Saturday, 9 July 2016

Wild child

My blogmate John says he would never have guessed I was pretty wild in my late teens. Clearly he sees me as a sedate, well-behaved individual who would never have done anything seriously outrageous or shocking.

Well, as I told him, my wildness was a predictable reaction to the very authoritarian boarding school I attended from thirteen to eighteen. While I was there, every minute of every day was tightly scheduled by those running the school, and deciding for yourself what to do was simply not an option.

There were precise times for getting up, having breakfast, going to classes, having lunch, doing homework, and every other routine activity. There were strict rules about what clothing to wear. There was a long list of prohibitions, like visiting the town centre or befriending the locals or writing to the papers. You were told what to do and what not to do, and woe betide you if you stepped out of line.

Not surprisingly, as soon as I left school and stumbled on the counter-culture of the late 1960s, with all its libertarian beliefs and emphasis on doing your own thing, I was hooked. Suddenly I could think what I liked, do what I liked, wear what I liked, go where I liked. After such regimentation, it felt utterly euphoric, and I got pretty carried away by my new-found freedom.

I grew a beard, I grew long hair, I wore gaudy clothes, I went around barefoot, I dabbled in drugs, I played rock music at top volume, I supported every left-wing cause going from gay liberation to easier abortion, cohabitation and equal pay. I went on protest marches, I chanted "kill the pigs", I took part in sit-ins and occupations. I lived it up and explored myself in a big way. Strangely, I was in no hurry for sex, and was unaccountably celibate till I was 22.

Of course inevitably once I got the freedom bug out of my system and felt confident I could be myself without being rapped on the knuckles, I simmered down and got a bit more laid-back. My tastes were much the same but I pursued them in a quieter, subtler fashion. I lost the beard and the long hair, got more choosy about my protests, decided drugs were not my thing, and so forth. And the rest is history.


  1. A perfectly normal reaction to a disciplined life I should say. It also reinforces my belief that you are more than you let out to be. Okay, these things happened when you were still a teen ager and in your early twenties, but the world was a very different place then.

  2. It's sometimes hard to imagine how a person was in their younger days. I was rather surprised the time my father told me that he and my mum once shagged on the stones at Stonehenge. Visual images aside it was nice to know that even my parents who I always considered rather square were young and carefree once.

  3. Ramana: A disciplined life is okay, but this was absurdly over-disciplined. The school simply didn't trust us with any vestige of autonomy. The world was certainly a different place then - going increasingly to the left, just as now it's going increasingly to the right.

    Dave: It is hard to imagine, isn't it? A girlfriend and I once had sex in the middle of Hyde Park, believe it or not. What were we thinking of? Actually I think people don't necessarily get more staid as they get older, they may just be better at hiding their bad behaviour.

  4. John: It's a funny old world.

  5. Your account - and that of your school days makes my heart go out to you - does confirm a long held opinion of mine. Namely, that it's always the ones who were kept on a short and tight rein who totally lose the plot when they are off the leash.

    I had a most liberal upbringing (as did the Angel) albeit with a strong ethical and moral code and what do you know - I wasn't a wild child. I had nothing to prove. Whilst I was renowned to roll a mean joint for my friends I was the one who never smoked it. I like to know what I am doing. Haze and fog are of no interest to me.

    The truly interesting aspect, not least as hinted by John here and in his comment on his original blog post, is perception. So, yes, from today's perspective it might seem surprising that at one point in your life Nick was a bit of a wild child. Now? However, and I don't know whether this is of comfort or downright irritating, fact is that the wildest of my wild friends metamorphosed into - I don't know - ... something rather sedate. Try and tell their kids what their father/mother was really like. They look at you in amazement, nay disbelief. Parents' double standards and all that.

    Main thing, Nick, it's great to learn more about you, your background. Anecdotes of the past are good - both for the soul and helping friends you make later in life catch up with you.


  6. You had a perfectly normal reaction once you left that boarding school, and experimenting like that is healthy, I think. Thank you for sharing that part of your life story.

  7. Ursula: I guess a lot of youngsters simply can't believe what went on in the sixties and seventies. It seems so wild compared with today's rather strait-laced emphasis on getting a degree, getting a job, paying off debts etc.

    I agree, I think children who're kept on a tight rein do tend to lose the plot when the tight rein is removed. They have little sense of normal boundaries and social rules. And yes, a lot of the manic tearaways morphed into something more subdued later on, as they realised they didn't have to be so full-on the whole time.

  8. Jean: It was very healthy. I explored all the parts of me that were heavily repressed at school and meant I became a more mature and complete and self-aware adult.

  9. I agree with Ursula. Behavior is often times a reaction to how one is disciplined or treated. My husband and I always comment that the worst people we ever met went to parochial schools. Ha!

  10. Bijoux: Very much so. If you treat someone roughly and callously, then don't be surprised if they turn angry, violent and unpredictable. I wasn't familiar with parochial schools - basically Catholic schools and all that implies?

  11. My parents belong to the 1968 generation . 16 years old my mum and 18 my dad in 1972.I got a very liberal education, so no real need to be a wild child. But nevertheless I made a lot of crazy things and still do this sometimes today. I think we need all to break out from the daily routine life fRom tim to time. Life is short and we got only one. So responsibilty most of time and a bit of fun to breathe.
    Mia More

  12. Mia: I envy your liberal education, mine was very traditional and uninspiring. True that we need to escape the daily routine sometimes and let our hair down a bit. And yes, life is short and if there is something unusual we want to do, we should just get on with it!

  13. I remember nothing. I was too pissed.

  14. Scarlet: Get away. I picture you as a total tearaway, rebelling vigorously against a genteel suburban upbringing and a strait-laced convent school.

  15. Bijoux: Faith schools have a lot to answer for, as Wise Web Woman can confirm from her own childhood. I think the number of faith schools in the UK is actually increasing.

  16. Imagine what it's like in the U.S. with all the unregulated "faith based" schools, charter schools, home schooling and so on.
    I'm from San Francisco and was through with the "scene" by the mid 60s. I thought the "summer of love" was a farce. It had no glamor for me. I don't even care for the music that much any more.

  17. Hattie: I imagine San Francisco at that time was so chock-a-block with hippies and beautiful people and dopeheads and all the rest of it, the attraction must have worn off pretty quickly if you weren't in tune with it. Personally I was never that taken by drugs or promiscuity or communal living. I loved the music and art and books and radical politics though.

  18. I agree with monk. it was healthy for you to go wild.
    it was like letting a prisoner out of a cage. and you were literally a prisoner.
    what a horrible school.
    I have always been partial to prince charles. he also went to a horrible school it seems. and he had to endure the fact that he was friendless due to his 'royal' situation. it must have been awful.
    I had an extremely strict father.
    but I adored him.
    and about the time I would normally rebel ... at 17 ... he died suddenly.
    that fact seemed to have put a lid on all of that. grief intervened.
    I did however marry at 19 and to a man 10 yrs older. and no.
    he was not a father figure. he was nothing like my father!
    it was a wonderful marriage and it NEVER would have been allowed had my father been alive.
    or... then... maybe I would have gotten a wild streak and eloped!
    we'll never know.
    like ursula said. it's great to know you even better nick.

  19. Tammy: Very sad that your dad died so young, but fortunate that you could then marry without his objecting. He might never have forgiven you for eloping. Interesting that you adored his strictness!

  20. you made me stop and think a bit nick.
    I think mother was a buffer for him.
    she was total warmth and fun.
    an auntie mame.
    and he made me feel safe and loved.
    there are men who are strict and it's cruel. he was never cruel.
    he was extremely fair. he expected a lot. but he expected the same from himself as well.
    you found yourself wanting his respect. that's all.
    his story is incredible. it's called
    'the good ones... jim reed'
    it will explain a lot! :)

  21. Tammy: Strict but fair, and you felt safe and loved. That sounds good to me.

  22. I think people who are transitioning out of something often have a strong reaction to whatever the original thing was - repressive school, strict parents, etc. Or post-divorce, as in my case. I think my kids would be wigged out by things I've done, but then again, I'd probably be wigged out by things my own parents have done. Probably just as well we don't generally have access to that information.

  23. Agent: I think parents tend to keep quiet about their own wildnesses, which often they feel acutely embarrassed about. My own parents have never confessed to any wild behaviour, but there must have been some. They can't have been that saintly!

  24. I don't keep quiet because I'm embarrassed, I keep quiet because I don't want to embarrass my kids!

  25. Agent: Fair enough!