Smirking From Home

Turning ideas into words.

The Best Laid Plans.

Fear takes on many forms. Without doubt there’s the brown trouser instances of fear, moments which would genuinely scare the insides out of anyone. Having a gun pointed at you would be high on that list of frightening experiences. I can only imagine what that might feel like and like most individuals would have no desire to discover what it would be like. Being assaulted would be another, a few smacks in the gob that arrive without warning or ones that you knew were inevitable because your fat legs couldn’t move fast enough. I have to admit having first hand knowledge of the latter kind. 
I never mitched from school, except for one unfortunate time in my fifth year there. I enjoyed high school immensely so there was no real excuse for non-attendance.  Near the school itself were the ruins of an old tower. I say tower, but to be honest, it was more like a crumbling old mini-castle which belonged to some bigwig of yesteryear. For the life of me I now cannot recall the name but I do remember the surrounds of the property. It sat proudly on the crest of a large mound with what resembled a dry moat at the base. There were numerous trees in the vicinity making the whole scene rather picturesque. At lunchtimes the tower was a popular haunt for those in the older classes in school. Many, including myself, would gather there to muck about and generally act the eejit. This usually consisted of forming groups and throwing stones at each other. I’m sensing many a raised eyebrow at this point and with good reason. Such is the folly of youth that such a pastime seemed normal in those heady days of adolescence. I now cannot imagine what would have happened if one of those projectiles actually connected.
Our lunchtimes didn’t solely consist of mock warfare at the tower. It was more common to just chill out under the sun and shoot the breeze. On that fateful day, an impromptu plan was hatched to head back to the school, gather our belongings and return to the leafy surrounds of the tower to spend the afternoon enjoying the privileges of being one of the seniors in the school, namely that we thought we could do what we liked. If I recall correctly, there wasn’t much happening that afternoon so the guilt quotient was remarkably low, unusual for young Catholic boys at a school run by the De La Salle Brothers. A guilty conscience was a pre-requisite growing up in those days, whether you were involved in anything roguish or not.
Actually in hindsight it was PE we were supposed to participating in that afternoon. There’s a reason I remember this well, one of those “bloody hell, what if”, moments you have on occasion. My PE kit resided in a tattered old green, leathery holdall with the strap slowly unattaching itself on one side. Also inside the bag was my Walkman, one which played cassettes. This was 1991 after all and long before I could ever have afforded a CD player in any shape or form. It was only after the subsequent events that followed that it occurred to me what I might have lost.
We arrived at the tower as planned and everything seemed as it should have been. The weather was warm and welcoming, no need to wear our heavy blazers or shocking blue jumpers. What we hadn’t anticipated was that we would have company and our idyllic day descended downhill rapidly.
As mentioned previously, we were not active in the dark art of truancy. First time for everything and so forth. IN our rush to carry through our cunning plan for rest and relaxation, we forgot to contemplate that there may have been others who were of similar intent, ones for whom skiving classes was not just a regular event but a badge of honour. It was to be our misfortune that they had actually even bothered to turn up to school that day at all, even only to scarper after lunchtime as was apparently normal. We were impinging on their territory that afternoon, with the added inconvenience that we, as casual, inexperienced mitchers, would attract attention to their habitual arrangements. It’s only now, when I look back on that day, that I realise were disrupting something more than just truancy. It makes sense now why these budding young hooligans never fully engaged in the schooling process, preferring to wander around half-dazed most of the time. Add naivety to the guilty conscience. The tower did have a reputation for being a drinking den amongst the hallions of Cox’s Demesne, the local sink estate, at the weekends. Seemingly it wasn’t just confined to Friday or Saturday nights.
What followed happened in a whirlwind of teenage cruelty, casual violence and nausea. Funnily enough there is still the odd occasion when I get a cold shiver thinking about it. It started almost immediately. Our belongings were wrenched from our grasps, the contents of satchels and holdalls, mindlessly emptied down the sides of the mount. For some reason I had taken my Walkman from my bag on the way there and it was safely in the inside pocket of my blazer. You can understand now why I breathe a sigh of relief about that day. The occasional fist was flung, at this juncture not towards me, mainly due to my normal cowardly position of not wishing to become involved in a ruck, such was my ineptitude at scrapping. You could feel the tension, the slow dawning realisation that all was not going to end well. A rare moment of calm ensued as we gathered up our scattered sportswear and schoolbooks. Had their sadistic interest in us subsided?
Ahhh, the chase. We had quickly and wisely opted to leave. To stay would have been a request for a beating. AS we trundled off towards the large iron gate which guarded the entrance to the mount, the gallumping of thuggish hooves was heard. One last infliction of misery to sate their bloodthirsty lust for violence. We ran. I was never the fittest person in the world but could move if the mood took me. The mood was up that day but the pins weren’t. Smack! Two jabs to beak later and I was allowed to depart, my tail firmly between my legs, my mind suffering a dizzying incomprehension of the previous 10 minutes.
We never went back.
To me, that day encapsulated was it means to be afraid. If asked to recall a time when I experienced fear of the intensely physical kind, that sunny afternoon in Dundalk, in 1991, will always be my choice. There’s something inherently frightening about having an ideal situation or scenario ripped away from you without warning. It’s the feeling of helplessness, the damning inevitability of what was about to happen and the sickening sense that you could do nothing about it whether you wanted to or not.
Note: I had intended to write about a more light-hearted interpretation of fear. This story was supposed to be the introduction but the stream of consciousness took over. If I were to continue with this post both ideas would clash and be lost in a wordy stew. I do believe, however, that there is space for both humour and seriousness in the blog. I hope you will agree.

February 15, 2010 - Posted by | I Am What I Am, Times Past | ,

1 Comment »

  1. “Having a gun pointed at you would be high on that list of frightening experiences. I can only imagine what that might feel like and like most individuals would have no desire to discover what it would be like.”

    Aye, had that at a nightclub once – wasn’t fun, to be sure. Although alkiehol dampened the fear factor somewhat. The fellow outside who was stamped on and stabbed to death probably had a worse evening, mind. Violence at the hands of monkeys is a sad reality in this sordid world we inhabit. Stick to areas known to be safe and you should be alright, as a general rule.

    Comment by Bonz | February 16, 2010 | Reply

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