I have had a few bogeymen in my life, mostly related to family. My father was a tyrant in the best sense of the word. He would gently explain why he was about to flog me to show, I suppose, that he was being reasonable. It stung nevertheless.
My mad great-aunts put the frighteners on me also as they were large, hairy and unpredictable, plus riding sidesaddle on a great deal of money. The one good thing about the school I attended as a jammy-faced urchin was that I have never known true fear since.
I was traumatized from the age of seven onward by a series of fearsome episodes inflicted on me by behemoth teachers and bully boys in dorms. I became adept at curling myself into a small ball of equal parts tie, blazer and grey flannel, then bouncing myself into the depths of a school closet in a futile effort to avoid violence.
If luck was smiling at me on the dormitory side of boarding school, it did not prevent the masters (teachers) from being perennially ready to enrich our lives with six on each.
Being expected to hold one's hand out to receive the strap struck most of us as insane, but there it was. The headmaster was the worst, and he alone dealt with the caning of "incorrigibles," which seemed to cover a large number of us.
The "head" was known as the Beak, and my turn for capital punishment came in my third year. On Sundays it was customary for the headmaster to give the sermon at our Church of England 11 o'clock service, and that week's theme consisted of the hell and endless damnation that awaited boys who stole lascivious looks at masters' wives and in particular those directed at his daughter, Margaret.
This came as news to us, for she was known as "the Maggot," not a looker. Just as he was speaking, a church moth flew into my agape mouth, which caused me to choke alarmingly, bringing on a series of strangled coughs. Somehow the Beak thought I was laughing. The sermon was forgotten as he leaned forward, pointing at me with a long white finger, and thundering "I will have you, boy!" A prefect escorted me to the school office and it was some time before I was able to sit down without extreme discomfort.
However, it was the spring when I really feared for my life and sanity: boxing season. As I have said before, I am a lover, not a fighter, and therefore do not, as others perhaps do, like blows to my head.
To make matters worse, I always seemed to be the smallest in my weight class. If it was the 60-to 70-pound category, I was 60 pounds fighting a 70-pounder, which is a large difference when one is but 10.
None of this was helped by my awkward need to wet myself upon entering the ring, which very much upset the next chap who had to use the chair in my corner. As a result, no one would give me a drink, no matter what the circumstances - bandages, yes, but no water. I had dry mouth that defied belief, so much so that I made small honking noises as I ran around the ring being pursued by a series of thugs over the gruesome season.
The Beak felt it was beneath the spirit of the sport for me to bellow "Help, for God's sakes" as I ran in circles, for it appeared to upset more than a few visiting parents. Finally, I would slip on my own blood and shoot out from under the ropes into the arms of the front row, much to the relief of all, no doubt.
In later years, I become quite skilled at snarling "Grrrrr" at anyone with aggressive intentions and it has seemed to work, thank goodness. I would much rather read. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @TheYYJMajor
© Copyright 2013