A squeak from the trumpet

This self-promotion business really sucks. I mean, I guess some people find it easy to blow their own trumpets, but I’m not one of them. 

Anglican boarding school. That’s what did it. At the tender age of twelve, I was plunged into an alien world of strangers, dormitories, communal bathrooms and rigid rules overwhelming in their foreignness. Bells chopped time into horrific confusion and the dining room smelled of wet gabardine rain capes and cold dust. Confidence? I didn’t even dream about it. I was a tall, chubby loner adrift in a sea of cliques and claques, social status and hockey sticks, too cringe-worthily inappropriate to aspire to anything beyond survival.  

And if I had? There was a whole bucket of pain waiting to drop. I knew this because we were reminded daily, lest hubris creep in and corrupt our souls. We are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under thy table, we said, and being a child far from home and out of place, I had no trouble believing every word. 

The chaplain’s God was a fierce and vengeful being, I discovered. Omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, He stalked the halls not, presumably, seeking those whom He may devour – that was the devil’s job – but keeping a gimlet eye out nonetheless for anything that could be construed as self-serving, self-indulgent, inconsiderate, thoughtless, frivolous or otherwise less than self-abnegatory.  

Duty and service were the catchwords, and it was understood that each should come with a maximum of suffering. No Brownie points for enjoying yourself. The only true joy was self-sacrifice, and loving thy neighbour made no mention of sparing a thought for thyself. 

Thy body, however, was another matter. Mens sana in corpore sano. But if the corpus in question is large, slow and irredeemably earthbound, the whole concept becomes a daily torture and a source of sniggers. I lumbered, I fumbled, I swiped ineffectually, and in five years of weekly gym classes, I never once made it over the vaulting horse. Humiliation and I were intimately acquainted. 

And none of the above makes for a healthy self-image. 

You’d think I’d be over it by now, wouldn’t you? I’m older, I’m wiser and I’m no longer fat, and enjoying myself is something I embrace  with enthusiasm and no fear that the axe might fall. But when it comes to self-promotion, I might as well be twelve again. 

Shame, really, because I’m told I’m actually good at what I do. Have a look at http://www.authonomy.com/books/37213/six-weeks-in-summer and see what you think.

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2 Responses to A squeak from the trumpet

  1. there are two areas where I identify with this, Helen. First, gym. Not that I was ever overweight (until now) but I was so small, I couldn’t get over the vaulting horse, either.

    The other area is self-promotion. Not that I have any problems letting the world know how brilliant I am [modest, too :o)] but I simply don’t know what I’m doing.

    Great tale, though.

  2. You’d have to know more than I do, David. As for the vaulting horse – my theory is that it was designed by someone of limited intelligence specifically to humiliate those with more intelligence and less co-oridination.

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