STORM, STRESS AND COMPULSON – BUT FIRST A LITTLE BIT MORE SCGOOLING
Returning home from the sea with my tail between my legs, my first obligation was to keep a rather lower profile around the adults in my life. While undoubtedly very happy to see her lost son around the house again, my ever-shrewd mother could not help dishing me up a daily reminder of my career mistake and reiterating, complete with gestures of wisdom, that mothers know best. “I always knew a seaman’s life would not sit well with you!” If I heard that pearl once I heard it a thousand times – and there was nothing I could say in retort as I had given her an open goal by coming home.
Life for a time was thus largely a matter of keeping my head down and going with the flow. Resistance was unhelpful, not to say unreasonable.
So I became the very model of politeness and did my best in every way to fit back into my old school class after 18 months of absence. Sweetness and light it was not. The headmistress of my school, Erna Stahl (who it seemed had a soft spot for me) had instructed that I go straight back in with my old classmates, an idea our class teacher found quite unacceptable. She saw me as a problem, a thorn in her side, a provocation in the purest sense of the word: deeply tanned, unruly hair, a full beard – I was nothing short of an outrage to this elderly lady for whom decorum was everything. The beard disappeared, but the affront behind it remained – and continued to rankle.
Come the end of the year I thought I had done enough to move up with the rest of my class, but now the old lady brought her influence to bear to try and compel me to resit. That, I felt, was quite out of the question and all educational levers were duly exploited.