individuality

Primary school: Learning rebellion logically

Child, you can’t talk with your mouth full
You can’t seriously think maths is dull
Child, you can’t listen and talk
You can’t sing and walk 

Child, you can’t fidget in your chair
You can’t leave your coat there
Child, you can’t break a rule
You can’t be late for school 

Child, you can’t pick your nose here
Do you understand, is it clear?
Child, you can’t draw in handwriting class
You can’t go slow if you want to pass 

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On Obedience

I used to be so good you know
when I was in my youth
I used to be compliant
and always told the truth. 

I kept myself so spotless
with perfect clothes and hair
and used to smile so nicely
when others weren’t fair. 

Now I am getting older
my patience has worn thin
I swear and curse my colleagues
and drink a lot of gin. 

My sarcasm is boundless
my temper rather frayed
and you will be quite certain
if your welcome’s overstayed. 

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The declaration

Whoa, she thought. What was the point of getting out of bed, feeding the baby, putting the baby in his or her bed and then getting back into bed? It was cold in the middle of the night and there was never enough time for sleep. There had to be a better way and she knew what it was: let the baby sleep safely in the bed. That way she could sit up, feed, put the baby down, go to sleep and she’d never have to set foot out of the bed until morning – unless it was absolutely necessary to go to the toilet.

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Fear

For most of my life I’ve been battling fear
As a child, painfully shy
Never could meet anyone’s eye
Always afraid to speak up
Never let my voice be heard 

As I grew, it stayed with me
In my teens, my twenties too
Fear still there, some fears new
Becoming a woman, a mother, a wife
Navigating my way through life 

Then depression, anxiety, the fear grew
That dark, dense cloud suffocating 
All I could hear, myself, screaming
Inside, outside, around my head
My biggest fear - it would never end 

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Because Ah Matter

Like a rat up a drainpipe I shot back out that school gate lik’ the devil was on mah tail. This wasnae mah gig and ah wasnae unpacking. If ah was gonnae engage in education anywhere, it wasnae here. Ah totally had the fear and the battle lines between me and mah maw were drawn. Day in, day oot, ah was frogmarched through the gate as invisible anxiety stirred within. Opposing the forces at play, ah shot right back oot it.

“Get back here!” Gangley Gibson with the protruding teeth stomped a path towards me.  

“It’s no happenin!”

“We’ll see!”

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The Changing Room

“Go on!”

The curtain parts—a shaft of light—and then the hand appears. Something yellow with blue dots swims before my eyes.

“Go on!”

The voice comes again, insisting, inciting. I sit back on the little bench. The changing room is no bigger than a cupboard. A mirror, too big for the confined space, swallows me whole. The dress hangs on the wall like a corpse. I try to imagine myself inside the dress. I imagine mum, her eyes swimming with pride at the two of us, identical yet not identical. Her two little girls like ‘two peas in a pod’. A mirror image.

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Paul

Why do you get all the feelings, dreams, hopes which can't ever be used?

Paul is well educated, well travelled and well spoken. Tall, smart and interesting to talk to. He loves the theatre, painting classes and opera.

On his 40th birthday Paul went to The State Opera House to see Madame Butterfly for the first time. He cried hoping that nobody was looking. Nobody was.

Was it the intuition's voice about his own future?

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Destiny Rewritten

The year was 1983. I had just turned 8. I was still learning how to read and write and being dyslexic meant I was slower than the rest of the class. My father bought me a dictionary to help me with spelling and the meanings of words. Although, I think it was also to give him a break from answering my endless questions about things I was being taught at school. Mother was not interested; her hands were full from looking after my 3 other siblings. So my questions were either met with “go and ask your father” or “that’s a stupid question, go and make yourself useful”.

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The Turning of the Tides

As soon as the words had left his mouth, we knew they could not go unchallenged.

We knew somebody would have to do something and it would probably have to be us.

On that Tuesday afternoon, Mike Gilbert had made his entrance shortly after one o’clock. We rose to our feet and he nodded, “Good afternoon, class.”

“Good Afternoon, Sir!”

“Sit,” he motioned whilst speeding between the desks, distributing printed sheets of paper.

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Lessons

In games, we played Murderball, a prehistoric form of rugby with very few rules. There were two blue crash mats, two teams facing off against each other and a large brown peeling medicine ball. The aim was to move the weighted sphere to the opposite end and it didn’t matter how this was done. No laws of engagement existed, until one day, we weren’t allowed to play at all. A fellow pupil broke his collarbone, having been flipped mid-tackle.

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