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Sunday, 30 April 2017


We learn lessons throughout our lives but none more enduring than those learnt in childhood.

It’s said that the strongest motivation that living organisms experience is the urge for self-preservation and this is evident in even a one cell organism.  Pain and fear are the two things which immediately kick-start this will-to-live into action.  Pain being evidence that all is “not well Batman” indicates that in order to survive the pain must go.  Fear needs no physical pain but often depends on a related or personal memory of pain and the knowledge that it must be avoided.

Children are not always as cognizant of all the dangers that could impede there self-preservation so fear must be related to them.  For a long period of time parents become the self-preserving agent in a child’s life; A mother cautions a child that the stove is hot and any contact between it and the child will result in pain!  

This works for reaching - but what about turning those knobs?

My father was more of a physical hands-on type of person so had a different method of fulfilling his duties, let me explain:

As I’ve mentioned before (perhaps too frequently) we lived in a rough and tough neighbourhood where fist fights were an accepted method of settling differences and where Darwin could have studied all he needed to know about survival of the fittest  without going to the Galapagos Islands!

I can’t honestly say I met a lot of bullies in my childhood, but, at about the age of ten years, or maybe even less, I did meet one and that was enough.  He punched me in the face and as a consequence I had a nasty- painful-fat lip.  I can’t remember the motive for this interaction but I can remember my father’s response.

Dad was a great admirer of the boxer James John Corbett known as “Gentleman Jim”

 (Here’s a Wikipedia link if you want to take a short dive into boxing history.) And, although Dad never, as far as I know, took part in the sport himself, he did love to listen to radio broadcasts of matches and I’m sure secretly considered himself a “boxing expert”.  With this in mind he set about providing me with the self-preservation skills I needed for the area we lived in.  He taught me how to box!

No wild silly slugging for me. No, no. I was taught the proper stance for the feet, methods for protecting my face, and where to aim my punches for the most damage to the opponent.  He was very pleased to discover that I was a “Sourf Paw”, apparently to be so is confusing for one’s opponent. 

He also told me that if I sensed an altercation about to erupt then I should be the first to deliver my deadly South Paw blows, offense being the better part of defense.

I never did get the opportunity to exhibit these undoubtedly superior boxing skills because from then on, the tormenting boy never even came close to me.

Unbeknownst to me, my father also had another parental method of securing my self-preservation; albeit somewhat unorthodox it was quite acceptable in the area we lived in. 

The family story suggests that he set his alarm to wake himself up at some ungodly hour in the morning, long before the sun had risen. Whereupon he marched down the street to the bullying child’s house and pounded on the door.  The boy’s father still groggy from sleep opened the door to be met with a well placed fist at the end of my father’s arm.  “That’s a reminder to stop yer boy from ‘itting my girl!”.

This method though crude, assured my self-preservation for the time being!  But, let this be a warning: despite never having had to use these skills, this rather ancient grandmother stills remembers what I was so carefully taught and I know that a swift offense is the best defense!

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