Thrown out of French …. Again.
Cricket Practice cancelled…Again!
Average day at school for a 12-year-old “A” grade student who hates French lessons. Now he is home early and impatient to get changed into his football kit and get over the fields. Peter Osgood. He was always Peter Osgood. The number nine sown on his shirt and shorts by his Nan. She had to sow strips of white cloth down the side of the shorts to make them authentic like Peter Osgood’s. Back in the day. Way back in the day!
Something’s not right. He’s in the front room. TV, sofa and easy chair. All in place. What is it that’s got him spooked? His Dad’s policemans uniform is thrown all around the place. He recognises the mess. It looks like the way his bedroom was intended to look in about 5 minutes time as he rushed to get out of his school uniform and into football kit in 30 seconds flat!
Noise upstairs from his parent’s bedroom.
Keep it quiet she said. Best nobody knows. All a mistake it’ll just blow over!
Then he is chasing the taxi cab down the road shouting obscenities and throwing bricks. Kept it quiet just like she asked. Scared to death of his Dad finding out that he knew but never told. 3 months of not being able to look her or him in the eye. Now she’s gone. He feels sadness, pain and most of all guilt!
Cries of pain from Jason the family dog are ringing in the air. He meanwhile has a knife being held to his throat. Its 1 year later and he has a new step mum and two older step brothers. The oldest step brother is 16 and thinks it is funny to kick dogs while wearing steel toe cap boots. He is beside himself with anger but the step brother’s older friend holding the knife to his throat is pressing it hard to the point of breaking the skin. He is 13 and his assailant 18 it is a bit of a mismatch. The older boy is a bully, part of a gang who terrorise kids younger than them who do not support the same team. Peter Osgood would never have played for Arsenal!
Some months later he wakes up in the middle of the night. His Dad is slapping him around the head. He takes the beating. Hard to argue that he is responsible for the state of his two step brothers as the dry blood on his hands is pretty incriminating.
Standing outside the head teacher’s office with his dad in full police uniform standing beside him. He is full of shame and guilt. He refuses to say why he has committed the crime. The chisel had punctured the skin of the 6th former but luckily not done any worse damage. He is expelled immediately even though he had always been a model pupil. Apart from in French classes that is. He didn’t want to explain that for months he had endured bullying from older pupils calling his mother a whore and a slag. It didn’t seem to matter to anyone but him. It is what his Dad had called her anyway!
Living with his Grandparents is not ideal. Theirs is not a relationship built on love. He loves them both but they constantly use him as a weapon against each other and a very confused boy is just becoming more and more insecure. He loves them dearly though. His granddad Billy is a proud Irishman who loves to tell tales of bar room battles when he had first moved to England. Woe betide any local Englishman who dared to take on Billy in a bare knuckle boxing bout outside the pub the challenge had been laid down in. His Grandmother meanwhile works three office cleaning jobs to pay the bills. She tells him tales about growing up in Ireland during the troubles. How once the British soldiers came to her home and tortured his Great grandmother in front of her by peeing in a cup of tea and making her drink it. They were called the Black and tans and they were looking for his Great granddad who was a member of the IRA.
One night his granddad Billy comes in drunk. More drunk than usual. His Granddad and Gran are shouting at each other. He is pleading with them to stop. Then his Gran is pushed to the floor. A red mist descends and his Grandfather is on the floor beside her.
The cold of the night is now biting deep into him. A cardboard box offers little resistance from the chill winter on the south bank of the river.
A boy will always need his mother and where she is now the landlady of a pub it seems a good sanctuary from the street life that had claimed him. He is 15 years young now and South London is his new adopted home.
He is hoping to find somewhere he can belong again. Call home again
At first he thinks a stray cat has entered the premises. He creeps down the stairs from the 5th floor room he is lodging in. Slowly he makes his way down to the ground floor where the pub has been closed for many hours. It must be at least 3pm in the morning. The whining and gargling sounds grow louder as he descends the final flight of stairs. What he sees as he turns the corner will stay with him forever. Regardless of what he had called her the night she left his Dad, she was still his Mum.
Seeing her with her hair pulled out, face covered in blood and bruises. Her Roman nose smashed beyond repair and blood and broken teeth dripping from her mouth. He vaguely recalls seeing the twisted and angry face of her assailant moving towards him. He knows the face well by now, it is the face of the man he had mistaken for his Dad that fateful day when his World had changed forever. The red mist descends again. Then he blacks out.
The nurse is hovering over him. His head is hurting like hell. He sees himself in the mirror. His head is bandaged like an Egyptian Mummy. He has had 8 stitches in the wound. They had to wait for the swelling to go down and make sure there was no fracture to the skull. His mum has hit him with a glass soda syphon from the pub bar.
Realising his mother had been a long-term alcoholic to the point she accepted a man who would beat her to the point of near death as her ideal partner was hard to deal with. Realising that she would choose the beast over her own son who would try to protect her was completely heart breaking
His stepfather’s wounds would heal quicker than his own broken heart and shattered spirit. A broken leg, fractured wrist and several busted ribs make his stepfathers life uncomfortable for a while but nothing his own alcoholism won’t help him deal with. However the facial disfigurement caused by the wine glass used to try to cut his eye out would leave him with a life long memory of how his own brutality had rebounded on him.
On his own again the boy accepts violence now as second nature. It hadn’t come naturally to him but now it acted as a cloak of protection. Hit out first before being hit. Hurt before being hurt yourself. It’s a twisted reality but for a period its the only reality he knows!
The Years pass, the Boy becomes a Man. His struggle with depression would not manifest until later in life when his self doubt and insecurity would lead him into troubled waters and he would seek solace in alcohol & drugs. The black dog of depression would start to haunt him after a high profile business success turned to dust and then his father contracted severe Alzheimer’s before they could finally make their peace.
The memories fade and the pain subsides but a childhood lost is a childhood never regained. The angry boy never stopped being angry he just became a fragile man!
He would tame the violence and the anger but the sadness remained constant It would never be far away no matter sunshine and laughter. He could always turn the light on but never make the darkness leave the room entirely.
“We are not on this earth to accumulate victories, things, and experiences… but to be whittled and sandpapered until what’s left is who we truly are” Arianna Huffington
If you know of a young person who you have reason to suspect may have encountered ACE”s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) please encourage them to seek help – Depression can be harrowing for young people to deal with due the negative narrative and stigma attached to the term mental illness. Untreated though it will potentially cause anger and frustration that can all too easily lead to confrontational issues and in some cases violent tendencies.
It can be treated though. Those suffering in silence just need to be understood. To share their pain. To be assured they have a place in society. That things will get better if they allow people to help them
The Amy Winehouse Foundation http://amywinehousefoundation.org/our-work/find-help/