This morning, I am trying to comfort Rory. During playtime, he was involved in a serious confrontation and is still burning with anger and aggression. I’ve been asked to help him come to terms with the physical and emotional injuries he sustained, and to try and persuade him not to lose his temper again.
But it’s not an easy task. Rory has a careless attitude towards his temper, which results in him losing it on a regular basis. Today, it led to a fight with Jeremiah, which he also lost. This is his third fight in a week and he’s lost them all. His success ratio might improve if he didn’t pick fights with children bigger than him.
Those who quote Mark Twain – “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog” – perpetuate a dangerous myth. The truth is, size matters. Mr Kettle (one of my junior school teachers) used to say, “You’re a half-pint boy with a quart-sized gob, Eddison, and one day it’s going to land you in trouble.” He was right.
My first and last proper fist fight took place during the summer term of 1966, when I was 12. A minor disagreement during a lunchtime kick-about ended with me arranging to do battle with Mozzy Morrell in the alleyway behind the school wall. A year earlier, when we were at junior school, this would have been an even contest. Unfortunately, during the intervening months, Mozzy grew into a tall and efficient killing machine, and I didn’t. Not surprisingly, the “Brawl Behind the Wall” didn’t go the distance. The chant of “Fight! Fight! Fight!” had barely got going when a bewildering blur of fists brought proceedings to a swift and bloody conclusion. Any hopes I had of a career in boxing died that day. But what would have happened if I’d been more like Rory? What if I’d had a high pain threshold and a frankly reckless disregard for my teeth? Suppose, for some bizarre reason, I had found that I rather enjoyed getting thumped?
Like Captain Scott, Tim Henman and Eddie the Eagle, I might in time have become famous for being a valiant loser. Failing courageously is a great British tradition that throughout history has won the admiration of the public. Yes, Mozzy “Fast Hands” Morrell may well have knocked seven bells out of Eddie “Half-pint” Eddison, but it was me who ended up winning the heart of the playground. It was me who went back to school wearing my black eye like a badge of honour.
My first glorious defeat turned out to be my last. Long before the bruises faded, I decided to avoid getting lippy with large people. I’m trying to persuade Rory to do the same, but he’s not listening to me. For some, pain is an addiction. They need it to affirm their existence.
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield