There are people you don’t like.
You may hardly have met them but you don’t like them. Like the girl I went to school with, who made my hackles go up like a hostile dog’s, and that was before we were seated together when she took some skin on the inside of my arm and twisted till I was breathless. I stayed as far away as possible from then on.
Non verbal communication is fast and rarely without a point.
You don’t like the feeling you get about that woman you’re going to have to work with ? There will be a reason … As people revisit the horror of Jimmy Savile, I remember that I only watched television at my friend Muriel’s house. My mother came to collect me from there one day and looked briefly at the screen. “What a horrible person” she said, “ .. those hands. That is a Bad Man.” You could always hear my mother’s initial capitals and the phrase came from her childhood. Darned right.
Sometimes of course you are helpless with inexperience, embarrassment and fear. And as such you are a suitable target for such a person whose own perception finds you with frightening ease. And while you grow up, grow older and can take better care of yourself – what stays in your mind is the time you couldn’t, you didn’t.
Dazzled, I went to a party with some people slightly older and a whole more sophisticated than I was and I hung about to be backed into a corner by a drunken fool who held me with one hand and masturbated all over my skirt with the other. When I could get away, I fled to the bathroom to sponge myself down, went out, got my coat and left. Halfway across a darkened square,
the driver of a black cab, having a quiet smoke, suggested he might take me home. I thanked him but said I didn’t have the money. “Are you all right ?” he said. “Get in the cab – I don’t care about the money. You’re the same age as my daughter (17)…” My hired car of choice for the rest of time, bless him. Not that I could tell him what really happened. I later learned that the group referred to the young unknowing like me as “fresh meat.”
Both my parents endorsed in different ways and probably by different routes the use of animal perception – they openly endorsed it, they always had. Finding my feet in London, I learned the value of what they had offered me. Nothing is infallible, you can be wrong. If so, you apologise. There are lots of stories about men and/or women who didn’t like each other on sight and came to see each other differently but there is a mutuality in that, which is usually missing from the experience described above. There are people you like as inexplicably and strongly as the ones you shy away from – the positive
is just as magical as the negative.
The other night on television there was an item on rape as a weapon of war. Are there are still people who do not understand that humiliation and starvation are of unparalleled efficiency when destabilising a population and making it malleable ? And sometimes even without thoughtful reporters, government spokespersons and just the knowledge that for the first time in a couple of generations, war is on the doorstep – the combination of inflation, household bills, the price of everything, lingering Covid and staggering institutions combines into real fear. And many people combat fear
with rage. And the rage bounces up from the street and you wade through it. It’s frightening. You can almost smell it.
After a couple of days of this, I made a magic. Ignoring the electric light, I lit candles, closed the shutters. A fire sign, I lit my illicit fire. And in the glow of those benign lights, I watched the first segment of Art That Made Us (BBC2) which had more going for it than against it and as my art historian friend remarked, I saw early things in the light they were seen in when they were new. And the air was warm, I hid from the horror – and slept. Gratefully.