From my first two years at Junior’s in the army, two people spring to mind; both of whom had had religious upbringings; and strangely enough they both had the same surname!
The first was a Irish lance bombardier, Phil, working as an instructor, and was my fiddle teacher for a while whilst I was there, the other was a boy a year older than me, in his second year, and a violinist training to join the Artillery Band, Peter. They were very, very different.
Phil was a nice, friendly, intelligent young man. A good musician, bright, and well, just…just a good person. Why was he there? Well, on consideration now, it seems obvious he had everything planned in his mind. He came from Ireland, which was a God forsaken place, particularly at that time, and Ireland, just like for many others, offered him absolutely nothing in life. However, in the British Army, he saw a future, a career, an escape. At the time, I didn’t consider why he was doing what he was doing. One thing I do know is that he tolerated a lot. I know he was treated badly on occasions, but carried on without complaint. In hindsight, it’s now very obvious to me he was right, in everything. Slowly and surely he worked his way up through the system, and now holds one of the very, very top positions in UK military music. He certainly deserves everything he has achieved in his high-powered career; moreover, I think I can safely say he was guided by his profound Christian beliefs. Good for him.
Bullying was nothing new to me when I joined the military. I had previously gone to an awful school where I lived, where there had been many kids of who I would honestly have cheerfully never met. Bullying had been rife! As a panacea for all of this, I, and a small group of friends, missed Wednesday afternoon games for four years because of the uncontrollable and indiscriminate beatings that went on in the changing rooms!
The idiots were relatively easy to avoid at school, either by altering your route here or there, or simply not going at all. But in the Army, things were not so easy. At Juniors, the first two years, when I was 16 and 17, it was a bit more like The Lord of the Flies on ecstasy! I was young, and not worldly wise, and it was my first time away from home. But the level of bullying, especially at the weekends, when the adult instructors were absent, was alarming.
I have no idea why I put up with it. Now I would probably go to the police and report them all. But then I had no master plan, like Phil, but, probably due to my upbringing, I just went on.
Returning to Peter. Peter was a young black boy, adopted into a (white) Christian family. His father was something like the deacon of Walthamstow or somewhere. I would really love to meet him again now as he was then, and me in the present. There were many different issues going on, obviously, but nothing seems to matter much now. Nevertheless, the result was at that time particularly nasty. So at weekends, there were beatings by Peter and many others.
Character building? Well, perhaps: I am certainly who I am today also because of the lunacy that went on in that institution, but I certainly wouldn’t put up with it now. As I said before, I would either go to the police, or perhaps fight back with vengeance [with Mr Trump’s automatic rifle!], or more likely still, leave after the first thirty minutes!
So why am I talking about Peter? Because he was religious. Apart from being a sadistic bully he would also touch boys up whilst they were sleeping. All of which was covered up at Junior’s. He was a very mixed up kid. Kid, nonetheless, he was. Just one year more than me. I’ve never interested myself to what ever happened to him after, but I believe he didn’t have a very happy time when he got to his band. He in his turn had been given a hard time; probably because of the colour of his skin and also his sexuality.
Karma! Perhaps not. Just sad!