would spend many an hour spinning until I was dizzy, this was my happy chair and I would spin all my cares away whilst listening to recordings of the Top 40 on my cassette player.

Mum tried her best to carry on with the routine after Dad passed away, which included myself and my brother starting back to school in September. I wasn’t ready to go back, all I wanted to do was hideaway at home and spin around in my happy chair.  Soon enough, the news had circulated around the playground. That’s when the whispering, pointing and laughing started. I will never forget the time when one kid said out loud in class ‘I heard your Dad is dead’ I chose to ignore what was said, but I was so upset and angry. I never did tell the teacher, I just wanted to pretend it never happened.  I started to comfort eat and over time I gained a lot of weight which only added fuel to the fire, I tried to ignore the cruel remarks, but occasionally I would retaliate. I never told Mum what was going on, she had enough on her plate.

Two years after losing Dad, we lost Nan, my Mum’s mum. I had just started to cope with life again but now I was back on the downward spiral.  There was this one girl who lived around the corner and whenever I was playing out front she would always be there. We had a green directly opposite our house as well as a block of flats with some garages located behind.  A majority of the kids in the area would ride their bikes around the green or play football… even though there was a sign which stated no ball games. If a ball hit one of the windows, which happened fairly often, one of the residents would often shout and swear at us, but this didn’t stop us from playing. Anyway, this girl would run over to me and pinch me or kick me, call me names, laugh and then run away again. I tolerated her behaviour for a while until one day, I completely snapped. I chased her down an alleyway and basically gave her a taste of her own medicine and she ran home in floods of tears.

Mum went crazy when she found out and I was forced to apologise to both the girl and her Mum.  This was not one of my proudest moments and I wished I had dealt with the situation differently, I should have told Mum what was going on in the first place. Regardless of what the girl had done to me, she didn’t deserve what I did to her. She probably had her own issues and that’s why she acted like she did. I was no better than her and I hated myself, I wasn’t angry with the girl, I was angry with myself and I had no idea how to control my emotions. I needed to stop blaming everyone around me and to stop being so selfish. This was my wake up call, I had to change my attitude, make amends and to focus on what was truly important… my Mum and my family.