Will you kindly stop blowing your effing whistle at me, Madam?

I had an epiphany, on my lunchtime walk to Tesco, an escape from a frenetic staff room. I was passing a primary school. Young children were lined up and a teacher was blowing a whistle at which point the poor things were obliged to run, in the manner of circus animals it seemed to me. I suddenly felt angry as I remembered an unhappy childhood, defined in large part by women, and occasionally men, with whistles, or at least booming voices. It was a culture of shaming. And I realised that I had not been interested in running at their bequest, or learning algebra, or vainly trying to jump over a wooden horse under the mocking gaze of peers. I speak excellent, mellifluous French. I love communicating and listening and reading and speaking. My spelling is less accurate. But so what? Well, a lot apparently. Enough to fail the year. Twice. Along with Latin (for those mini breaks in ancient Rome.)And physics and science and German. I had no interest in them. What I wanted to do was art. I loved art classes, the smell of paint and the joy of a new canvas. I wanted to be an artist but adult voices warned and hissed and dismissed and tutted until the dream died and in its place grew walls of impenetrable shame and low confidence. It took decades for the spark to light up afresh. As I stood and the whistle shrilled in short blasts I wanted to shout. Enough of the fucking whistles. I recalled thousands of occasions when others have blown their little whistles at me, getting me to do things I don’t really want to do, learning things I don’t want to learn, being places I don’t want to be. I vowed that I will succeed in art, to be true to the child in me who wanted that. And with that I decided to take risks with income and career for the sake of my happiness.

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2 comments on “Will you kindly stop blowing your effing whistle at me, Madam?

  1. “We don’t do art for ‘O’level here, dear… how about Latin instead?” Now I wouldn’t have minded learning latin, but the dream of paint went by the board for another quarter of a century…

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