Peter Steward's Web Site
School was a disaster. I remember the first day. I was a rebel even at the age of five. So bloody clean, all dressed up with nowhere to go - only I had somewhere to go. But it was somewhere I didn't want to go. Somewhere I was not capable of going to.
Okay you say - everybody had trouble acclimatising to school.. Looking back on it, it always has to be a stressful thing. But for me the problems went much deeper. I knew I didn't fit in. I didn't fit in in the classroom because the teachers were always against me. In fact that seems to have been my problem throughout life -people have always been against me. Every time I tried to conform I was punished for it and learned how not to conform.
And of course there was the main problem which I haven't explained so far. My twin brother.
At this point the little old lady stopped reading, got up with an agitated look on her face and paced round the kitchen for a good 10 minutes before taking up the diary again, flicking back a page and rereading before going on.
I haven't mentioned my twin brother up to this point because it took me time to evaluate just how important a figure he has been in my troubles and my problems. He was always treated differently to me and I suppose he was different.
All the time I was at home being beaten, he was well clothed, well fed and well looked after. The old woman and old man both doted on him. For the old man it was totally out of character.
He was everything that I wasn't. I suppose that now as I reach the finality of my life I can admit that throughout my life I have been jealous of him.
To think that there is another human being who looks just like me, the same height the same features but inside as different as it is possible for two human beings to be. What determines how a person is and how he or she acts?
He fitted in well at school. He had been brought up in almost an atmosphere of love by two caring, doting parents. I had been brought up in an atmosphere of violence and pain and anger, an atmosphere of hatred and punishment.
I despised him, I resented him and I suppose I tried not to show him, it was just another thing trapped deep inside me.
Perhaps that is one of the things that have eaten away at me during the years and now that I am at the end of my life where is that bastard. Yes the word sounds harsh now. It's a harsh word to use about your brother but that's the way I feel.
He drifted out of my life years ago and I am the one that is lost. I expect he is a success somewhere. Earning a living, perhaps married with his own children. Well I wish him the best, I really do. I wish him every success because it no longer matters. If he has helped to kill me it is something he will have to learn to live with. And he will you know. He never had any problems of conscience.
I always thought that he might care for me but I should have known better. Nobody has ever really cared for me.
We sat together at junior school. I suppose the teachers thought that we were inseparable. my behaviour was difficult enough to control. I suppose they thought that he would have some kind of steadying influence on me. He never did you know - or perhaps subconsciously he did. Perhaps I will never know the full answer to that one. I only know how I feel about him on the outside.
He was an intelligent boy and throughout our early years his behaviour was taken as the norm and my performance was measured against it.
"Don't do that Eric, James wouldn't do what you are doing."
"Don't touch that Eric, you know it will get damaged. Jimmy made that last week. It's a pity you can't make something nice. Eric I told you not to touch that.. Eric why did you do that? You can just stay in after school and rebuild that model."
That was the kind of thing I had to put up with and it made my life miserable. I didn't want to be like James, I wanted to express my individuality and it wasn't easy.
What a dreadful word nice is. Who wants to be nice. It's so prissy. At the age of six I wanted to be nasty. It was easier to be nasty. You just gave way to your desires and needs and did what came naturally. Being nice, being good took effort and it was an effort I wasn't prepared to make.
We had this old woman teacher. What a bag she was.
A spinster, she was probably only in her forties but at the age of six anybody older than 20 is old. She wore tweed skirts, matron-like blouses and seemed to have a permanently spotty face and a droning voice that could send you to sleep after about two minutes. Her fingers were brown with nicotine stains although of course at the time at the age of six I didn't know what had given them that appearance.
She had it in for me. She idolised James and hated me
"You'll never make anything of yourself Eric," she would say.
Perhaps on reflection she was right. But James, well he would be famous one day. The fact that often she couldn't tell us apart made no difference. Eric was the boy who didn't work, who stuck out his tongue, who drew in his work books. James was a good boy. It was all so terribly black and white.
The year - well I suppose it would be the end of the fifties. We had always been packed off to school on our own. It was a 10 minute walk. Sometimes we would play games and it would take us 45 minutes. But nobody ever worried about us.
Sometimes I would pretend to be James and wonder if he ever pretended to be me. I would pretend that I could do things right, pretend that the teachers liked me. But it was all a dream broken by reality as soon as I went through those gates.
Sometimes I would decide not to go to school. My parents never questioned it and I soon worked out that if it was an occasional day here and an occasional day there nobody would worry. The school would assume I was sick and my parents would know no different as I became skilled at writing sick notes.
At home James would ask me where I had been. He always waited until we were in bed. I would never tell him about my secret world. Actually I just went over the local recreation ground and hung around for a couple of hours on the swings feeling totally miserable and then went home. It kept me away from my old man and a beating. I suppose he had never wanted us in the first place. Sometimes he would come home in the middle of the afternoon looking to beat me.
I suppose I grew up tough. The weaker boys I would confront in the playground. I would bar their way from getting out of the school gates. It was fun and it made them nervous. Little Pansy Brown was the smallest boy in the school. He shit himself one day. I must have been nine or thereabouts at the time. I lay in wait just outside the gates and as he passed I flicked a couple of stones that hit him firmly in the back of the neck. He dropped to the ground clutching his head. So unnecessary I thought.
"Get up you bloody pansy" I said kicking him until he squirmed and cried for mercy. On more than one occasion I was called into the headmistress' study - big deal. I was given the slipper. It only made me more angry and more determined not to conform. Then when I got home the old fellow would give me another beating. nobody asked at school where I got the bruises from. They probably thought I deserved it.
A beating a day became the norm. It was all part of the growing process for me. I was learning to be tough1 something that would equip me well for the future. As I write this I feel sorry for Pansy Brown. It really was nothing personal. He just happened to be the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was just learning the ropes. I really would like to apologise to him wherever he is now. I bet he's a successful business man or something like that, I suppose ultimately the joke is on him. Sometimes kids would gang up on me.
They knew I was a loner. They would turn the tables by waiting outside the gates and pounce as I passed. Numerous were the times I went home with a bloody nose and aching stomach. It was all part of the game and on these occasions I was always outnumbered. I had no friends or allies and James would always disappear well out of sight at those times. As we grew up James would implore me to change, almost as if he was my voice of conscience. I wouldn't listen, however. But I couldn't get violent as I always felt he was a part of me and that frightened me.
Perhaps even at that early age I was in a mess. I knew that bullying was wrong. I didn't enjoy the beatings but they seemed to be a necessary part of my learning process and certainly better than books.
I never cried and I knew it was wrong to pick on defenceless kids but I really didn't care and I couldn't stop myself.
I knew my parents were called in to see the headmistress on a couple of occasions. That usually ended up with a beating but I wouldn't expect them to see things from my point of view.
The old feller was a bastard at the time. Sometimes he would stay out all night. The next night he would be in a fearful rage hitting out at my mother and then at me, but never at James. James always escaped and as we grew up I began to resent him more and more. James had everything I ever wanted. He was successful at school - almost top of the class. He was liked by everybody, particularly the teachers.
I tried to pass myself off as him on numerous occasions but it never worked because of the difference in our manners and mannerisms.
At the age of 11 we sat the 11 plus exam or rather James did and I turned up. It was a formality. James passed for the top local grammar school amid a flurry of congratulations. I failed miserably.
"You seem to have difficulties Just spelling your name Eric," said the headmistress. At the time I didn't really understand what she meant - I do now.
Somewhere deep inside of me I felt guilty. Of course I could have passed the stupid examination. I was a rebel. I wanted to be a rebel. If I had wanted to conform I could have been top of the class -no problem. I had chosen another role and it was one hundred times harder than being the school swat I could have answered the exam questions, of course I could. But who wants to be top of the class.
That's the kind of way I deluded myself throughout my life. Of course I couldn't be top. I couldn't be top of anything. It took me years to realise that and when I did I found that I was left with nothing.
The old man beat me for failing. He wasn't really beating me for failing after all he cared not what I did and James had passed comfortably. Why it should worry the old man I don't know. He had never been educated. I suspect it just gave him the opportunity to give me another good beating and one I wouldn't forget and one that made me all the more determined to be a rebel - and the school I was going to gave me plenty of opportunities to do that Perhaps at that point I was walking the same path as him. Perhaps he had a conscience. Perhaps in me he saw himself and perhaps he didn't like what he saw.
I didn't know why he argued so much with my mother. I don't know why he hit her so much. I don't really know why he hit me. Those were things far too grown up and advanced for my still childish brain.
I began to yearn for the end of childhood but I never dreamed
that the journey through adulthood would be one hundred times worse.
Meanwhile I had five years at the secondary modern school to go. The day
I started I had only one aim - to cause as much trouble as possible.