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An unwelcomed thwack on the nose

Memory Lane | | June 2017

'Mother told me to fight back and I did'; a 'literal child' is sent to bed with no supper

I suppose I always was a literal child. I guess it was why I later found success in an engineering career. I grew up a literal kid and never really changed.

I must have been six or seven years old and my parents were what were then called respectable working class. It was the 1950s and we didn’t have much but they managed to acquire for me a second-hand child's bicycle. I learned to ride it without stabilisers, a fact I was inordinately pleased about. So much so that I would ride the bike up and down the pavement outside our terraced house incessantly.

In those days, our mothers would sit on the doorsteps, which opened directly onto the pavement, so they could chat with neighbours while keeping an eye on their children.

One fine day Roger, who was a couple of years older than me, decided that he’d had enough and pushed me off my prized bike. There ensued a tug-of-war over who should have the bike but I won this and Roger stalked back into his house.

I walked the fifty yards to my house and blubber about Roger’s outrageous behaviour to my mother, who had seen the whole thing. Her words of care and comfort were along the lines of: 'Oh stop crying! You need to learn to stick up for yourself and fight back. Don’t be such a baby. Give as good as you get.' And so on in this vein.

At that point I suppose a metaphorical light bulb went on above my head and I said:

‘All right, hold me bike.'

Then, thrusting the bike into my startled mother’s arms, I raced back up the road and into Roger’s house. I found him sitting down with his mother listening to, aptly enough, Listen With Mother on the radio.

I ran up to Roger, punched him on the nose and then ran back home. I was hotly pursued by Roger’s mother and Roger, whose turn it was to blub.

My mother apologised profusely, blamed me and I was sent to bed with no supper.

As I sat in bed that night I did wonder what I had done wrong. Mother told me to fight back and I did: but still bed with no supper. Of course, as a literal child this all struck me as grossly unfair.  An opinion I‘m afraid I retain to this day.