Tuesday, 10 February 2009


One of the questions I am most asked about my specific brand of cynical blogmanship is why do it at all? Why can't I just leave people alone with their harmless fantasies and online fripperies instead of poking them with a big stick and getting them all agitated?

My answer is that I can't not do it. It is hardwired into my brain.

There is a saying which goes "give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man" which is perhaps best illustrated with a story from my past. When I was a little girl of about 8 or 9 years old, I went to a small village primary school. The pupils there ranged from infants of 4 right through to 11 year old seniors waiting to move up to the secondary modern. One of the 11 year olds was a nasty piece of work. Andrew, his name was. Handy with his fists. Came from a rough part of the council estate and a family with a bad reputation. I mostly kept out of his way but occasionally our paths would cross, which never ended well for me.

Our school playground had a fence all around it and a five bar gate for deliveries and the like. One playtime I observed Andrew, alone for once, sitting on top of the five bar gate. He was facing away from the playground, gazing out onto the road, his back to me, just perched there.

"Don't do it," said the cautious part of my brain. "He is a bigger and faster than you and he will catch you and hurt you."

I couldn't argue with the logic in that. On the other hand, he was someone I loathed and feared in equal measure and he had his back to me in a perfect "hey, push me into the road!" position.

"You really shouldn't do this," said my voice of reason as I stealthily approached from behind. "He is going to be so angry."

The birds sang, the sunlight dappled down between the leaves on the trees, I stretched out my arms and I shoved him off the top of the gate with all my strength.

Then I turned and ran, ran, ran. I didn't wait to see the results of my efforts, I just assumed he would be up and at me as soon as he hit the deck. So I pumped my plump little legs and skidded into the school just as he slammed through the door behind me. We were in a small entrance hall which led into the headmaster's office. I had my hand on the latch which would open the door to Authority and save me from the Law of the Playground.

"If you hit me," I panted, "I'll open the door!"

He stared at me for a moment then gave me a dead arm with deadly precision and accuracy. You don't get to be head school bully without that kind of skill. I did not, of course, open the door. I just clutched my arm and saw stars for a bit. My upper arm subsequently came up in a purple lump about the size of an orange. I remember my mum being quite upset about it, but I considered it fair enough and well worth it for the pleasure I had of pushing him off that gate.

Another story, the same school, the same 9 year old Luka. I had been in a fight with a girl named Helen. I can't remember what it was about, but we ended up in that Headmaster's office, standing before the desk, examining our shoes while he lectured us both on our shameful behaviour. "Now apologise," he commanded. Helen said sorry. I said sorry. Yet I felt the situation was unresolved as I was clearly in the right and Helen was a ratbag. As we left the office I said in a loud, steady voice, "But I'm not sorry, really."

I spent the rest of playtime sat at my desk with my hands on my head. It was an old fashioned desk, small and wooden with a lift up top so you could keep things inside it. I gradually became aware of the rest of my classmates watching my punishment through the window behind me. I quickly drew a picture of Helen, complete with stink lines, and a caption stating "I hate Helen, she smells" and stuck it on the inside of my desk lid, which I left conveniently open, so everyone could see it. Including the teachers on playground duty. I missed a lot of playtimes over the years.

It seems I could never just leave well enough alone. If it seems to me to be right, or just plain funny, I can't stop myself, regardless of the consequences. But how about you? If you could take a trip through time and see yourself as a child would you recognise the same character traits you display today?


Jackie Adshead said...

Yes........ certainly the same (good?!) character traits, but now with more knowledge from the experience of life to use them to good effect. Having said that, I don't ever consider that I shall stay as I currently am, but will adapt and change with the challenges that life brings, and move on.

(Hopefully I've lost some of the bad character traits!?! LOL)

Helga Hansen said...

I know that my childhood moulded the way I react/behave as an adult, but not in a positive way. Moving around a lot, having a home-life that did not encourage bringing friends home, and lying to stop questions from teachers/classmates has left me with serious trust issues, self-imposed estrangement from my family and dragging the emotional shutters down the moment things go tits up. Oh, and I am a notorious bottler!!

Ro said...

Were you also the sort of child who poked things into electricity sockets??

I'm not sure how many character traits I can recognise from that sort of early age that still appear in me now. Various things that happened in my teenage years seem to have caused a real change in my personality and many of these influences I still fight against now.

Freddy said...

I remember sitting in class with my hand inside Jackie's knickers. I guess I was aged around 9 at the time.

I've changed a lot since then.

Nowadays I'd have persuaded her not to wear them

Luka said...

Jackie - It's quite an achievement if one can keep the good qualities and lose the bad. For myself, I don't really think I have changed much at all (which does, unfortunately, mean I still have those less desirable childish traits.)

Helga - ah, a bottler. Yes, I can see how your history would make that develop. I am a notorious cork popper (is that the opposite to a bottler?)

Ro - No, I would never do anything *stupid* :)It has to appeal to my sense of justice for something to trigger my "hang the consequences" button.

Freddy - You are a very naughty boy.

EmmaK said...

I was always a bitch but not that unpopular. I was fairly poor but got a free place at a posh girls school and I was friends with a lot of rich girls. And of one called Jill I would tell everyone, "Oh I'm only friends with her for her swimming pool." And I was often nasty, possibly it was insecurity but also, like you, boredom at school, wanting to spread rumors and get people talking a bit. These days I keep my mouth shut more but I am still in my heart of hearts a shit stirrer.

Anonymous said...

There's a great scene in the French film "The Class" where a student takes back her apology..... :-)

Luka said...

Emma - sometimes things need a bit of stirring or we all just settle.

Nurse Myra - I've not seen it, but I am now intrigued...

Walker said...

I spent alot of time in the prinipals office and got the strap a number of times because i was right.
What have you learned i was asked by him once and i said, never get caught


Luka said...

Walker - I had a feeling you would have always been a rebel!