Volume Two

(Education)

 


Changing Times

I didn't resign, I just slunk away. I only saw that man but once again, with a megaphone, by a beribboned car, the Communist Candidate, in the election of sixty-four. We didn't speak. Our eyes caught. I could see he was disappointed in me. So was I. I was far too timid and shy. I'd take my badge off  for the dentist for fear of the drill, in case Dr Stredder disagreed. Bolton School didn't like the badge either but we pseudo-intellectuals had bargaining power, as Oxbridge Candidates. We compromised on Compulsory Games when allowed to choose, and chose Tiddleywinks and Croquet for the laugh. We were not Communists. Phil Woodhead was. In the sixty-four school mock-election he insisted on his right to stand. For this, he was beaten and expelled. We pseuds looked on aghast, but failed to act. Labour won the Country, but the Conservatives won the School. And the buses the next morning were still running. Nothing much had changed.  The bomb would not be banned.  We were under eighteen but we'd get served halves at The Man & Scythe, among whose clientele I found new friends. At Easter we'd go down to Trafalgar Square, to welcome in the marchers, come from Aldermaston, glimpsing something peaceful, generous and hairy. Who were we? There was one lass I remember, parents came from Leicester. Lost her name.

 

Happy Days

 Maybe Bolton was behind the times, at least in one respect: we may have read Beat Poetry, but never thought hashish might be within our range, though we were likely-enough types. I had to go to Cambridge to be modernised. I had been letting my hair grow though. I thought it was just me: for several years I had refused the barbers. Long hair seemed to call to long hair. In due course some other long hairs showed their secret: sticking cig-papers and sprinkling pot into their reefers. It was quite a laugh. It seemed also that it enhanced poetic senses. By the time, come long vacation, nineteen sixty-seven would find me hanging out at Finch’s, Portobello Road, and listening to Davy Graham sing and pick and strum. There’s old Colin McInnes back in the snug with some young lads, and here comes slouching Michael Horovitz, and I know people who know Chris Torrance (and I myself know Crozier and James and Prynne, but that’s somehow a different thing) and my friend Al’s friend Marian’s the girlfriend of Lee Harwood, brilliant poet. For a spell it feels like I am in the wind and fishing from the trees. I think it could be time to break again. Grey mists have cleared away. It’s still quite cool, but there is spring sunshine. I think I’ll take a walk down Brig, and maybe score a fiver from Wee Bob. Dubious resin with no provenance. Not like the old days. The sun glints on a glass roof in  the dip of Boulderclough.

 

A Change of Theme

 Morning sunlit mist, lifting. View of mist. Bare budding treetops in the clough. I didn’t find Wee Bob, but did get a bit drunk and talked with Alison in the White Lion about The View From Foster Clough, my new False Novel. Mist is lifting fast. Already I can see the shape of wood that covers Han Royd Bank. It’s going to be a blue spring day. Now Stoney Royd farmhouse appears. The mist lifts faster than I write the writing and the writing seems to want to go somewhere I fear to follow. I’m not sure what this will do to the False Novel’s plot. It has to do with sex, and with perverted sex, at that. Something I read about, a year or two, or more, ago. Anthony Blair one day declared that he’d been beaten at  his school, and that it hadn’t done him any harm. A woman wrote in to The Guardian to say, How can  he say that? She, as a professional psychologist knows  that it must  have done. Two scandals meet head on. I mean miasmic theory and actual abuse, something akin to the therapist and the rapist. I know where this line may lead me, and I truly fear to follow through into some awful psychic hollows. This I know. I now make out the shape of Sowerby Moor and stare into miasma. See those shapes in memory, the soul or mind or spirit, it, whatever may discover, and not ever now recover. I might dive into the pit. Or shit. It is two thirds of wit, an half of spit and the tail-end of spirit.

 Education, Education

 I first got caned hard on the hand at St Paul’s, Astley Bridge when I was, I think, seven. Luckily for me, it was a clear justice-miscarriage. I shan’t try to explain but I was innocent up to the point the cane came down upon my palm and then I learned about the hardness of the world. It was in no sense sexy. That was the Headmaster. Other teachers might roll down your sock and slap your calf. That gave goosepimples and felt obscurely thrilling. Then, aged nine, that would be nineteen fifty-five, I was transferred to Park Road Boys’ fee paying. Weird. Marquis de Sade. A day-school though, no boarders. Touch your toes and be struck on the buttocks by a slipper. I exaggerate. Some decent Masters chose not to indulge. Others----two cruel, vicious hags I think of----did it, and were cleanly hated. Then there was Bishy who took Latin in slippering orgies of frenzied pleasure. There was competition for the highest score. And those he slippered most were his best friends. He’d take them swimming at weekends. I didn’t have the concepts for it, but I knew what I was witnessing. And luckily, he didn’t like me much. That saved my bottom. But, this is my point. The ones who entered in the game with greatest glee, into the mad charade, I’m sure, were the conventionals, the future straights. Odd for the ten year-old I was, to feel superior remote contempt for the ways of the wicked world. But so it was I did.

 

 Education

 I ought to leave Park Road School there. I don’t suppose that Bishy stooped to actions criminally genital. I don’t know who was harmed. I wasn’t, though I couldn’t quite escape the rituals. As with the cane, at old St Paul’s, I’d call it educational. And there was something else I learned at school. Good Mr Still, who did History and PE, who used no more than a knotted string on his whistle. Not him, but his ropes in the gym. I found that climbing them, in gym-shorts, something strange started to happen. An exquisite dry orgasm. So I got my Dad to fix a rope to a branch of the garden sycamore where I spent many a happy hour, doing it again and again, until one day, when leaping to the rope from off the dustbin, I fell and broke my arm. I thought that might be punishment for sin, and I weaned myself off ropes for good. But my experience at school was mild I subsequently learned, from proper public boarding school types met at Cambridge. Bolton School itself I should make clear, abjured corporal punishment, except for the Headmaster who reserved the cane he rarely used for communists and thieves. Today the hawthorn trees have greener leaves. Today we know there’s something wrong with beating children and that masturbation is a natural pursuit, possibly vital for intelligent self-consciousness. But wait; who put the juice in abuse?

 
Bringing it Out

 “Put it away, Surname” said Mr Garbett wearily one day. The whole class giggled. As we guessed the lad was spotted gazing, likely in a wonderment, on the back row, upon his own unbuttoned erection. So should I put away the unhealthiness of sexual focus. Really I believe in the spiritual beauty of love, and hate polluted degradation, pornographic or industrial. But the Jack won’t fit back in his Box so easily, and anyway, though I may have agreed that Tony Blair wasn’t necessarily harmed by a beating, I haven’t squared my account with miasmic therapy, and the old eighties obsession with, for example, recovered memory and sexual abuse. I wish I could, say, write a False Novel about poetical techniques or maybe Virgilian Imagery, but instead I feel drawn to insert my tuppence-worth on homosexuality, about which I’m curious but ignorant, and the gays themselves don’t seem to have clarified much through half a century of social change. Suffice it to say that I once fell in spiritual love, at age fifteen, with a lad----but that had no connection with my actual wanking practice. And soon after, as I fell for Susan, walking through the park, my sense of relief from sexual tension underwent a mental revolution.


Forward to Volume Three.

 

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