One of the first hints that I was never going to be a high-achiever came when I was three-and-a-half years old and stuffed a bead up my nose.
Oh, I could pretend it was actually my first scientific experiment — trying to measure the velocity of a bead under its own momentum in the alien environment of a nasal passage — but I do not think people would buy it. Especially those people who have studied the habits of highly effective people. As far as I know, neither Galileo, Einstein nor Shakespeare ever stuck beads up their noses.
I lived in Launceston, Tasmania, at the time. I was taken to a nearby doctor who extracted the bead using a pair of tweezers. Or it might have been pliers. All I know is that I have a vague memory that the bead was as uncomfortable coming out as it was going in.
I was a mischievous little boy, according to my baby book.
As a toddler, I liked to paint my face with my mother’s powder, lipsticks and creams.
I sometimes shared the sugar bowl with our dog, and once (but only once because he did not like it much) the contents of the pepper shaker.
I hated eating crusts so much I used to hide them in my safety mug until they were forgotten.
And I did not own up to anything I did not have to. “Dot me did it mum-ee,” I would say.
And if someone berated me about something, I would say: “I’ll tell my dad on you.”
In hindsight, I realise this must have sounded stupid if my father was the one berating me.
I once locked myself in my bedroom, and ignored all requests and pleas about my well-being. My father broke down the door only to find me lying on my bed reading a comic.
I developed a love of tools and fixing things.
When I was three, my mother wrote: “This year he fixed the radio (but for good) with his screwdriver. He did the same thing with the fridge door and the sunroom door and window and the mirror.”
Then I removed the music box from the back of my stuffed toy Panda to see how it worked.
Oh, and I also deep-etched that picture of the boy Jesus an old nun had given me.
My mother wrote: “He can be most adorable, but only when he’s asleep.”
I started school in 1964 when I was five years and four months old, which must have come as a great relief to her.
I began in grade one at Sacred Heart College in Margaret Street and my first teacher was Sister Theophane.
Sacred Heart was a girls-only school from grade three onwards, but grade one and two were co-ed.
I sat next to a girl called Julie who used to like kissing me when Sister Theophane was not looking.
My mother wrote in the book that I thought that was pretty good, but she was mistaken.
I was mortified.
It put me off girls for at least eight more years.
I can only remember three other things from Sacred Heart.
- I cried the first day my mother left me there, probably disappearing happily into the distance doing a jig.
- I won a prize one day for marching nicely, arms at full swing, from assembly to class. Band music still gets to me.
- One day, Sister Theophane asked me to stay after class.
She told me that an angel had come to her the previous night and said that I had been a very naughty boy at home and I was to start behaving myself.
So I did.
I have not deep-etched a picture of Jesus or stuffed a bead up my nose since.
©2002 John Martin. All Rights Reserved