I have decided to continue my crude emotional public striptease by baring the scars of the education system throughout my life and how I was bullied and belittled and branded the GDB (general dog’s body) of my local orchestras, county bands, music college and university. All this it seems was because I have always been gifted with too much energy, enthusiasm and desire to get things done. Not tomorrow, today. Right now. Also my autistic habit of not editing my gob often enough still lands me in hot water to this day. So recently I had an epiphany: “I’ve had to learn to live with it so it’s time the rest of the world learns to live with me as I am”. Naked and mouthy.
I was never really very good at self deprecating humour. I know many other depressed people who use this defence mechanism very successfully. But why would I do the work for others when they took such pleasure in harming me themselves? I’m depressed not dumb. I have however learned to use humour as a tool so that I might appear slightly less of a tool myself and I’m very quick witted and sharp. So sharp at times that I cut myself with my runaway gob. But humour is the best medicine after all .
I am currently writing a new TV script with another friend that is not about death and illness but about historical bawdy women. It is such a joy constructing the rude foul jokes that pour out of their indelicate gobs rather than my own. We laugh a great deal as we write this together but never belittling the other characters (unless they’re men) because that to me is easy and cruel humour.
Throughout my education all my little dreams were crushed by grown-ups who were meant to be the adult teachers. They were I guess threaten by my enthusiasm and refusal to accept and respect them as my betters. These adults, and the dumb hierarchy they smugly cling to, they used to belittle me so often. And those petty behaviours rooted deep in my mind and popped back over and over again. So many teachers were not able to understand the hurts they were inflicting. I won’t go into the humiliations the P.E. and Games teachers inflicted on me constantly except to mention one incident in which I decided to try really hard to win a games lesson which I did. But rather than winning house points I was forced to do 25 press-ups holding a basket ball for daring to beat all the sporty kids. I never tried again.
I have always stood up to any authority behaving inappropriately to a class but this only made enemies of them for me and they can pay you back by affecting your grades. Playing politics with the grown ups sucks if you refuse to play by their rules but I wouldn’t change that for the world. They were the juveniles in truth not me.
So before the full educational rant of woe I need to go back to the second most traumatic moment that I have identified in my youth aged 11. My parents decided to get a pub and while this was exciting it meant that I was moved from my village and all my childhood friends forever. I was driven to this new place by a stranger in a turd coloured Reliant Robin to the sprawling shit-hole that was the Medway towns. The pub was located in a very rough area, as all first pubs were for virgin landlords. Perched high on a hill over Chatham I had moved from green flower-filled gardens and country spaces to a vast brick choking valley of endless two-up two-down terraced houses, the likes of which I had no concept even existed apart from during the credits of Coronation Street and we didn’t watch that as it was northern! Southern working class prejudice I suspect. I was given a tiny box room with a tiny window that looked out over the treeless gloom of a overpacked town. I just used to sit and stare out of the window in absolute terror. Worse still was the trauma that my nan, my mother’s mother was not coming to live with us. She was my rock since I was two years old and the most important figure in my life ever. She was sent away to London where she too became miserable without me. I was abandoned to a plywood covered box cupboard where my only friends were Pelham puppets that hung on my walls. I felt totally caged in.
At school in this town every pupil had to sit the 11 plus and since they had all done this already, rather than welcoming me into a new class for my last two terms of junior school, I was made to sit in isolation in a library. I had to practise for an exam that nobody had time to explain or teach to me aside from giving me test papers and never revealing any scores or offering feedback. So I struggled to make any new friends. Plus here in this town you were not free to run around outside as it was a ‘dangerous’ place. The pub was filled with rather unhinged characters too that rather scared me. Including a guy who set fire to his mother while she slept. I often found myself in the company of drunk adults in smoky rooms.
I passed the 11 plus and was then sent to my last choice of school many many miles from my home.
Our pub was the main hub for Modern Jazz nights with endless bands playing far too many notes but we did acquire a small piano that became my new best friend upstairs in the hall. My bedroom being too tiny for anything other than a bed. I played and played all day but sadly my piano teacher was a very strict elderly lady who just tutted continually because a class mate I had was a gifted pianist who had started playing aged 5. I’d only played for 5 months but I needed music as my friend. So I took up the oboe. Here was my chance to shine. But that ‘friend’ then took up the flute and after my 10 months of learning he was allowed into the stage band I had only just joined after playing the flute for two days. Round of applause for the gifted child. “You on the oboe pipe down we can’t hear the new talented flautist”. Fuck off you bastards I should matter too.
On a tour of Germany a group of adult players decided during a trip to the zoo to grab me and remove my trousers as humiliation was such a fun activity. I went insane with rage and threw them all to the ground. I may have only been 12 but I was already 6 foot tall and carrying crates of beers up from the cellar everyday meant I was stronger than they anticipated.
The music teacher at my school never taught us a stitch of music as he was always in his office having sex with a peripatetic teacher. And back then he was thankfully allowed to smoke in his office which helped mask the scent of sperm. But I could smell his shame every time I saw his poor wife. Choosing music back then in an all boys school meant being labelled a poof because only queer boys would learn such a gay subject. I knew I was a poof too but they had no right to abuse me with the term. I threw myself into extra curricular activities with enthusiasm but all of these became traumas as that gifted ‘friend’ was always casting a shadow over my efforts. He was the celebrated treble singer too with all the solos and they even chose and cast school productions to help him shine. He was the Artful Dodger in Oliver where as I was padded up at 14 and made to play stupid Mr. Bumble. I was also made to play a hunchbacked half-faced freak when he was offered all the male leads. So I stopped acting and joined the orchestra for shows instead.
Even when we decided to help each other learn the curriculum for our GCE music while our teacher shagged his lover in the office, that friend didn’t share what he’d learned with the rest of us. So he got the only A grade. What a mean boy. These things hurt when you are as generous as I am in helping others. Then I finally got to attend a county level wind orchestra without him as there were so many flute players that were way better than him and no oboists at all. My first piece of luck and I was going on residential courses with other musicians. This was going to be my first day taste of heaven among my musical peers. Wrong! Even here I was teased and called poof yet again. What is it about weak teenaged boys that they feel stronger by belittling others? So one morning after much mocking in the dormitories one guy called me a poof and I said ‘say that again and I’ll hit you.’ He said it immediately and so I punched him in the face. That stopped all that. But it didn’t make me happy. It made me more isolated and sad. And yet I stood up for everyone when the conductor or tutors were being unfair during rehearsals. That didn’t earn me any respect, just more adult abuse.
Then at school at 15 my form tutor who was also my English tutor wrote that I held myself ‘aloof from my peers’ rather than notice that my peers all bullied and verbally abused me. I sat alone at the back of the room with the only empty desk in the classroom next to me. And that wonderful teacher’s threat to any unruly boys was to force them to sit next to me. Being next to me was the ultimate class punishment. How was I supposed to feel about that?
This continued with me being used over and over by adults in their childish games or their departmental power struggles. As mentioned before I was forced to leave the Royal College of Music after I was seduced by a fellow pupil who had been enjoying sex with firemen in his home town for years. But I was punished. He often enters my head but I always forgive him and hope he feels no guilt at my expulsion. I wash the slate of life clean believing I’m the god of water Oceanus who is the source of all water and emotions. The emotions trapped inside me are so overwhelming that when I let them out people around me drown so I have to keep control of them. I’ve often been told when I release the full me that I am too raw and animal like. Too much to handle. Well watch out world as I’m getting ready to let it all out.
At University I was used by the faculty staff to topple the old head of music in favour of a great female professor who I adored but this was unfair of those professor to weaponise me when I was trying to get an education. But they knew they could fire up my mouth to create the damage they required.
My course tutor only called me in to review my work once during my entire course rather than weekly so I never did learn how to present my written papers. He spoke five languages but none of those were in how to relate to students. My main tutor for most of my subjects was an alcoholic who suffered with the DTs 15 minutes into any class. Eventually I had to complain about this but it came too late to help me. He was removed from his post and died not long after and naturally I still carry an enormous burden of guilt over this. I try to take comfort from knowing I did at least stop him ruining the education of others that came after me but it didn’t help my head at all.
I refused to sing in the Chapel choir with my wonderful tenor voice because the choir conductor was a cruel man with favourite pupils. Plus I let my mouth run away with me during a criticism class on choral conducting because I am such a perfectionist that I never hold back when it comes to the aesthetics of performance so this emotionally stunted Professor refused to allow the choir to sing my composition dissertation piece for my final, so I was marked down for not providing a recording which was his fault not mine. Also he couldn’t understand how to conduct or perform my advanced vocal composition as he just did hymns.
This is such a rotten catalogue of being used and shat on simply for being a bright working class kid who didn’t really deserve to be educated. I was the first from my family to attend a university so nobody in my family could support me or understand that I was being emotionally abused by everyone around me. Most often for being gay even though I hadn’t admitted it fully to myself until I was kicked out of the Royal College of Music and had to tell my parents why. The R.C.M. pastoral care was non existent. Their councillor refused to speak to me. I was just told to go and not come back. So thoughtful. And at the time so shaming to lose my place for a receiving a blow job.
Having just dragged up all these details to explain how nearly 20 years of education crushed and crippled me emotionally it’s no wonder that the first sign of love offered to me at university fooled me into a relationship that lasted 27 years longer than the one night stand it should have been. He and I do get on now much better than we ever did back then and he is now happily married to his gorgeous husband. I even did the catering for their wedding evening back at the house that was once ours. But I’m so forgiving and so loving that most people just thought it very odd me even attending but I needed to know that I was really free haha. I do miss our dogs though who live with them. Dogs are so much easier to adore than humans.
What surprises me the most just now, writing about all these painful memories is that they simply don’t hurt me anymore and they did until a few weeks ago. The only thing that hurts me still somewhat is realising that the man I most loved ever in the world for the last 7 years just didn’t love me like I loved him. That has completely destroyed me. I thought I would never get back up. Hopefully one day I will be thankful to him too as I finally reached the farthest rock bottom ever and did almost feel totally and utterly broken. I couldn’t sleep, eat or stop crying for several months. I was alone and homeless and without any money as I spent it all trying to hide away from him and his other lovers. Now finally I can get back up and begin to make the changes to my life that I should have made years ago. I can finally try and find a version of me that I can love and start to respect myself. A new me that lives without fear and anxiety. And yes right now I’m not sure I will ever be able to trust another living soul with my heart. But last week I wouldn’t have believed that I would write all this and publish it online for all to read. Now I bump into people around town who say well done for being honest. Or we need more honesty like yours. Or they tell me I’m brave and I feel a little ashamed and shy but hey, I’m at it again. Letting all my crap and shit spill out. It’s been no use trapped in my head all these years so “better out than in” as they say of trapped wind. And I love a fart gag!
Next up will be bad thought patterns and how to break them. Stay tuned folks.