My Struggle (Mein Kampf) by Trevor Plumbly
A Lifetime’s Commitment to Neutrality
Looking back over my colleagues’ blogs, I couldn’t help noting (kindly of course) the change in the content of their articles: Angela, it seems, has morphed from the darling of definition to the Doberman of the downtrodden, while more disturbingly, Emily has aspired to become Baroness of the besmirched by metaphorically flinging her undergarments at a sad old soap opera star accused of all sorts of nasties. You will, I hope, be pleased to hear that I’ve remained true to my early commitment to truth, justice and the preservation of my own skin. It’s true that I haven’t changed the world, but then nor has it changed me or delivered any crippling blows. This objective neutrality takes years of suppressed instincts and rodent cunning to achieve.
From earliest youth I learned via war and cowboy movies that those who led the charge generally copped it; they either died or suffered wounds and even at that age I realised that being a hero could be painful or even fateful. At school I developed simple but effective survival techniques: sitting in the front or back rows labelled you as pushy or sly, never put your hand up first or last, at assembly avoid the front row, it’s tough enough for any teacher to give credence to 60 odd snotty-nosed, spotty urchins belting ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’, if you want to survive, don’t let your presence illustrate obvious fallacies. Team sports, apart from their physical risk factor always seemed so bloody pointless: you either won or lost, but good survivalists don’t do winning and losing, it’s just too public. And unless you’re brain dead or gasping for attention, why stick your head where it’s going to get noticed or damaged? Using these sorts of skills and the ability to run like the wind, I emerged from my schooldays relatively unscathed.
Down with the Hippies
The late 50s saw the birth of the nuclear disarmament movement and hippies; I took this opportunity to blend in with like-minded dreamers, trudging silently through the streets, proudly waving a placard which proclaimed that ‘Fighting for Peace Was Like Fornicating for Chastity’. Non-violence slotted nicely with my idea of getting through life without undue pain, I didn’t have to scrub up to go out, I could be regarded as intense and interesting by the opposite sex by saying little or nothing at all.
The Promise of the Sixties
I was never really part of the early 60s explosion: the Beatles were a bit plastic for my taste and their female followers rather daunting in mini-skirts that so few of them had the legs for and super-glued hair that alarmed rather than enticed. I found the folk music scene much more appealing, for a start the girls were…well, more girlish with tight jeans and soft Laura Ashley blouses, some of them didn’t even wear bras! Heady stuff for a Tunbridge Wells street kid. It was a golden time littered with windows of opportunity promising free expression, free love and all sorts of other goodies; all you had to do was protest. Problem for me was that the idealism was wearing a bit thin; the free stuff wasn’t coming my way except for a bit of expression. Realising that the windows that had promised so much weren’t opening at the desired rate, I took stock and came to the conclusion that whilst a couple of pints and an earnest discussion might be stimulus enough for those keen to alter the world’s downward trend, I wanted more! So I did what any self-respecting rat would do and jumped ship. I worked, married, emigrated to New Zealand where average is almost a religious belief; worked some more, fathered a son, retired and now enjoy two grandsons. Sitting here in my ‘rest home chic’ track-pants instead of defiant denims, I envy not those who constantly search for souls to salve, or wish to fling their knickers at elderly thespians. It’s the quiet road for me; ‘Mein Kampf’ is Kaput!
Masterly little memoir, Plum.