I don’t believe in fate, we are masters of our own destiny and choose which path to walk upon, even when we may have asked for divine inspiration. So, it’s a little strange how a recent conversation with my sister about something that happened over 40 years ago may shed some light and provide proof, that the road I’m currently treading is the right one.
I’ve always loved sports and always played them, even those I didn’t like, cricket and golf for instance, at least I tried them and, if I’m honest, I was reasonably okay at most them and a little better at some others.
Martial arts though, was never really on my radar. I tried Judo once, didn’t like being thrown by a smaller guy (when you’re 14ish the arrogance of youth does tend to cloud the actual purpose, I kick myself now for not understanding this purpose) and I tried boxing, which I enjoyed, but the guy I went with didn’t so I never went again.
I count myself reasonably determined and, although growing up I was ridiculed for being part Italian, I seemed to develop a self resolve that to some extent protected me. I was bullied (like many kids) for being slightly different, accentuated by my parents ridiculous request that I be excused morning assembly on the grounds that I was a Roman Catholic, great! Because it made me even more different and an even better target.
Now funny thing is, I never ran to my parents, teachers or friends about any of this treatment which involved, pinching my football (I was seldom without one) slapping me around the head, calling me names, challenging me to a fight or having me walk a gauntlet of punching and kicking.
I always stood my ground (and got verbally and physically slapped) and I never ever crossed the road when the bullies, having spotted me, advanced in my direction. My fighting prowess at the time involved stoic determination to take the slap and move on, or to push my way through. I never ran, because that meant they would just look out for me the next day.
Why did I do this? I don’t know. And I cannot for the life of me remember any individual I looked up to who behaved in that way. My mindset, even at that age was not to show fear, hide it (even though I was afraid) don’t cry (even though at times I was in pain) and eventually the bullies gave me up as a hopeless case.
This attitude stayed with me well into my teens, but became suppressed after a few years exposure to the grown-up world. Yes I got into scrapes, some of them, looking back now quite funny. Like the time we were being chased after attending a disco at Ashcroft by a large group of ‘tin town’ neanderthals, and my bright idea of convincing my group of mates to stand our ground and fight.
Great idea until I stopped, faced our pursuers, challenged them and then realised that my ‘pals’ had actually not stopped running and I was now on my own. In those days (before I stupidly started smoking) I was quite fast, so I legged it and while overtaking my mates, called them all the names I could think of!
But anyway I digress. Even though I clearly remember these episodes others have been clouded and misfiled over the years so that they are beyond re-collection until someone jolts them into place.
I had the good fortune to spend Christmas with my two sons in Australia at my sisters house. It did take a while to accustom myself to both the jet lag and the most awkward feelings of displacement when looking at Christmas decorations in over 30 degree heat – and don’t even get me started about Boxing day on the beach! Anyway, my sister started re-calling for the benefit of my sons some of the things I’d done as a kid.
I wasn’t a great fan of my siblings, I was sporty they were the opposite, I read loads of comics and books they rarely did – so little in common. One day as my sister recalls she told me about a problem she was having with a girl at school (I was still at school myself at the time). This girl was bullying her, telling her she was going to get her, etc, etc you know, the usual bullyish two consonant, single vowel, guttural vocabulary.
Now apparently (and I have no recollection of this episode, but her telling it did fire up another memory later) I told her that she was to look the girl directly in the eye, to show no fear (even if she felt it) appear confident and to demand of her what her problem was – in short, not run away or cross the street.
And it worked! She left her alone!
So, it appears that over 40 years ago I was teaching the same principles of ‘confidence’ as a means of defence, that I am teaching now!
I was a little surprised, having forgotten the episode so we continued reminiscing, then, when we were clarifying other ‘memories’, I recalled the occasion I persuaded a violent drunk to leave the ‘Chelsea Girl’ shop she was working in next door to the Currys store I was working in, merely with a firm word and the offer of a cigarette (possibly the only occasion my bad habit came in useful).
So there you go, full circle!
Seems my vocation was mapped out for me all those years ago and I’ve just re-discovered it.
What was that I was saying about fate?
Must be predestination, preordination, predetermination, what is to come, the writing on the wall, luck, chance, predestiny – think they call that kismet.