"'There there, Tiddles. Mummy understands. Did the nasty Tom frighten you and ruin your little walk in the allotment. Never mind, Tiddles, soon........soon your claws will grow long and sharp and your mind will not think twice about tolerating male chauvinism. No Tom will ever frighten you again after mummy has taught you how to attract them close enough to you to enable you to scratch their eyes out and to draw first blood before they know what hit them.'
When I was growing up in West Yorkshire on a new council estate called Windybank Estate, lads would fight each other every day of the week as a matter of course, and the size of one's opponent was not always of primary concern. The first Yorkshire code one learned was, 'To do unto them before they did it to you!'
I always remember my dad telling me once when I came home from school with a bust nose after a bigger and older boy had given me one just to show me that he could. Dad said, 'Smaller fighters should always get the advantage. In any fight, son, you have more chance of winning if you get in the first blow!'
Given that dad's favourite film star was John Wayne (The Duke), this specific advice ran contrary to every John Wayne and cowboy code of fairness I'd ever heard of. There was none of this cowboy 'fairness' code of the 'good person' waiting for his opponent to make a draw for his gun from the holster before you drew yours. Instead of the John Wayne code of behaviour being advocated, dad was advising me to follow the one set by Jack Palance, who always played the role of the fast-baddie gunslinger: 'Before you strike son, always position the sun behind you, then, when he's blinded by the sun, hit him in the 'you know where' first when he can't see it coming, Billy!'
I strongly suspect that is why females rarely watched cowboy films when they were busy establishing their survival rules in the 1950s. They had no fist fights in my day, and their prime aim whenever they became physical with another girl, was to pull her opponent's hair out by the roots, which I suppose was a native Indian's way of scalping their foes!'"
When I worked as a Probation Officer in Huddersfield for nearly twenty years, one of my colleagues was an officer called David. David came from a traditional Yorkshire background and was always liberal with both his language and the display of the tough tyke values he'd been raised with. He did not suffer fools gladly and in many ways, he still fought the class war between the bosses and the men. He held no trust for his Senior Probation Management and generally despised and mistrusted all authority figures.
When he and I first joined the Probation Service in 1970, senior management was still made up from the middle-class graduate, and without thirty years' impeccable service behind one and a fair wind, few working-class men and women advanced to senior grade. This biased situation simply strengthened David's long-held beliefs that if someone started at the bottom of the social pile that those on top of it would ensure that they stayed in their rightful place.
There was one area, however, where David knew that Probation Officers from the lower social strata of society had the upper hand over their seniors. He used to advise, 'Whenever you are in head-to-head combat, Bill, with the bosses, never forget the golden rule of working-class survival. You have one distinct advantage over them that their breeding of being brought up to 'play a straight bat' deprived them of and which your lowly upbringing informed you. Stuff this playing by their rules. Get in the first blow; put them down and kick them in the goolies and they'll stay down. Do unto them what they will never do unto you and they'll not get up to attack you again!'
I guess that one of David's film heroes, when he was a young boy, was not John Wayne but instead, Jack Palance!
'So you see, Tiddles, always learn to paw before developing the art of purring!' ": William Forde: May 15th, 2018.