Chapter Eight ~ boyhood discoveries and bullies

On the farm, my grandparents lived with us or rather we all lived with them. The family business of coal merchants had started with my great-grandmother and passed down the line and had nearly always been based at this house and the small country holding which went with it. I was part of the fourth generation and unbeknown to us, the last to live there. Mainly because of the busy business, there was just too much going on everywhere that I was. The family, seven of us, various workmen, customers, deliveries, postmen, bakers, butchers, probably a candlestick maker in there at some point in a never-ending stream of humanity. When I was not at school it was all family, housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, sewing, knitting, gardening, electronics, mechanics, it was difficult if not impossible to find space to be left alone if you wanted or in my case, needed to.

The main source of fun was the contents of a bottom draw in one of the sideboards near the table’s refuge had managed to entertain generations of children over the years, my father included; when he was a boy of course. It was always crammed almost to overflowing with papers and pencils, string, elastic bands, and all sorts of other interesting things. It was generally left slightly open in the day so we just helped ourselves. Clearing up was easy, just scoop it all together and slide it away for another day. The ‘bottom draw’ as it was rather uninspiring named, was OK for quite a while, years in fact, even my own boys had the pleasure when they visited their grandparents; oh happy days.

Being surrounded by countryside and country matters, some of my specific interests were easily catered for by animals that were just part of everyday life. Many of those as far as I was concerned were more interesting and often more amenable than many of my fellow human kind. Because of this I seemed to gravitate towards them as a matter of course. They didn’t answer back or tease, they could either tolerated you or leave you alone and all this made very clear without a word needing to be spoken. Why make life difficult was my unrecognisable reasoning but it seemed to fit neatly.

Even before I could walk my love of and interest in animals had started. Evidently, I was a late developer for walking, not that it bothered me at the time obviously. We had a new stone floor in our huge country kitchen, which was smooth and shiny, generally cold to the touch, mottled green in colour and as far as I know, still there. By the time I was old enough to be active but not seeing the need to walk, I had found it much easier to shuffle around on my bottom, the strenuous efforts of balancing on two legs being too much effort for so little gain.

Finding I could get about quite quickly and negotiate the obstacles, it being such a busy place, none of that bothered me very much. Finding refuge under the large table in the middle of it all, our cats too found it easier and I was often joined there and we would play together in safety. A large shaggy dog sometimes joined in but he preferred the warmth of the kitchen range and so most of the time was really no fun at all. We would have other dogs in the future and they would be far better at joining in with more interesting playtime things.

As I started to grow up there were many more things with which to get interested out in a much wider and wilder environment; once I had become more mobile that is. The comparatively large garden was the next expansion in my field of exploration. We had birds in aviaries which were fascinating, they produced babies each spring and were plagued by predators in the winter; the cycle of life was learnt from a very early age. Later on I would keep budgerigars where my pocket-money could be enhanced from selling the babies they produced. Further out from the extremities of the garden though, there were the wide expanses of our fields. They were not very big compared to many of the other farms in the village but, it was a whole new glorious world to a little boy. Once I had progressed to this exciting expanse, my real interest transferred to the larger livestock living happily in blissful ignorance of my attention. They had always been there to watch but sadly out of reach. When I was old enough to be around and amongst them, it was a whole new slice of exciting life for me to experiment in.

The farm was run only as a semi commercial operation, designed more to keep my grandfather busy and not interfere with the running of the main family business as he tended to do. In the early years of my exploration we had both pigs and cattle with the occasional hen or two if the foxes didn’t get them. Most of the livestock was destined for the table in one form or another and sentiment for any of them was discouraged from the very beginning with them described as just commodities, not that I knew what it meant. Despite this early ignorance, the association I made at a very early stage didn’t feel quite like that for me.

Once I was old enough, still only 7 or 8 years old, I would help as much as I could in looking after some of the stock. We kept pigs at that time. It mainly consisted of feeding them in the first instance and cleaning up the resultant mess afterwards. Between all of this ‘fun’ I had the opportunity to run around with tiny piglets playing catch, until the mother had enough and chased me off that is. Her protective instincts meant she could inflict a great deal of damage if she wanted to. My grandfather used to say you could lose a leg and I certainly didn’t want to test the notion however unlikely it sounded.

Every now and again though there were more exciting events. As I wasn’t fully up to speed on where the piglets came from it did always seem to have something to do with a huge boar who would be walked up to our farm from another further down the road. Not knowing the full story of course, the description of it being a very dangerous animal and why I was only allowed to watch its arrival from the safety of an upstairs window only added to the mystery and excitement. It, the boar, looked like the other pigs but had additional ‘bits and pieces’ that were very different in one way or another. Eventually of course I found out it was the ‘daddy’ pig and I could marvel at his distinction with even greater interest. Once he was out of sight in the sheds I was left to imagine why there was so much noise and commotion going on. After it had gone quite again the boar was walked back down the road to his own home. A few weeks later and rather frustratingly, the babies would appear while I was at school or at night so I never did get to see how they arrived; not until much later in life anyway.

We also kept beef cattle at various stages of development. They started off arriving with us as small calves, often replacing some of the larger animals which had gone off to market. Some of those would come back as sides of butchered meat for the freezers. On the days this happened there was a fury of activity in the kitchen with all hands to the pump, saw, knife, grinder, and many other implements. A bewildering array of meat products would roll out, some for treats right away but most put into storage for the months ahead. Being able to see how the animals were constructed was just as interesting as seeing the living ones but once more, I kept any interest to myself for some as yet unknown reason; it was probably to avoid any questions I most likely didn’t have any answers for.

When we had a new batch of calves, they had only just been taken from their mothers and never seemed very happy about it by the amount of noise they made. Just being with them as some sort of friendly distraction was a job I could help with easily. They seemed appreciative as far as I could tell. Being very young they still needed to feed on milk which was a great adventure. Twice a day I would be the chief stirrer of sweet-smelling milk powder into warm water creating a rich creamy drink. It wasn’t always easy job to fit it in around the nuisance of having to go to school but I managed to as often as I could and do the best I could to engineer other opportunities; this include lying about having done homework.

The milk was served to them in deep aluminium buckets with a rubber teat on the bottom presumably to simulate their former mother’s udder. The fact that there was only one teat per bucket instead of the four they would have been used to didn’t seem to matter to the youngsters if there was milk coming out of it. It was a very messy job. The natural instincts for a calf when its suckling is to head butt whatever receptacle the milk comes out of. Although this might sound strange, in a natural environment, this butting stimulates the cow to release the milk more quickly but of course it didn’t affect her very soft and pliable udder. In this new mechanical scenario, it just made the milk slop out over the top where it went literally everywhere. To prevent or rather minimise the mess needed a very hands-on approach, holding the bucket on its cradle while also holding onto the young animal. This was not to stop the sometimes violent action more to anticipate the move. Whatever the practical reasons, just touching these warm living things had a very pleasing feeling connected to it.

The association of people and food meant that when anybody went in to see them, the obvious assumption for the young animals was it was feeding time and they could get very excited which also transferred to me on levels which I didn’t fully understand yet. With eight or ten calves to feed each time, I was more than happy to be encouraged to help.

After a few weeks of feeding from the metallic mock udders it would be time to teach them how to drink from an open bucket instead. This was not just for practical reasons they eventually had to learn how to drink from the water tanks.  The trick to getting them to drink and not suckle was very clever. The instinct for them to suck was assisted by wrapping their long soft tongues round the teat to form an air tight seal. For this new adventure, you had to start off by replacing the teat with your fingers, just two or three of them depending how big your hand was. They never did seem to cotton onto the fact there was no milk in your hand but it didn’t matter. Once they had attached themselves to your hand it was just a case of putting the combination slowly down into the bucket and so into the milk. After the initial shock of being partially submersed, a few spluttered coughs and a nose full of milk, they eventually got the idea. To start with it was a bit scary but with patience and practice it became quite exhilarating and from then on, whether it was feed time or not I used to let them suck on my finger.

The warm wet noses, the gently rasping surface on their prehensile tongues and the delicate suction made some almost indiscernible connection somewhere deep inside my quickly developing body. This was not just an emotional excitement, there was a distinct tightening in my underwear too which also had a very pleasing effect. Although I didn’t understand what it was or have a name for it yet, it seemed to be some sort of unmarked milestone. Life was moving on and I was literally growing into it.

Being part of a large busy family held mixed feeling for me on many different fronts. Not all my involvement in it was bad, far from it. Amongst all the good things I learnt how to pod peas, bake cakes, iron clothes, cook and clean, make and mend all that sort of thing which I enjoyed doing. To feed this enthusiasm but with hindsight, I think I had an annoying habit of constantly asking ‘why’ which often got a less than acceptable response; perhaps I just asked the question too many times. Not getting all the answers I wanted I would often look elsewhere. Although I loved to learn, sometimes there was just so much activity that I wasn’t interested or involved with and I would fulfil my curiosities by looking to just find thing out for myself and for ways to get away from it all.

My greatest personal pleasures would be found outside in the garden and further out in the fields when I was old enough to be allowed that far unsupervised. As long as I let someone know where I was going I would be left to explore, experiment and expand my mind pretty much where and when I wanted to. There was so much to find out. Although not always sticking to being where I said I would be, I would be mostly within the vicinity which seemed good enough. These boundaries and my safe activity got more blurred as my confidence grew which I surmise were my early lessons in time and motion manipulation.

My favourite place to be at this point in my life was down in the farm buildings with the animals. By the time I was allowed out on my own the pigs and piglets had gone; they were too much work for the financial return apparently. Despite this disappointment, we still had small calves in the sheds and large cattle out in the fields; these were only a year or two old but rather too big for me yet. They could be intimidating when they were just being curious but I knew I wouldn’t have stood a chance if they had decided to get too excitable. The young ones inside were more my size and enough of a comfort.

Looking back now, I think the main thing as far as I was concerned was that they were interested in me; I was the object of their interpretation of friendship and affection. Of course, I knew they didn’t have the same emotions as we did but it would do for me; whatever ‘it’ was. The feelings they induced in me were still not fully formed but I knew it had something to do with other more specific personal physical changes I had started to notice.

Hair had started to appear all over my body. This was all just natural development but I didn’t know that at the time although I knew it was tied in with things I was feeling in general but I had no way of working out what it all meant as a complete package. Asking questions would have been the obvious thing but who was there to ask? Nobody I felt able to anyway. There was no one I could even compare myself to either. Although I had often tried to catch my brother in some state of undress, we were a very careful family where that sort of thing was concerned anyway. After the débâcle in the playground with the naked bottom I had even considered another ‘accidental’ incident but with a boy instead despite the risks. Fortunately, I think I was already talking myself out of such things before they could happen. In this case, it was probably a good thing. In the end, I just let life happen and hope it was not an abnormality or an illness. Any pain was matched by unusual pleasure so I thought, long may it continue.

Being the observant sort, I did start to take specific note of when these developments happened and under what circumstances. Finding that I often woke up in a morning with a stiff willy was strange at first but not unpleasant. The occasional sticky mess in my pyjamas was concerning but covering it up was not too bad to deal with. Initially out of embarrassment but eventually out of practicality I was more concerned with hiding the mess than understanding the cause. Several excuses like spilt milk or toothpaste accidents developed and naïvely I didn’t think I was ever found out; it was never mentioned if I was. With practice, I could deter the intrusive and often aching willy with a few flicks of my finger or a quick if painful squeeze in the right place. If I wasn’t quick enough at least I could catch the sticky liquid in a tissue. Often it just meant that I needed to have a quick wee, if I could get to the bathroom without being seen with it in hand that is.

More concerning were the similar feelings which built up when I was around the boys at school or watching our workmen flexing themselves throwing heavy bags of coal about. One of them lived on the farm with us and the day he came into the house in a very skimpy vest and with his head shaved, I nearly vomited and my seemingly uncontrollable erection put me in a state of inner panic.

He had always been interesting to me although I still hadn’t labelled the sensation I got when he was around. Publicly I latched onto was his artistic ability, he could draw and paint like no one else I had ever known. Obviously, there was more to it than that but of course nothing ever happened to clarify my feelings other than my persistence in peering around corners and out of secluded windows at every opportunity I could manufacture. Alan with the perfect head and fascinating body, if only I had been twenty-five years older. From what I know now, his shaved head was the antithesis of one of my real passions, haircuts, although still, disappointingly, nothing would happen. Back the real world. Being in with the calves had a very similar effect and it was here where I felt freer to enjoy it. Their innocence and interest plus their tendency to still head butt, if you weren’t watching, could be painful although overall, it was a new world and I was getting much braver in it.

A gentle game of who could push whom around the most was an amusement they seemed to enjoy; if enjoyment was an animal concept. It was never more than a rather rough variation of tag but when with other children, similar games didn’t create such interesting problems to resolve as I found in this scenario. The running around, pushing and bunting, sucking at my fingers always ended up with a sticky mess somewhere; most of the time it was in my underwear. Not having the same excuses as the morning emissions, just how I was going to hide it or deal with it I didn’t know, not to start with anyway. It was the best fun I had had, ever, and I didn’t want to give it up, I just needed a plan to deal with the aftermath.

Still not understanding quite what made the thing work in the first place, I used a process of elimination to try to find out. It didn’t happen when I was concentrating on work. It didn’t seem to matter what clothes I was wearing. It did always happen when I looked at certain people. It didn’t happen around girls at school but it most often started around the boys. So, it must be a combination of things and I would just need to be extra vigilant to work it out more fully and so maintain and even increase the pleasure.

With the benefit of practice, it was not very difficult to be alone but also not to be considered as being up to anything I shouldn’t have been. The next time I was able, I let the experimentation in my trousers play out with a more focused approach. As soon as I felt something explosive was about happen I made a fumbling attempt to access my pants and release the stiff young rod which was straining against my underwear. The first-time I was far too late but if anything, attempt at access made it more intense than before. Better luck next time perhaps? It didn’t impede my fun with my bovine ‘playmates’ but a mental note was lodged for the next time I was alone with them; I had to be ready much sooner.

That time came the next afternoon and my willy was soon stiff and getting harder but more difficult to manoeuvre without hurting myself. I only managed to expose it just in time as the chaos squirted copiously. Interesting, I had never seen it happen before, it was odd but rather nice at the same time. Trying to work out the mechanics of the episode, I looked down at myself slowly getting more limp but still swollen enough to hold easily in hand. A though flashed up as how it reminded me of something else. Despite the stiffness fading, the inquisitive noses of the calves were still snooping around me as they often did. They must have recognised it and were only naturally investigating what was presented to them; soft, pink, tubular; a mad idea flashed up but was lost before I could understand it fully. From somewhere up in the main yard there was a noise and I tucked myself away, zipped up and clambered out of the pen just in case my distraction had put my security at risk; it hadn’t this time but it was a narrow escape.

Continuing to help, sometimes too enthusiastically perhaps, it became an accepted norm that I was to be found around the farm buildings for a lot of my free time. We, the growing calves, and I, carried on our personal association and I worked out ways of having even more fun.

They had liked pushing each other around and if I was careful I could easily join in the fun. Having mastered the art of extracting my erection in good time, it had taken away much of the worry of hiding messy underwear. It was after this step change I managed to work out how I could have more direct interaction with my previously rather autonomous member. Careful man-handling could keep the excitement and engorgement going rather longer even after the squirting of substances had finished or, if I was quick enough, hold on to myself during the last moments and feel the full throbbing pleasure which built to the climax of the rather extravagant event. It was during one of these early interventions, I discovered a new possibility building on my earlier but, to date, avoided thoughts.

My visualisation was a little scary in the first instance but not enough to stop me wanting to try it out. Surely if I took my willy out early in the proceedings I could hold onto it as it quickly stiffened to its fascinating if still relatively small size although it was getting bigger seemingly by the day.

With my fingers wrapped round it but managing to keep two of them sticking out down its length, I could create a safe but hopefully inviting manifestation of the teat which the still relatively young animals had been so keen on. Fully erect I was still only big enough to fit in the palm of my hand but I could see the potential of something; or was it rather the hope. Anyway, with these fingers extended my friends might think it was feeding time. I was not wrong. Having already discovered the added pleasure of holding onto myself and its exciting possibilities, I could only dream what this process could possibly be like if it worked? Cautiously offering my hand to one of the more curious noses, unfortunately its first instinct was to head-butt me thinking it was going to get a drink. I shouted, it jumped, I staggered away. Not knowing exactly what damage I had done to myself, I learnt one valuable lesson in that it was one way of getting rid of a ‘stiffy’. Although my groin ached a lot, there didn’t seem to be any external damage and after a good check all around the assaulted member started to thicken back up, for round two perhaps. Should I try it again, the prospects were now too much of a lure not to.

Being more careful by several degrees, I managed to get closer to a result this time without the violence by the tactical use of my free and protective hand. It was frighteningly fantastic but also too much too fast and I exploded almost immediately. The eager young thing hadn’t found any milk which may have come as a bit of a surprise but, it didn’t seem to mind the alternative and there was little if no harm done. I was beside myself. Of course, the downside was this was not something that I could to do all the time. Despite the magnitude of the event it was a constant disappointment that it might take half a day until it could be ready to have it happen again; a few hours if I was lucky sometimes. If nothing else I learnt to be patient which was another quickly developing trait of mine. It was soon possible to do it hands free which was thrilling beyond any possible words.

As my combatants were getting bigger and stronger, the games of chase were still a good laugh but it was also getting more interesting in other areas. They would push you about with growing vigour and I found, purely by chance, if I opened my knees a little they would try to push through the gap. The first time it happened, with their relative size to me meant they only just fitted through but I gained the surprising benefit of firm brushing up against the insides of my thighs. Their curly coats proved to be pleasantly abrasive. The pattern of my arousal was being pieced together, slowly but magnificently.

As far as my general erections were concerned, sometimes I would find myself deliberately not releasing the monster from its often tedious constraints of clothing before the final explosion. The combined course rubbing of my playmates seemed to create a significantly greater surge to the final pulsating end. Although there were the messy clothes to deal with because of this method, the heightened sensation it supplied was extraordinary.

This type of experiment helped develop other satisfying but safe ways of playing with myself as well as the calves. Combinations of; leaning over and rubbing myself on their backs as they pushed through; sitting down slightly to give a warm sensation through my buttocks and rubbing my exposed parts directly onto the heat of the carefree playmates. Lessons in restraint were also on the agenda as exploding too quickly was getting rather frustrating and I couldn’t always find the patience to wait for the resurgence.

The rubbing exercises developed themselves well and I found that by putting just enough resistance into my legs I could sometimes hold but not hurt. The animals didn’t seem to mind any of this more advanced play and even appeared to line up for it sometimes; maybe it was something only in my head. With this carefully developed and controlled action we progressed onto more enhance fun.

The most frustrating problem was what to do with messy clothing more frequent as my experimentation progressed. By carefully having other items sneaked out of the house under my jumper or down my jeans I generally had clean things to change into after play. The dirty items could be pushed into the washing basket when no-one was looking or hidden for the next time when a few crusty bits of dried residue didn’t matter.

One of the nice things about warm-blooded creatures is that the time of year or weather didn’t seem to matter to them. Summer was the best time though when I could wear shorts which obviously gave more direct skin on fur contact where its full potential soon became joyously apparent. Just occasionally I would leave my jeans and my pants off altogether and get the full sensory package right up against my soft bottom and fast developing plumbs now fully dropped into their tight little scrotum. This of course solved the clothing problem completely but added the dangers of being caught semi naked. Despite knowing this would be impossible to talk my way out of, the risk added such an intense sensation which it was more than worth the challenge.

With a wide range of possibilities now in hand, I began to use the games to investigate other things. One was obviously discovering what it was that was spurting out of me each glorious time. Now adept, proficient even at manipulating myself as the magic worked its wonder, I could catch the warm sticky fluid in the palm of my hand. Having long decided it was nothing life threatening I wondered what it was for, what it was made of, even what it tasted like. Never being one for not knowing things, I soon discovered that it didn’t seem to be anything very much at all and it tasted of less, just a little sharp and sometimes salty. Still not understanding why the little ones seemed to like it when they licked at me, it wasn’t until many years later that I worked out they liked the salty aspect. Although I didn’t find it either bad or good myself, it did solve a messy inconvenience whoever got to have it.

All this activity, as exciting as it was, was not the only thing I did with my time; although it did seem an important thing at the time. For the greater part of the free day I indulged in household activities as I was expected and have been grateful for learning many useful skills. My love of learning was genuine but if I am honest I also used it as a rather convenient smoke screen for everything else which was rather more covert. Being seen to be interested, helping and not being any bother to anyone, I could stay well off the radar when I wanted or needed to get away to my own rather more private agenda. It didn’t seem to matter if it was for personal fun or just to be on my own, I manufactured many standardised situations to suit and would continue to do so whenever I needed it; both then and in later years.

As I steadily grew up, more unfortunate matters were developing. Eventually it seemed that I was old enough to be legitimately beaten up my brother; only when no one was watching of course. He was four years older than me and more of the ‘manly man’ type, nothing like me at all. As a defence strategy, all I could do was try to avoid him, as I avoided so many other things. Because of my perceived need for separation, I didn’t mix with other kids in the village either, which although self-inflicted. I didn’t fully understand what I was doing but learnt to deal with it in my own ways.

On a more positive note I had started to learn to play the piano which certainly helped with being a ‘goody two shoes’ but on the down side made me appear to be different, again. Despite the disadvantages amongst my few peers, I did enjoy the music making very much indeed; as I always would.

As a family unit, we still had this ridiculous village ‘status’ thing that, frustratingly, I couldn’t work out or seem to escape from; I did wonder at one point if it was all in my head. My reaction to it, real or imagined was to compensate where I could by celebrating some of my personal differences and privately revelling in the knowledge I was set apart from many if not most of the other kids around me. All this was kept tightly concealed of course, I wasn’t confident enough to face up to it. Strangely and sometimes disturbingly I fully understood the inconsistency of both complaining about being excluded but still not apparently happy when I was around other people. It might have been the people who were the problem perhaps; it couldn’t possibly be me? Those who I did mix with were rarely the ones I would have chosen and based on my new-found enlightenment, were ever likely to be such.

The school bus was the most devastating example of this problem; I had taken the eleven plus and moved up to the lesser of the secondary schools by this time. It was the getting to school which spoilt things for several years in the early stages of the experience.

Living out where we did in the countryside, there was a school bus laid on to get us there. It was only, but exactly, two and three-quarter miles from our driveway to the school gates. The transport was free if you lived more than three miles away. Not a problem I thought, my parents would just pay, I didn’t think it was much in monetary terms but no, that was too simple and in my father’s eyes at least, both excessive and grossly unfair. The closest pick-up point in the village was further up the road from our house, away from the school and ironically just at the three-mile boundary. Once this and other significant facts had been established, a protracted discussion went on between my parents and the local authority; in short, they didn’t think they should pay if I had to walk out of the exclusion zone. It was all the same to me but no, they were not going to shell out hard-earned monies if they didn’t feel they had to. The eventual compromise was that they still had to pay but, the bus would stop outside our house to pick me up and drop me off each day.

Standing at the roadside each weekday morning, the other students were within plain sight at the other pick up point but I would have no choice but to get on and off outside my house. I did try sneaking off up the road once to join them but was soon spotted from the house and ordered back to stand, much to my chagrin, feeling like a real dick. I had been instantly labelled as ‘special’.

From the very first day on the coach there might as well have been a bull’s eye painted on my back not helped in any way by being the last to be picked up; I had no option but to endure the daily, ritual humiliation. The fact that the bus but was always full, almost over full by that point didn’t help one bit. If I had friends they were only of a fluid and formless sort who when in this hostile environment there was no way of them showing any allegiance to the targeted ‘special one’. My already limited associations were almost nullified by the trouble which developed around my wholly unwarranted notoriety.

On any typical morning, having squeezed my rapidly growing frame through the tight mass of bodies, the only spaces left were always well away from the lady escort who always seemed oblivious to anything which went on there anyway. Having run the gauntlet, on reaching the back of the bus, I would be confronted by the persistent trouble makers waiting for their fix of fun. Every morning I hoped for a space near the front but it hardly ever happened. Although the term ‘special’ had been with me for what seemed a very long time for so many different reasons, most I hadn’t minded; sticks and stones and all that. Here in the crush and chaos, what should have offered a pleasurable enforced physical closeness with my peers, I sadly stood no chance at gaining anything but pain.

It was the time when you still paid for your school dinners, day-to-day, in cash. Ironically, I was not ‘special’ enough to get free meals, more’s the pity. Of course, my tormentors soon knew this and although I was not the only one who had been fleeced, it seemed I was an eminently easy target. On my way out of the house each morning I would pick up the plastic bank bag with just the right money in it, slip it securely into my inside pocket knowing full well that there was little chance of it making its way to the dining hall. Except for the first time I never made any fuss that I can remember. Other kids had dealt with it all in the past and it was just my turn having already seen the results of making a stand for yourself. Bruises were hard to hide and an empty feeling in my stomach during the afternoons was not. When I got home, I would generally lie about what we had eaten for lunch, that is if I couldn’t manage to avoid the questions altogether. At least my avoidance strategy was being honed by the activity, despite the appeal of having another boys’ hands rummaging through my pockets week in, week out. As long as the bullies got what they wanted it was all relatively manageable, tolerable even. The trouble was a slightly bigger problem was looming as-yet unseen on the horizon.

At the start of one new school year, the relief of the long summer holidays was lost and the school dinner money system was changed. Meals would be paid for at the start of each term and directly to the school. What was going to happen now? Would I be left alone if I had nothing to hand over? That would be have been great but sadly it was not to be. Once the loss of revenue was noted it took only a short time to decide what I would have to supply in its place. While the details were formulating it was considered great fun to belittle my appearance, my size, my clothes, or anything else they thought would make good sport instead. My hopes of any relief were lost.

Style and fashion had never been something our family was up on but we were always clean and tidy but despite always leaving the house in the morning with all the proper uniform, my tie tied correctly, my clean shirt tucked neatly in, I always seemed to look like a scarecrow by the time we all alighted at the school gate.  The trend for haircuts was to wear it long and generally in an unkempt look, I couldn’t even get that right. I was developing an interest in hair styles even then but it didn’t seem to help with my problem. My father had always used Brilcream, a throwback to his days in the RAF and of course I had to try it, like it and so use it regularly; at least I tried. Many times, I tried to emulate other men’s looks; I never quite managed the smart suave sophisticated style which my father always had. This tonsorial fopar, amongst my many other failings, became the principal reason for my classroom nickname, ‘the greasy slime’; I railed against it every time I heard it and yet did nothing to get away from it. If that wasn’t enough my obvious weight problem became another easy target along with my dress sense and inarticulate attempts at any kind of retort. In the end, it felt as if I could do nothing more than live with it.

Back in the blitzkrieg of the school bus, not having any money allowed me to get away with only the infliction of just verbal abuse and a bit of roughing up now and again; I was happy I didn’t get the full beating others had in the past. The lull in proceedings wasn’t going to last for long. Instead of the steady stream of cash, they had been looking for an appropriate replacement to start with. Anything would do, I lost books, a few pieces of equipment, pens, rulers, compasses, some expensive, some trivial but none of it seemed to be enough to satisfy their febrile minds. Most of these missing items were easy to explain away compared with the occasional tear in my shirt, writing on my blazer or the disappearance of items from my little used gym kit. Sometimes you could see these items hanging from the hedgerow where they had flown out of the bus window. Although I managed to explain all sorts of things away over the many months, it got to be more difficult all the time.

My physical size, obesity as it was although never spoken of, was not helped by an unsubstantiated insistence that I needed to be fed all the time. It was something which we as a family had always indulged in, food, food, and yet more food. Early excuses that my so-called ‘puppy fat’ would soon disappear apparently did not raise any concerns and I just keep eating, a growing boy, needs lots of energy, all sorts of hokum and nonsense. To this barren end, I had open access to and was supplied with numerous treats, just in case I got hungry before lunch or on the way home or anytime really. In addition, each morning I would help myself from a large brass bowl in the lounge, Mars bars, Topic, Crunchy, Bounty; it seemed like every type of confectionery known to man was available. With this on top of whatever I was openly given. It was this excess of bounty which became my antagonists’ new currency.

You might have thought this was an easy even acceptable option, I got to eat less junk food and they stayed off my case but oh no, that was far too much to expect. Cash had been divvied up between the gang relatively easily; now, just one or two chocolate bars didn’t divide up so well between the group. This meant I had to supply more, and more, and then, more. In the end, I had great trouble disguising where the household supply was disappearing to each week. Of course I lied about eating it all even though no one actually saw me eat very much, nobody ever questioned the fact I could have even eaten the amount which went missing; I would have been hospitalised if I had. Despite this general malaise at home, in the end on the bus it got just too much for me to cope with and without knowing quite how I did it, I stopped it, dead. At least I thought I had anyway.

Thinking I had been cleaver my arms were very sore from the thumping I received on the first morning. Suffering it all in silence I eventually just melted into the school day. Knowing I should have felt some pride my resistance, having anyone share in my small glory would have meant having friends; there was no-one. Being invisible was nothing new or difficult and I managed to keep out of the way of any other potential repercussion between lessons. At lunch time the game was up.

The head bully boy supported by his rather unattractive henchmen confronted me in the playground well out of sight of any staff. Despite it being no real surprise, I panicked when a pair of scissors appeared from his pocket the blades glinting in the sunlight. He grabbed my tie and I waited for the pain and the blood. His bad breath whispered sickly into my ear that I needed to pay more attention to getting them what they wanted and not being such a sad sick bastard. He pulled his face away and sneered grotesquely as he hacked my tie right through just below the knot. The small ugly group evaporated into the background.

Uniform was very strict at that time and I only got through the afternoon by saying I had lost my absentee tie somewhere in the lunch break. When I got home, I had to use the same excuse.

Using one of my brother’s old ties the next morning but still with no chocolate I was very determined on the outside, while bricking it on the inside. My arms were even more sore that day. When I was pinned up against the brick wall later I was thinking I would feel the cold steel. Fortunately, it was only the tie, again. That would be the last warning I would be getting, apparently. The teachers fell for the lost tie line again but my mother didn’t.

In the busy kitchen at home I was grilled about it for what seemed like hours. With no plausible explanation, I had to clarify matters for my father when he had finished work; this was almost unheard of as my mother normally dealt with this sort of thing. Thinking I had fudged my way out of it even to my sire, I was rather disappointed to find that it was not going to be ignored this time. Getting more concerned by the hour wasn’t helped by my not getting on the bus the next morning; I was taken to school instead by my parents.

Being a good student generally I had been fortunate never to have seen the inside of the headmaster’s office other than to help with some menial project. This was different, this was serious. Plainly, I was made to tell him what had happened and his normally quiet, pleasant, leadership style changed to the one which he reserved for such injustices.

Having only given up one name, the offending student was summoned to the office and the matter was discussed with him there in front of us all; I didn’t know who was more embarrassed. His only semi-literate protesting wouldn’t constitute a discussion but later that morning, once my parents had left, he received several strokes of the cane. It was not the first time he had heard the whoosh and felt its sting. Although I didn’t get to witness the event, to add insult to the injury he was told to produce two new ties for me by the end of the week. He did produce something but it was just the half of another one of mine which he cut off the very next day. He left the school very soon after, for good.

As with many bullies they rarely work alone and when the beast loses its head, the rest generally fall aside helpless; I was lucky that this was how it fell for me. Although that small part of my life was much better, I didn’t get away from the verbal abuse about my hair and clothing and of course I still couldn’t shake any of the derogatory nick names. In fact, it probably all got rather worse in many ways but I had managed to develop a thick and thickening skin which is where I think it all started. My splendid isolation and I must have found it beneficial if not mandatory for survival from then on.

About twenty years later I saw one of the former bully boys at a wedding reception. Fortunately, he didn’t recognise me but, for just a fleeting moment, I considered asking him how he thought things had worked out for us all; for whatever reason, I couldn’t be bothered.

With the worst of the daily problems at school solved, I could enjoy more of the time between lessons. Although I still didn’t do very much socialising or integration, I did much less looking over my shoulder. My avid attentions could be directed to more pleasant things; by that I mean people. By my mid-teens, I had accepted I could admire boys and sometimes older men and enjoy the pleasant feelings which went with it. While still not fully understanding what it was I was getting, I was beginning to appreciate it might have been acceptable for someone to feel this way.

The thing which was becoming more obvious was that, my peers and I had hormones which were confusing the boundaries and expectations of all personal interaction. Boys were teaming up one on one with girls, girls were cooing and fawning over the rather obvious good boys, boys were being all macho and bold in front of prospective conquests; I didn’t have a clue where I should put myself in this maelstrom of pheromones and burgeoning stubble. One thing was certain though, there was no one else who seemed to have any of the same feelings or indulgences that I did.

What I did decide in the end was I should keep out of any line of fire, expect nothing to happen and just absorb as much of life as I could. With all this information, I could go home and do whatever I needed to satisfy my developing excesses. So, having taken most of the adverse personal issues out of the equation I could enjoy and indulge myself in other ways. At school this was limited to allowing myself to look at my developing classmates, often wish they could be my real ‘mates’, but at least finesse my voyeurism skills in the dubious process.

Fashions, they came and went, Oxford bags (trousers), platform shoes, shirts with huge collars, Doc Martin boots and shoes, jackets worn inside out and many other wonderful things; none of which I had of course. There were also all the physical developments. For my self-preservation, I just blanked most of mine out in favour of watching other people who seemed to grow up almost as you shyly contemplated them. It was a complicated time and sometimes made more difficult because I couldn’t help making direct comparisons with my own inadequacies.

Some things had started to become rather more prominent than others and many of those have stuck with me over the many years. Haircuts have always been the things of both bountiful beauty and secret pain. Thankfully they had become more valued and intently managed by many of their wearers and were evolving into an integral part of current fashion. Knowing I had always had held an unfathomable fascination for boys’ hair in particular, my main concern was ending up looking an idiot but it was obviously something which I couldn’t avoid. Consequently, all the neat short back and sides, carefully combed quiffs, sculptured waves, sharp partings, and creative use of bleach, made it an uneasy and troubling time to be me. Ridiculously I was still sporting the same loose, lank, greasy mop of once white blond, but fast becoming mud coloured; the offensive if accurate nick name stuck for many years because of it.

One rather unprepossessing morning we assembled in our home room for registration as usual when my stomach turned and I felt literally as if I was going to be sick. One of the boys walked into class with a short, smooth, ‘suede head’ cut. I was agog, jaw fully dropped, the works. For anyone who doesn’t remember, it was not exactly a skin head, only the rough lads had ventured into that whereas this was perfectly cropped to about an eighth of an inch long all over. He was already a stunning looking boy, fit, active, popular, but this, this was just too much. It was the sort of thing you just wanted to reach up and touch; if you were me that is. Of course, I didn’t, it would have been a death sentence, but he made that day and many others after, a mixture of utmost pleasure and sickening envy; I can still retrieve the image of Derek Thompson from my mental box of such things if I ever feel the need.

Sports at school were the most difficult, obviously. In orders to take what I personally wanted from the lessons which was not the exercise, it was often difficult without taking part. With this problem, I had to develop very specific ruses with the battles attached to the double gym period twice a week, I lost so many sports kits, real or contrived, it got beyond a joke. One saving grace was I had an ally with a similar problem. A problem in as much as he was as big as me and equally without confidence; that was as far as it ever went. We often spent the twice weekly drudgery cleaning the changing rooms or sorting out the football team’s often dirty and always enticingly stinking kit; not very glamorous but easier than looking monstrous in action on the field and coming last at everything. Despite this low-ranking alternative, there were still all the benefits of watching the post period showering and the restoration to beauty that went on before returning to the safety of the academic world.

Of course, there were times when I was made to take part, it was generally achieved having to wear kit taken from lost property; I still try to block out the humiliation of such albeit rare events. Amazingly, I remember having to take a shower with any of the other boys only half a dozen times at most but, they were just too difficult to cope with in so many ways; they are hard to think about even now. Because of these potential and literal horrors, I often went on to the next lesson with just a wipe down with a damp towel, which was another thing that did me few favours in the general popularity stakes.

To allow myself to cope, all these highs and lows got carefully packed away at the end of the day, haircuts, people I had crushes on, sports events, gym changing rooms, teachers, clothing, and any illicit interaction to be witnessed behind the bike sheds or the big oak tree. Although I was almost never actually part of these, as you might have already guessed, I did keep close tabs on them just the same. The better looking of the boys were obviously the most difficult but because of, if not despite of, my indefinable status that sometimes actually worked to my advantage; the grief I did get when caught out was, on the whole, worth it. In hindsight if I had faced up to the problems I was developing then, I might have been able to do something about them but, not really knowing what I was or wasn’t doing correctly, I simply couldn’t. Although I loved schooling, the lessons anyway, it was rather more luck than effort that I did only reasonably well in most subjects but shone at nothing specifically.

Things in general were not helped by what I perceived as an indifference towards me at home. Now of course I know it was all just me and my eccentricities rather than anybody’s lack of care of concern. Although I know now I took many things completely out of context, mainly for my own sad advantage. Silly things like my mother’s hatred of having mirrors in the house helped me to hide any sight of my growing into a grotesque parody of my ideal image and I even managed to warp the regular energy-saving crusades by my father as good excuses for me to dress and undress in the dark. These insignificant things on their own were rather inane but when combined with my fanciful and vivid imagination became a bizarre set of excuses to suit the perception of my many failings. At least now I understand my actions better even if on the odd occasion, I fail to stop them from developing in the first instance which I still do despite being more content in my own skin and four or five stones lighter.

I was only at the early stages of developing my little ‘mental boxes’ as I called them, but they were all proving to be very useful. In my world, I just grouped things together and store them away for whenever I needed them. It was no different for either my personal, public, and private feelings; I had many sized boxes for many diverse things.

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