Tuesday, January 30, 2007

To live or to die

Recently I had a four month period of unemployment.
During this time my self esteem and confidence hit an all time low.

I just happened to find a posting on a Canadian emigration website from my father. He was asking how easy it would be for him and his Russian wife to move to Canada.
The response was a long one and included the fact that if a relative of his was employed in Canada he would be able to move there.
So I receive an email from my father suggesting that I think of getting a job in Canada - he never even mentions the web posting, which I accidentally came across.
The manipulative poor sad old git!


One morning I walked up to the railway line nearby working out where I would throw myself in front of a train.
I could not find an opening in the bushes to the side of the tracks so I turned back to the house.

On telling a longtime good friend about this he told me 'If you ever feel like killing yoursel call me. Anytime night or day even if it is three o'clock in the morning ring me.'
This gave me a sense that at least one person valued me.
This was enough to help me realise how much pain my suicide would cause others.

Life is such a mixed blessing.
One can have reallly horrible experiences and one can have friends who one feels have arrived with the wings of angels.

Strangely enough the best friends i have are the least 'spiritual' friends.
Belongiong to a 'spiritual' order of ordained Buddhists I must say that my experience has tended to be that those closest to the edge are the most human - strange isn't it.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Introduction

I started at boarding school at the age of 8 in 1978 and left boarding school at the age of 18 in 1988.
The purpose of this blogspot is to enable me to publish my memories and experiences, of what was a mostly traumatic time in my life.
Now at the age of 35 I am at last coming to see the trauma of being away from a loving family for the formative years of my life.
What is it about the English that causes them to have children then send them away to be bought up by complete strangers - strangers who show no love and affection to these young children?
No other nation has it built into their tradition that the best education is believed to be one where a child is deprived of love.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What was boarding school like?

Well this is a difficult question to answer.

I will try it anyway with some examples.

An eight year child three nights in a row getting into a bed wet with urine - sleeping in this puddle of urine becasue he is afraid of having to take his wet sheets to the laundry (which is located at the end of the girls section of the boarding house).

An eight year old child, sleepwalking and, climbing into other childrens beds at night as he is lonely and sad.

An eight year old boy having his birthday in silence as no-one knows about it (except the teachers) and therefore no-one sings happy birthday.

An eighteen year old man pasting pictures of Vietnam all over his bedroom wall, at school, as the pain and suffering of Vietnam is what he relates to.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Yearning for love

Before I learnt to cut off my feelings I would yearn for my parents at weekends.

Imagine an eight year old boy sitting on the grass verge outside the school, in the countryside, watching the cars go past.
This young boy is imagining that the next car that passes is being driven by his parents.
Parents who will come and take hime home.
Parents who will hug him with joy when they see him.
This young boy at the same time knows that this is an impossibility.
But impossible things happen and the hope is more comforting than the despair he feels deep inside.
Soon he will even cut himself off from his hope.

I was that young boy.
I sat on the grass verge waiting for the impossible.
This is not a metaphor.
This is what I actually did, and no my parents did not come and take me away.

Coming to terms with this has not been easy - life is not fair or kind at times. Thers is however a choice - one can learn from these experiences or...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Daddy, why are you shaking?

As I was growing up my father was not around very much.
When he was there was an intensity to him. It was not rare for him to storm off after my mother asked him a question. He would go upstairs to his office or storm off in his car for a few hours.
Also while he ate his food his hads would shake so much that he had to lower his head towards his plate so that food did not fall off his fork.
His hands would shake so much that he would have to keep his arms stiff to keep the food on his fork.
It was as though he was about to explode - and at times he did screaming, raising chairs threatening to throw them at me, storming off and pretending to call the police on the phone asking them to take me away - these were all strategies he used to avoid others seeing his emotions and suffering.
He would regularly storm out of the house and drive off in his car for the day, on a weekend, after having an argument with my mother. Basically he behaved like a small child - the only thing was that he was a fully grown man and I was a small child!
To understand this I have had to imagine my father's childhood.
My grandfather was again full of anger. He tried to teach my father to swim by throwing him into a swimming pool. My father as a child tried to help his father, who was a mechanic, and all he was met by was being shouted at for passing the wrong tools. My father always seemed desperate for love from his father, as far as I can remember, and his father was never able to offer a kind word to him from what I remember.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What my mother told me to help me return to school

At a young age the end of the holidays usually signalled a time when I was in tears pleading with my parents not to go back to boarding school.

Responses included such platitudes as:

-"It will soon be over and you'll be back for the holidays" - yeah sure 12 weeks is a short time for an 8 year old.

-"Just think how hard the queen finds it making public appearences. The queen has to do things she does not want ot do." - We all know how unhappy the British royals have been.

-"There is someone being executed in France tomorrow" (a lie as it turned out) "just think about how he feels" - So it's my fault that I am being sent off to boarding school, I deserve this punishment.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Letter writing

From the ages of eight through to twelve one hour would be set aside each week for letter writing.
I took this opportunity at an early age to write to my parents asking to be taken away from the school.
The teachers discovered this and started to read the letters so I would slip a note into the envelope just before sealing it or write in the inside of the envelope.
I was to stay at boarding school through to the age of eighteen - these requests lasted a year (I was eight at the time) - I soon gave up asking to leave the school.
I came to the conclusion that my parents were not interested, did not care and deep inside I was building a view that my parents did not love me - despite all their letters being signed "Love Mum and Dad".



I recently discovered through my father that my parents were considering removing me from boarding school at an early stage. The reason they left me at boarding school was that my sister, two years older than me, was enjoying her time there. As my father put it I was sacrificed so that my sister could stay at boarding school and have an education. The logic of my family follows along this path "Both our children should have the same education, no favouratism, they should be treated equally". My father says - "The pain I feel is nothing compared to the pain I have caused you. I have been feeling so guilty about this.". He still does not get it - There is so much narcisistic pathology in the family that to this day he is still incapable of asking the question "How was boarding school for you?"

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The case of the pornographic magazine

At the end of a half-term my sister and I were with our parents at Waterloo railway station in London. We were waiting for the train to arrive at which point we would say goodbye to our parents and see them again in around five weeks time. I would have been around 9 years old at the time.
As one can imagine this is quite a difficult time for children about to leave their parents and go back to a school they may dread.
In this instance my mother was discussing with my father how she wanted to look for a copy of a pornographic magazine in a shop in the station. Despite my sister and I still being present she was getting quite restless wanting to get a copy of this magazine as soon as possible.
So off she went to the newspaper shop within the station, looking at the top shelves, and purchased a copy of this magazine for herself.
My sister and I found this rather strange at the time.
What I would say now.
For goodness sake - wait for the kids to go before getting your magazine. Also your kids are about to go away for five weeks. Have some discipline and give your children the loving goodbye they need and curb your sexual appetite for a bit.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Self Injury

Self injury is a way people cope with intense emotional pain.

The common view is this:
By injuring themselves the person has control over their pain and the self-inflicted pain is less than the emotional pain they feel.

In actuality:
The person who self injures does not feel pain from the injury inflicted.
They feel pleasure from this injury - the physiological component may be that the body produces endorphins which is why the pleasure is felt.

By the age of around ten or eleven I started to develop odd behaviours. Shoe laces were never to be crossed, cutlery was always to have the knife facing inwards and I would frequeltly do things in fours as four was a lucky number. I also started injuring myself. I would stand with the backs of my legs against radiators until I could no longer bear the burning sensation. I inserted sharp objects under a fingernail enjoying the pain caused.
All this behaviour was covering up strong and painful emotions that I was unable to deal with, principally because there was nobody to talk to about my loneliness,sadness and anger.
And it continues to this day...

Monday, October 10, 2005

What was family life like

My father swung between being kind and considerate to being enraged. It was not unknown for him to get ext6remely angry with a small matter. He would pick up a chair in the kitchen shouting, screaming and threatening me as a small child.
My mother would sit by not doing very much.
It was also common for him to storm off up to his office or get in his car and drive off for the afternoon after losing his temper.
As my sister said "He behaved like a small child." - and by the way my sister and I were small children. So there we were havng to be the adults while daddy lost his rag and mummy went silent.
I remember on an occasion when he returned from work - I asked "Daddy how are you" - "Shut up!" he screamed sitting in front of the television. My mother said "Let Daddy watch the news".
My mother was so caught in depression that she would sleep her afternoons away or would spend her time cooking - she was a very good cook.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Birthdays

I was one of those children unlucky enough to have my birthday during school term time.
This meant that from the age of eight through to eighteen my birthday was never celebrated except through cards and presents sent by my parents.
From what I can remember from the age of eight I was not to have a birthday cake until I was twenty one, except for one occasion. I was so surprised, on receiving a birthday cake at 21, that I did not know how to accept it. I was so out of the habit that people singing happy birthday, me blowing the candles out and the applause left me in a state where I did not know quite what to do.
Nobody sang happy birthday until my final year at the age of eighteen - and then to economise two peoples birthdays were celebrated at once.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Why I was sent to boarding school

I was way behind in my reading abilities at the age of six.
By the age of seven my parents decided that schooling in England, they lived in Luxembourg, was the best solution.
So the school was the problem - why it never occured to them that other children were fine at the school beggars belief. Actually the problem was that my mother was so depressed that she was unable to engage with me to help me learn. My father was so full of anger that he spent most of his time away from his family - writing his books and adding every bill and receipt up on his calculator "jut to check that the total is accurate" - talk about a fucked up family.
Twenty eight years on I have tried to understand the reasons for them doing this.
From what I have read and heard it is generally much more traumatic for a child to be sent away by parents who are still alive than for a child to be orphaned and adopted. This is because the child knows that the parents sent them away and the only conclusion they can come to, as to why they were sent away, is that they are at fault and are to blame.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Camp fires

From the age of 10 though to 12, at the prep school, Sunday afternoons was camp fire time.
The kitchens would supply us with paper, matches, bread, butter, lard and if we were lucky some sausages.
We may have bought some beans, firelighters, and other tinned foods to school after the half term or holidays.
We would have fires in groups of 5 or 6.
Getting the fire going was difficult as the wood was usually wet and firelighters were not always available.

First kiss

Ok so boarding school was not all about trauma.
My first kiss was fom an older woman. I was eight and she was ten.
Jessica Ockingdon persued me with an obssession that frightened me. She kept hinting at me that she would like to kiss me. I found her attentions scary.
One day she took me for a walk into the school copse. There she suggested we try a kiss. I aggreed hoping that it would put pay to her persuing me if I agreed.
She kissed me very delicately then asked me if it was ok. I agreed that it was not so bad.
So thank you Jessica Ockingdon for being the first person to fancy me enough to introduce me to a kiss, in such a kind and delicate manner.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Is homosexuality common at boarding school?

The school I attended was a co-educational school. That is the boys and girls were in the same lessons. The only difference was they were in different dormitories and sports were single sex.

So place yourself in the shoes of a young child far from home. With nobody to cuddle them when they are sad or hurt. What happens - well these children have a few options.

(1)Crush any desire for affection and touch.
(2)Seek this from other children.

Many of us, who have attended boarding school from a young age, learn (1) and we will usually have gone through (2), been thoroughly humiliated then learn to do (1).

Bearing in mind that dormitories are single sex I think this answers the question of where (2) comes from.

Punishments and rewards at prep school (ages 8 to 12)

A system existed wher one would get minuses for bad behaviour and plusses for good behaviour:

An example of what minuses and plusses might be given for.

Minuses:
-1 dirty hands before a meal, running inside, dirty shoes
-2 shouting
-3 late for meetings
-4 stealing
-5 spitting/swearing
Plusses:
+1 sweeping up a corridor
+2 being consistentky helpful
+3 giving your life for your country (me being sarcastic - oops that's a minus 3)

Notice anything here - yes it is much harder to get plusses than minuses and the plusses don't go so high.

Everyone belonged to a "House" - mine was called "Whites".
The plusses and minuses would all be added to your houses total.
Each week there would be a house meeting. Where the house master and mistress would read out all the plusses and minuses for the week, to everyone in the house, and you would have to justify, "what's your excuse", why you have minus points.

At the end of each year those with a total in the plusses above a certain point (I think it was +30) would be able to go out for the day to the beach for a picnic.
Out of the five years, I was in the prep school, I attended two of these outings.

A typical day at a preparatory boarding school (ages 8 to 12)

7.30 am a bell sounds and it is time to get out of bed.
7.45 am stand by your bed dressed for inspection of clothes and shoes (which must be well polished)
8 am meet outside in lines to be escorted to the dining room for breakfast
8.45 am assembly - hymns, biblical reading and anouncement of merits and punishments for the previous day.
9 am lessons start.
11 am break
11.30 am lessons
1 pm lunch
2 pm afternoon activities - sport or more lessons
4 pm break
4.30 pm lessons
6 pm line up to be escorted to dining room for supper.
7 pm homework - supervised and in total silence.
8 pm end of homework - depending on age of child either straight to bed or half an hour or so free time before bed.

Does this sound like prison life to you? It does to me.
Remember these are children who have not committed any heinous crime.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Weekends

Every weekend children had the chance of going home from Saturday lunchtime through to late Sunday afternoon. My parents living in Luxembourg, I was only to go out around four times in my whole time at the school with friends. On two occasions my mother visited the country and took me and my sister out for the weekend.
I had three Grandparents who lived nearby (within 100 miles) together with four uncles and Aunts in the country. Not one of them took me or my sister out for a weekend once.
So weekends would start at 4.30pm on the Saturday when our sports sessions ended. We would have until Sunday morning free. Sunday morning we would have a chapel service and would be free from lunch time through to the evening.

The lessons of boarding school

Don't ask for anything
You will be given what you deserve and no more - no less. Don't even think about asking for something. The teachers and prefects "know" exactly what you need and the treatment you receive will be fair and deserving.
This includes punishment - do not question any punishments handed out to you or the punishment will be increased due to your impertinence.

So I eventually learned to be quiet, retiring and frightened.
Underneath however there is a storm and battle raging.

Some kindness

The headmaster of the prep school, Mr Seddon, was capable of small acts of kindness towards the children. I remember him warming up our hands by rubbing them between his. This was after we had played rugby, or football for an hour or so outside in the snow and freezing wind. Unable to button up our own shirts due to loss of feeling in our hands he would button them up for us, while we waited for the blood to flow back into our hands and warm them up.

Early beginnings

At the age of eight I was still wetting the bed every night (this was to continue until I was fifteen). The other boys in the dormitory were very understanding of this and kind. However some of the teachers were less than understanding - one teacher describing the smell of urine in the room like a 'pig farm'. I had to walk through the school each morning with my wet sheets through to the girls part of the school (it was a mixed school) and dump the sheets in a washing machine. This was accutely embarassing and distressing for me. So much so that sometimes for days I would sleep in a puddle of urine, in my bed, so that I could avoid walking the emotional gauntlet each morning.
This meant getting into a cold wet smelly bed and trying to sleep, scared that anyone would find out that I had wet the bed.

It was not uncommon, in the early years, for me to go to sleep crying due to missing my home and parents.
After the lights were switched off there was a rule of "no talking". If the dorm was caught talking - we would be questioned and invariably all of us would be taken out into the corridor to stand with our noses against the wall for half an hour and/or beaten with a slipper.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Kyphosis

Emotional blockages and problems tend to exhibit themselves through the body.
Carreer driven, over-workin men are at risk of heart attacks.
How the difficulties have manifested for me are in a kyphosis.
This is an accentuated S curve to the spine.
As an osteopath said to me - "You seem to collapse at the chest".
So I have had a stoop ever since attending boarding school as a young child.

Sunday, December 31, 2000

So where am I today?

Well after 4 years at University studying computing and cutting off from my feelings even more I moved into a Buddhist community. Good move you may say - however all those unresolved issues have appeared again after some fifteen years of involvement and practise as a Buddhist. You cannot banish the demons - you can only get to know them better. The demons being all those dark, sad, unhappy hurt feelings that were locked away for so long.
I wondered why despite being a gifted computer programmer and a good classical guitarist I scored so low in IQ tests. Then I remembered I had to sit entrance exams at the age of 7 for boarding school. These exams consisted mainly of IQ tests. Remembering this has helped me to understand why I get bored with IQ test and just end up ticking any old box - IQ test seem to take me back to when I was 7 - it is as thoug I am telling myself if I mess up the IQ test I will not be sent away.
I find myself touchy, at times being a motor-mouth unable to just stay settled. Eating in canteens reminds me of the five years or so when as a teenager I rarely sat with friends to eat as I was a scared, timid and bullied young man. Relationships have just not happened - what with my mother's over-controlling zeal and being kept in a harsh institution for so long.
So there is much resentment around this area. Every morning as I wash I cannot help cursing my parents for what they did.
You may say 'Get a life!' - this is what I am trying to do - even after one and a half years of therapy progress is slow. All the progress I seemed to have made as a Buddhist at times just disappears as I sink into resentment, jealousy and wanting vengeance.