My old dad often used to say “ Write some thing happy, a pop song. Never mind all this doom and gloom” yet he listened enrapt to Leonard Cohen. I guess I never did write the archetypal pop song but then again I am not saddled with having to sing In the Summer Time for my supper. My dad was the guy who suggested we call ourselves The New Brooms. This was the man who, not unexpectedly given his experiences, would some times espouse extreme Victorian values either to howls of derision or stoney silence. On matters of mental health and a psychologist’s prediction that one in five university students would experience some kind of mental illness, he once exclaimed “ Break downs! In my day you just had to pull your socks up and get on with it”. This was the non-conformist who walked with a sandwich board outside Warwick public school after Steve was expelled for having a non-regulation hair cut. Dad just got up and went out to do what could be done and I have always respected him so much for that. Back then we all sat an exam at the age of eleven or there abouts and Steve had achieved a high pass score which gained him a public scholarship to Warwick school which was paid for by the county. For the record the problem was just that Steve’s hair could not be parted and even when ordered back to the barbers, to have a “short back and sides”, it still had a “Beatle cut” shape in the front. The barber wrote a letter for our parents that stated Steve’s hair could not be parted according to headmaster Martin’s orders. Martin rather bravely told my mom, “ He would expel a boy for having ginger hair if he wished”. At that moment he was probably lucky to keep his head on.
I think this might well have had a far more significant impact on things than any of us could have known at the time, especially for Steve. Martin’s words have rung in my head as a symbol of prejudice and oppression ever since. All this was at a time when Williamson the head teacher at Leamington College which was the grammar school I attended, could and did cane you with complete impunity, until your buttocks were bruised and laced with livid weals. I knew the painful indignity of that all too well. The injustice of it all still rankles and these events are among those that still inspire me to protest and to continue to claim the right to do so.
Times have changed but there are still many offences and much exploitation perpetrated by grown ups on children and young adults. Given the most recent cases of abuse on children one might ask how dare anyone seek to improve any thing before we address the needs and rights of all of the children? Recently Noel Gallagher said a Unicef report ranking the UK bottom on child wellbeing across 21 industrialised countries "kind of makes me angry".
He added: "When the Labour Party got in it was all about children and education and yet 10 years down the line there's people saying that kids are better off in Poland. That's not right."
The EBB supports the NSPCC.
copyright e d g a r b r o u g h t o n 2007