The fact is, I did not like to play sport. I had no sporting ability, no coordination (given that I had grown quickly and could not ride a bicycle until I was eight) and enjoyed watching sport even less than playing it.
The school of hard knocks - Part 2
My original memories of school begin in the second part of Grade 4, when I began attending Roleystone Primary School, an institution of which I have few positive memories. At the time, I was living in Roleystone, an outer suburb in the foothills of Perth.
Read more in this series: The school of hard knocks – Part 1
To this day, it depresses me just to drive through Roleystone, let alone past the school. I was deeply affected by this school, the suburb it was in and the people who lived there. I struggle to come up with one positive memory from the time that I lived there - particularly years four to seven at Roleystone Primary School and years eight to 12 at Armadale High School.
While I certainly remember this nine years of my life a whole lot better than the previous ones, I view these as the lost years of my life. They were years that held so much potential but delivered so little, beyond toughening me up and building still further on the self-reliance I developed while living in the country. These were also the years when the reality of life combined with the application of intellectual reason lead me to understand the absurdity of God.
In those days, Roleystone was a very cliquey place. It was worse than a small country town. Everybody knew everybody, many of the families were related, a number had lived in the area for long periods (even generations) and there was an apparent reluctance to welcome outsiders.
This, together with the less than adequate social skills developed in the first nine years of my life, did not prepare me well for Roleystone Primary School and the process of making friends.
Roleystone was a semi-rural environment, marked by the conservative values that so often go along with rural and semi-rural environments. The local Member of Parliament was a conservative, something that did not change until 2016, 40 years later. The attitudes expressed by residents and the students at the school were universally socially and politically conservative.
My parents, on the other hand, while a little socially conservative at that time, were politically progressive. My father’s lessons regarding speaking when I know I should speak did not always hold me in good stead with the locals. In later years, I would hand out How to Vote cards for the Australian Labor Party on election day, drawing considerable abuse from the locals.
In Roleystone and beyond, there was an obsession with sport. Friday afternoon sport was the highlight of the week for most kids at my primary school. Playing weekend football and cricket, depending on the season, was the highlight for many of these kids and their parents. Australian Rules football was a passion for most.
I did have an involvement in sport, in so much as I learned to play tennis with a local coach and was a member of a swimming club in the next suburb - both reluctantly, with considerable coersion from my parents. I was also a supporter of the East Perth Football Club (in a school dominated by Perth supporters)
The fact is, I did not like to play sport and had no sporting ability. I enjoyed watching it even less than playing it.
When I reluctantly participated in sports I performed shamefully and knew it. When I played quasi-sports like British Bulldog, my dislike of physical confrontation was painfully evident, along with my lack of coordination.
Not only did I have no passion for sport, but I also had an interest in obscure subjects that interested them not at all, including politics, music and the natural environment, all of which were an anathema to many that I went to school with.
I remember the children at Roleystone Primary School had a passion for commercial television, monochrome, of course. They used to watch programs like Gilligan’s Island on Channel 9. By contrast, I was only allowed to watch Channel 2, most of the time, and never watched Channel 9.
I remember that, at least when they were close to those in authority, the kids I went to school demonstrated a respect for that authority. I, meanwhile, generally demonstrated a contempt for authority. I could never get my head around concepts like ‘respecting my elders’.
I did want friends and I had a few, but I was generally not inclined to show the conformity in behaviour or voice required to develop close and long-term relationships. I did not have any empathy for the school pecking order.
As I had been taught from the day I was born, I questioned just about everything, while most of the kids I went to school with questioned nothing.
I was truly the kid that did not fit in.
At the time, that was inconvenient and painful. Looking back, I could not be happier that this was the case.
The fact is, I had little in common with these people and I am glad that this was the case. I would today think less of myself, if I'd had much in common with many of them. I look back with disdain rather than regret.
That said, I was not the only kid who did not fit in. There were others.