Burned fingers

30th October 2015 at 00:00

“Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir…” My dulcet tones reverberate mournfully through the house. To mark the coming of the dark days of winter, I’ve got my guitar out and begun working my way through all the old Leonard Cohen songs I learned after being spurned by my first love at the tender age of 18.

During the bitter winter of 1971, I spent three desperate months shut up in my bedroom mastering classics like Suzanne, Bird on the Wire and So Long, Marianne. By the time I’d exorcised the misery of rejection, my mum had no hair left and my dad was working out where to bury my corpse.

Because this is the first time I’ve picked up my guitar since those lazy, hazy, crazy days of the summer holidays, the fingertips of my right hand (I’m a leftie) are sore. I blow on them, then persevere through the pain. In a few days the skin will toughen up, because that’s how guitarists’ fingers respond to repeated physical abuse.

The reaction to repeated emotional abuse is similar.

The more we suffer the pain of rejection and the misery of neglect, the more “thick-skinned” we become. Eventually, our injuries turn into armour-plating and shield us from further harm. Sometimes they even turn into weapons of self-defence.

Blaise carries her emotional scars like a hand-held rocket launcher.

To say she can be loud, violent and abusive is like saying Genghis Khan could be a tad harsh. I think she might draw the line at boiling her enemies alive, but there are occasions when only a desperate call to Behaviour Support will save a classroom from a fate worse than utter pandemonium. The hair-triggers that cause Blaise to detonate are so sensitive that a crack bomb-disposal team would be hard-pressed to disarm her once she’s primed and ready to go off.

So what chance do any of her classmates have? It’s not easy to ignore her bad behaviour when it’s your maths book she’s snatched up and hurled across the room, or when it’s your head she’s repeatedly tapping with a plastic ruler.

The problem is that confronting Blaise doesn’t work (it’s like waving a red rag at an angry bull), while trying to calm her with soothing words is simply pouring fuel oil on a troubled chip pan.

Sometimes the only effective strategy is to usher everyone to safety and wait for the storm to subside. At such times, we can find solace in the fact that Blaise doesn’t always behave like this.

Every so often she quietly gets on with her learning. Sometimes she’s kind to other children. Occasionally she forgets to look angry and breaks into a grin. Of course, that’s when we must beware of being lulled into smiling back or playfully ruffling her hair. Nothing is more likely to induce a violent reaction from Blaise than a little human kindness.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. “Like a baby stillborn, like a beast with his horn, I have torn everyone who reached out for me.”

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