‘I don’t need anything, I got everything I need right inside me’. I ain’t sure that’s true at this time, but indulge me, read it with a Northern English accent in your head. That’s how I hear it, ironic as I was born and shaped on the mean streets of Stanmore, Belmont, Harrow & Wealdstone and Edgware. What is it about the working class image of Northern England that permeates the words that spill from my head? These same words that lack impact and beauty when roughed out in cockney tongue, despite the fact my natural accent is considered ‘cute’ in tinder dry lands such as these.These words that I share have been influenced by sheep grazing on fell sides, dry stone walls rushing past me grandad’s Ford Cortina, Manchester’s indie bands, Coronation Street, walks up Easedale Tarn and descents from the Langdale Pikes. By ‘Don’t look back in anger’, ‘Raining Stones’ and ‘This Is England’, Les Dawson, Last of the summer wine, Phoenix Nights’ and ‘A Grand Day Out. Somehow Jim Davidson and the crafty cockney fail to inspire me, though Mike Leigh and Vivienne Stanshall fare well.
From my predominant physical location, London, I chose to consume the rebellious and political side of youth culture. The punk movement and sound system culture, at times, reflected the hardcore socialist tendencies of my mothers family, My grandmother was one of my hero’s, a caring heart, sense of justice and a spic and span home. She taught me the art of caring about what happens down the street, around the corner and across the oceans. She tried to do something about the state of the world, sometimes she, along with the rest of the litter, succeeded. I continue that legacy but I’m less clear what to do about the injustice happening around me. In truth I’ve spent much of my time actuating an internal revolution, due to reasons that will become apparent sooner than you could imagine.
The London suburbs where I grew up were full of hatred and violence. Typified by the tribal battles played out on the terraces of England's top flight, including me very own beloved QPR. Small town crooks with big ideas vying for public house territories, ‘This is our pub, our manor, our land, our country, one hundred percent Anglo-Saxon, rule Britannia, Paki’s out and if you look at my girlfriend again I'll shove this glass in your face’.
I don’t care to remember how many times I saw young men dripping in blood, the perpetrator stood back, head down, broken glass in hand waiting to go again. That sound of glass breaking on the edge of a bar was my cue to drink up and leave. There was only ever one outcome. This world, disturbing as it was, simply echoed what I had known at home. The anger, fear, hatred and lack of self control demonstrated by these young men reminded me of my father, the main difference being he didn't have to be pissed. But at this time, when I got home I’d be safe, because he wasn't there anymore. But I wasn't safe from what was happening in my head and my body. I wasn't safe from thoughts of self loathing, hatred, anger, chaos, fear and pain. That was his legacy.
My father was a short man, but one of great power and strength. A god like fear ran through my veins when he called my name, or checked to see if I’d washed behind my ears. An all consuming physical awareness of impending danger, my senses on alert for the inevitable violent conclusion .The same fear consumed my mother and sister, the former felt the sting of his knuckles against her face as did I, ‘only twice though’, her words not mine. Seeing ya mum lying on a bed crying, trying to hide her injuries from her kids is once too much. After that she learnt to ‘back down’ to avoid more beatings, but he still controlled her with fear.
My sister escaped the beatings because her cowering at his deeply angry voice satisfied his lust for power and control. My mum moved to self preservation and learnt never to question the man. As for me, well I loved him, wanted nothing more than to please. Boys don’t cry, so I tried not to disappoint during bouts of aggression, after each strike I would tell him, “didn’t hurt”, I still hold that contrary rebel in my heart today, such rebellion was quashed immediately with more force, he’d belt me again, watch the tears well up in my eyes, I’d profess “it, didn’t, hurt”. One final strike would break what little resolve remained, the tears flowed and the snot streamed. Mission accomplished he’d leave my side to fetch some frozen vegetables, these would help reduce the evidence as well as the swelling,
I don't recall any remorse from him. I would sit alone for a minute awaiting his return, pondering what I did wrong, what is it about me that makes him so angry, how can I be what he wants me to be? All i had to do was be perfect. Put my toys away perfectly, wash myself perfectly, have perfect fucking table manners. My response to my fathers dissapointment in me was “sorry dad”, the subtext 'your right, this is all my fault, what I deserve'. The rational mind is non existent in this scenario, as a child I searched to discover the ‘thing’ that would make him stop hating me and start loving me. I never found it and I never will, because it doesn’t exist, it wasn’t about me. He once told his mate that he could leave the three of us and feel nothing. He followed through and I’ve not seen or heard from him for thirty four years.
If you have any idea how such treatment makes you feel then my heart bleeds for you. If ya don’t then I’m genuinely happy about that, though I don’t pretend my experiences are any more valid or distressing than yours. Most of us have crosses to bear around dysfunctional family. Many of my friends come from relatively privileged places, but many of them have experiences from childhood that have affected their ability to relate in a healthy way, most of us have work to do around this, how much work depends on the individual but also on the severity of the abuse, length of abuse, whether or not intervention was implemented, at what time, a myriad of variables. This is not a world of blacks and whites.
The truth is the abused people of this world struggle to relate to others. Such an experience in childhood leaves one with a very distorted perspective and an empty emotional toolkit. If your in a relationship with someone that’s been abused then this might be a useful resource. Might offer an insight into how irrational thought processes can become, especially when their primary source is fear and self loathing.
Such trauma that is now defined as complex post traumatic disorder (CPTSD). Often associated within the context of captivity or entrapment, this is a crucial point. As a child there really are no viable ways to escape abuse. We don’t have any power to remove ourselves from an abusive situation, moreover we love our parents. Even though my dad was physically and emotionally abusive to me, I wouldn’t have chosen to leave him, such is the bond. Also the alternative 'state care' often turns out to be an equally abusive environment.
I’m not a psychologist by trade, I'm sure you've worked that out for yourselves. What I am is a survivor of abuse, someone who’s spent their life dealing with and analysing the disabling effects of abuse. I'm trying to retrain my brain to avoid the triggers and thought processes that caused me to self destruct, time and time again. The impact of such behaviour was equally damaging for those closest to me. If I share this journey I can make a small difference to someone, somewhere.
Sometimes Everything Ain’t ‘Irie’
Is dis alright?
This self indulgent,
first world chore.
Where we still ain’t found what we’re looking for.
Amongst the nice cars,
double shot lattes in espresso,
for the child I was.
I bear a great big,
Does it make you uncomfortable,
to hear me dragging it down our street.
So everyone can see?
ya selves bout,
how I was scared for my life,
and put down every fucking day.
Or how frozen peas were the perfect accompaniment for welts and bruises in our house.
when I think about it,
or feel the pain of the kid I was.
I cry these eyes out.
And pull some really ugly faces.
Don’t blame yourself though 'pops,'
cos if I’d not done that thing wrong,
then you’d not have had to do this to me,
And if only I’d been a much better lad,
I coulda had those frozen peas with chips.
Where are ya now?
Pushing up some daisies?
Or wondering where ya kids are?
wishing you’d kissed us more,
and hurt us less.
I doubt it.
Dis lyrical wax,
ain’t intended to attract,
of those who do,
or don’t know me.
It’s just sometimes you gotta get this shit off your chest,
cos sometimes,everything ain’t ‘irie'.