No 1 of 69 Blondes with Penis Envy
Adventures of a lifetime in gender politics
Even at that young prepubescent age I had concluded that Miss Reynolds, my primary school teacher, was the most beautiful woman that might ever have existed within or without or beyond my short life time.
At home I lived with three women; my mother and two much older sisters who offered me no advice, nor hint about what I might expect to discover in the course of time, about women; what might happen if I fell in love, what I should do about that, or otherwise how to cope with being heartbroken.
Furthermore, what would be "penis envy" or a "vagina monologue" and all that other stuff that might deserve further investigation in due course.
Miss Reynolds was in fact the first woman that grabbed my attention in that way. At that tender age of Nine Years it was not the education she was providing that attracted me to her but something else unexpected and intangible.
Miss Reynolds had a head start over all other candidates for my affections. She happened by chance to be my very first unrequited love, inappropriately so, or not.
I adored her because she was blonde when I only otherwise knew brunettes and grey heads. Unknowingly I felt the impulse to objectify women or at least that woman before me, Miss Reynolds.
I had not yet realised that this might be problematic. I was nine years old. She was gorgeous.
But then Miss Reynolds was also kind and took me out of class one day to attend to a persistent council house rash I had on my face. Yes, we were alone and yes, my muse pampered my face close up and personal. That fortuitous rash was blessed; it provided intimate access to the Miss Reynolds' fragrance and a lingering look into her hazel eyes.
Miss Reynolds applied lovingly the ointment to my cheek. I was stained as if I had been dipped in incandescent ink.
Nevertheless, I wore the purple hue with a big smile and for the rest of the day was blissfully unconcerned about the gaping stares that came my way.
During each and every music lesson that Miss Reynolds conducted, she allowed me to think I had a voice like an angel. She made me sing a particular song unaccompanied once a week without fail. She obliged me to face the class so I could see the effect I was having on Beryl Simmonds in the front row.
Beryl rested her elbows on her desk and held her head in her hands. Beryl swooned for me.
I could not see the effect on Ms Reynolds because she always sat behind me as I sang. It was her choice of song and her repeated demand that I sang that song week after week after week. That nine year old ME knew even then that I was singing for Miss Reynolds and not for Beryl Simmonds.
It did not occur to me then that such swooning is unusual, and I am still waiting for it to reoccur 60 years later.
My least favourite teacher in primary school was the deputy head Miss Austin, a stooped arthritic old lady in tweed, who never allowed her demeanour to stray for one moment toward a comforting smile. With her constant scowl, she controlled the assembly of the whole school of tiny people, of which I was just one.
No infants were taller than the dais of the stage in the school hall, where the least favoured teacher made us wait while she surmounted the great height way above us. We all waited in complete silence as she made her slow and purposeful ascent.
I wondered why she bothered, since she was already taller than us all and it was an arduous struggle for her to mount the steps. Nevertheless, she did so every day without fail.
From the lectern at the centre of the stage, she more than compensated for her stoop, and was able to look down upon us all.
From there she conducted prayers and demanded songs of praise that were drilled into us on a daily basis. I loved to sing. I willingly acquiesced to her demands regardless of her demeanour.
One morning Miss Austin broke her routine and came down amongst the pupils. She shuffled up and down each aisle of pupils like a dog checking out each lamp post, briefly placing her snout up against the face of each child as we sang. In this way she selected a school choir of angels. I was duly selected but then Miss Austin required a soloist and asked for volunteers from the chosen choir. Nobody spoke up. She then asked the whole school to nominate.
"Charlie Monk, Miss" said one voice. Then another, "Colin Butler, Miss." "Karen Miss."
The rest of my class joined in and my name was called out more frequently and fear took over me as I wondered whatever next.
Miss Austin required me to sing a verse or two of that morning's hymn.
My angelic voice dried like a dead mouse in a cathedral.
"NO NO No No No NO," said Ms Austin.
"That wont do".
Nine year old me was shamed and humiliated in front of the whole school and Colin Butler got the gig. And he was a year younger than me.
David Green was a very naughty boy in my class; some might say.
Most of my primary school class of boys and girls were well enough behaved as far as I can reliably recall. I made no judgement then about David Green's behaviour and it seems churlish to offer an opinion now that we are both uncomfortably close to seventy, ... so I wont.
David brought to school a grubby sepia picture of naked African natives assembled together by an early white anthropologist/ adventurer.
He passed it around the class under tables so we could each have a sneaky look.
At the centre of the picture was, it seemed, the alpha male of the African village resplendent with bangles and headgear, and very little else. So naive was I about that which hung to below his knees I was more puzzled than shocked. Other pupils including the girls were more knowing and that bewildered me.
Yes, I was a boy, and yes I do have what I now call a penis but nothing quite like the apparition that confused me on this my first ever view of naked men and yes, naked women.
I was curious about David Green's photograph but also about David Green. He was different, unusual, precocious and overly self assured, but also what I would now call a touch camp. When this nine year old David Green spoke other nine year olds listened. And of course when he shared his access to mysterious otherworldly stuff, we all checked it out with due curiosity.
But then David Green decided to share his grubby picture with Miss Reynolds.
"What is that Miss?" he said pointing at the centrepiece of his picture.
Little mouths fell open as we all witnessed David Green's audacity.
Miss Reynolds looked down at David's picture; her bottom lip dropped and quivered. She took huge gasps of air trying to avoid bursting into tears. Her chest inflated and deflated rhythmically. I gulped with awe. She snatched the paper out of David's hand and left the class room in a hurry.
She was gone for some time and during the interval normal teacher-out-of-classroom behaviour ensued: pushing and shoving and shouting and laughing and dancing..... missile launching.... Etc.
I remember that even then I preferred to create my very own day dream state to pass the time of day, particularly if Miss Reynolds was not available to enchant me. As missiles flied I read a comic. My neighbour Beryl Simmons tried to get my attention. I steadfastly continued to follow the adventures of Dan Dare.
This may have annoyed Beryl who started slapping me on the arm. After about six slaps received I responded impatiently with one of my own.
Beryl Simmons immediately and enthusiastically started to cry. She then had my full attention. I looked at her and wondered if she would ever stop crying, because of course I knew even then that there would be consequences if she did not stop crying.
Miss Reynolds may have been embarrassed about re-entering the class and her need to re-establish her authority, after loosing it, but Beryl was still crying when she returned.
"What is going on here?"
"He hit me"
"Charlie Monk hit me."
"You did what? "
Without asking for my side of the story I then received a slap from Miss Reynolds.
In this way I learned that six unprovoked slaps delivered is not equal to one slap of provoked retaliation.
Miss Reynolds restated her point by delivering a second slap.
"That didn't hurt" I might have said.
David Green's puckish behaviour had created this cycle of blows and I clearly came off worse.
Miss Reynolds and I fell out of love.
Soon after, we noticed she was getting a mysterious fat belly and she left the school without saying goodbye.
On this particular morning the whole school silently watched the ascent of the daily scowl during which Miss Austin failed to acknowledge anyone. In her well-practiced manner she completed her slow shuffle and came to rest an arm on the lectern. She then signalled the commencement of a hymn followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
That morning she prematurely abandoned the normal procedure and made her way off the dais slowly, but with a more assured shuffle down toward the assembly of tiny people. We all wondered what she was up to since we had not seen her do this before. She shuffled about and then amongst us; I watched her walk between an aisle of children.
Without warning she raised her elbow back and thrust a punch into the small of the back of David Green.
Oddly, I recall this event as if in slow motion. It is possible that shock can render the victim of violence and even the witness of it, numb or indifferent. At that age I doubt that I would have had a moral compass to enable me to comprehend what had happened, but I certainly did not like what I saw.
The least favoured teacher shuffled amongst us some more, and in fact came up somewhere behind me. No one dared to turn around, but I soon discovered that I was in fact her next target. I also took a blow in the back and I had no idea why.
These were not slaps or smacks; these were seemingly unprovoked and unexpected punches with a fist, albeit a withered old arthritic fist.
Oddly, neither I nor David Green were reduced to tears by this public humiliation. The blows we received were potentially damaging physically, but even now I recall this event with a vivid sense of injustice, but also of utter contempt for this wicked woman.
I think maybe tears are less appropriate or necessary if you have no guilt.
The whole school had to wait for the least favoured teacher to make her journey back to the lectern. This was the second slow accent of the day.
When she finally looked up to address the school we were all given a lecture on how to pray. David Green and I were offered up as examples of how not to pray, and what might happen to anyone who did not follow her instruction, and these were of course instructions that she had never actually given hitherto.
My least favourite teacher required that David Green and I pray with hands closed flat and not clasped with interlocking fingers in the manner of St Francis, as depicted by Francisco de Zurbarán in the 16th Century.
For this sin alone, St Francis would be punched in the back by Miss Austin, who might today have been prosecuted for what she did to David Green and I.
I am left wondering how the other class room teachers present stood by
I came across David Green 10 years later when I was avidly seeking girls to join me in the back of my very bouncy Morris Oxford. I was unsuccessful in this pursuit. I believed the stories of sexual conquests by my small group of friends but they may have lied to me as I had lied to them.
I was told that David Green was having a party and that this would be the occasion where I might get lucky. I alone had the transport. My bouncy Morris Oxford had yet to be fully utilised for carnal pleasures.
Four friends who had not yet acquired a driving licence packed into the Morris, all equally hyped about what we might encounter at David Green's party.
We rolled up to an inauspicious neighbourhood and we stumbled into a small flat where I met David Green after the interval of ten years since we last met.
An awkward meeting ensued. Where we hoped in some forlorn expectation to meet suitable girls, there were none.
That 10 year interval was a fallow period of awkward adolescent sexual awakening, but then my Morris Oxford passengers and I discovered that David Green had already married and divorced a girl before any of us had barely got started in pursuit of the opposite sex.
David showed us around his flat. He opened a cupboard in the hallway and took great pleasure in showing us what belonged to his ex-wife and what I now know was a dildo.
At that time I had no idea what it was because there was no Internet and I was otherwise uninformed. I was clearly expected to know what it was, so I just nodded as if I was in on the joke.
Disappointed with the no-girls-at-the-party situation I took everyone home. Nobody mentioned the dildo or speculated about what it was or what you might do with it.
However, we did all smoke Anchor cigarettes in my Morris Oxford would-be sex machine. In that respect we were fully accomplished young men.
Did we smoke?