Feedback please on my 'memoir'

So, I got out of a disasterous relationship and had too much headspace and too much time. I figured I’d write about the rather eventful life I’ve had. I figure it’s been eventful.

Anyways, have a read - this is (a part of) the rough draft. And critique me please.

[quote]Nursery School

I went to a few kindergartens. I recall three. The first one was great, I think it was in Randburg. All a boy wants when he’s 4/5 is a sandpit and some mates to go with it. I had all that and more. The teachers were friendly, the food was yummy, and we were treated to Easter and Christmas shows, complete with Easter egg hunts and Santa Clauses and the cherry on top: magic shows. Oh how those simple tricks boggle a kid’s mind. The one thing I despised was afternoon naps, and me and my mates used to play up regularly – which meant a solid crack to the bottom by the teacher in charge. Those hidings were to set a precedent for the hundreds I got in the future.

For some reason I left that kindergarten and went to another one in Linden, a stone’s throw from the Linden library. I know that because I tried to throw stones at the library every day. It was a nice enough kindergarten too. Four incidents stand out in my mind during my tenure at that kindergarten. The first was the day I made my ma cry – the most soul shattering feeling I have ever felt, worse than any death, worse than any calamitous break-up I’ve been through. We’d just pulled up to the kindergarten driveway and my ma said to me very steadily “please try your best to behave at school today, try not to upset the teachers or fight with the other kids – I’ll give you a sucker after school if you can do that for me”. Maybe I’d already developed my nasty side by then, maybe I was already hurt by the absence of my father, but for some reason I said something very nasty in reply. She began weeping, and I climbed out the car without looking back. I was too young to be fully cognizant of action and reaction but in my gut, for the rest of the day I felt truly awful. This abhorrent behaviour towards my ma continued over many years.

The second incident that sticks out was the day I sidled up to the side gate of the kindergarten and saw that it was unlocked. I’d had a yearning to ‘break out’ of the kindergarten for some time, and when I saw the gate was unlocked I put two and two together and made my dash for freedom. I got as far as the road, realized how big the world was, and how small I was, and headed straight back into the kindergarten. So much for being a brave little Indian.

The third incident that really sticks in my mind was the day I made a fire. No, I didn’t set fire to the school. It was a really nippy morning, must have been winter, there was frost on the plants and grass. Me and my chums were really cold and I made a plan to warm the crew up – I’d seen matches on the counter in the kitchen and a box near the gate so I headed down to the kitchen with my mate Jason and got him to kneel down so that I could climb on his back and reach for the matches. Once I had the matches I grabbed the box and headed to a little rise in the playground. I corralled the others into getting some twigs and leaves and we even found an old newspaper. I stuffed it all in the box and got a great little fire going in a couple of minutes. I was well chuffed and the others were all happily standing around the box when a teacher spotted the fire and came over with a bucket of water to put it out. She was livid. She asked who it was and rest all pointed in my direction – so much for loyalty. Bunch of grassers. I was locked in the pantry for the day and my ma bailed me out at home time. I believe it was the day she asked me to try and behave. What an ass I was, even back then. Needless to say I didn’t get a lollipop.

The fourth incident was more of an accident really. The other kids dared me to jump off a wall with a brick in my hand. It was a stupid dare and I was stupid to accept it. The only thing I really remember of that was the colour red. The colour of my blood. The brick landed squarely on my pip and bust it open. My hair used to hide that scar but with my receding hairline it’s plain to see these days. A reminder of one of my earlier idiotic acts.

The bright point of that fire starting incident was that I vividly recall the grand view of Johannesburg CBD from the little rise in the playground. I think it rekindled my desire to break out and explore, something I’m still doing to this day.

Primary School

I was a year younger than the other kids in Grade 1. I’m not sure why I went to school a year early but it meant I was a wee bit smaller and a wee bit less developed than my classmates. That might have something to do wit the inferiority complex I believe I have. Anyway, once again, in a show of complete foolishness, on the first day of Grade 1 I was in shitsticks. It was second break and I was hungry. I remembered that I’d left an apple in my school satchel in the classroom. My stomach was knotting in pangs of hunger and my reliable inventiveness got me past the playground teacher (I told her I needed a pee), and into the classroom. Mind you, the door was locked. So I had to figure out another way in to get to the treasured Grannysmith. My reasoning was that if I could break out of kindergarten I could break into a classroom. I clambered through an open window, but got kind of stuck halfway – neither in nor out. With one last heave I fell into the classroom, landing squarely on a vase of freshly plucked flowers, sending water and flowers and shattered glass everywhere. In my panic I tried to clean up the mess cutting my hand in a few places. Still, I was hungry and got my apple out my satchel. As I bit into it the break bell rang. I was trapped. A minute or two later Mrs. Biggs and my classmates were outside the class, neatly lining up. The look of horror on her face was priceless. The look of shame and fear on mine must have been equally picture-worthy. I was marched off to the headmaster’s office, made to stand outside the door while Mrs. Biggs relayed what had happened to Mr. X. She stormed out and I was called in. The first thing I remember seeing was a glass cabinet with about a half dozen canes, each of varying thickness, each marked with a different colour at the end. I think I might have wet myself, I can’t remember though. I was to become firmly and thoroughly acquainted with them over the course of my primary school years. Mr. Becker, the headmaster was a stern man, who didn’t take any nonsense. As young as I was I figured that out on Day One in his office.

I think the only thing that stopped him from giving me a sound thrashing was the fact that I was wailing and blubbering so hysterically that my botty wouldn’t have stayed in one place long enough for him to take aim and fire.


I was an angry kid, prone to hysterical and violent outbursts and I couldn’t or wouldn’t accept criticism or disciplinary measures that teachers employed on me. If I felt threatened or angry I would storm out the class and sit outside the class or sit on the field, sobbing hysterically. Quite often the teachers would let me be, but other times they would get a male teacher to reign me in (most teachers in primary school were female). Sometimes the teachers let me come back at the end of the class to gather my books and whatnot and be on my way. Sometimes they tried talking to me, to calm me down, to try and figure out what was bothering me. But if the male teacher was called it meant a trip to the headmaster’s office. And a trip to Mr. Becker’s office meant a thrashing. And I can tell you he spared me no mercy. I would be hysterical, crying and wailing, but he had no sympathy. Those cuts turned my bottom black and blue and those bruises lasted a good couple of weeks. He even had the PE teacher, Mr. Marks, cane me sometimes. That was sadistic – Mr. Marks was an ex-military man and he reveled in hurting me.[/quote]

Can’t linky link cuz I don’t have a blog or website running.

I enjoyed reading this. I know it’s a memoir, but some parts might ‘come to life’ more if you could show us the incident, e.g. have some talking between the characters as the event unfolds.

It’s not a memoir, its a treatment. Now you have to take that material and write it up into a memoir.

Yep, reads like some homework assigned by your shrink.

The writer comes across as ungrateful to the teachers who tried to beat some sense into him. :smiling_imp:

Baas Babelaas,
Are you sure you want to put such personal stuff out on the net?

Thanks for the feedback.

AJ, I don’t mind putting this on the net - if I publish it, it’s open material. And I’m grateful they did crack me - my past shaped me.

In my mind it’s worth a read, but I welcome all criticism, good or bad.

here we go: have another bit:

[quote]Peter, my British step dad

As you know, my dad did a runner when I was a couple of months old. I’ve never really got to the bottom of what happened and why he left. My mom tells me things didn’t work out and he left shortly after I was born. She also told me he actually wanted to give me up for adoption. Perhaps if abortion had been legal those days he would have chosen that as the first option. He’s a bit like my ex’s ex-husband, who did a runner when my ex’s daughter was 27 days old, but that’s a story for a later chapter. So, when I was X years old my mom married Peter, a British fellow. Peter had three children from a previous marriage and I had two instant brothers – Paul and Philip. We became firm friends, and spent plenty of time together. Things didn’t work out between my ma and Peter and they finished up. I remember the day he left clearly – a taxi arrived outside our house and he hopped in it. I thought that was the last of him, but I actually saw him and my ex-step brothers quite often after that. Peter took me to my first Curry Cup game at Ellis Park, where me and some other kids horsed around on the field during the game. He also took me to Loftus Versfeld for a Curry Cup final between Northern Transvaal and Transvaal. He taught me how to play pool at the Summit Club, before it became uber seedy and I went with him to the Irish Club in downtown Johannesburg. All the while me, Paul and Philip, were getting up to mischief at every opportunity in the streets and alleys of Hillbrow. Those were some fun times, but I don’t think we’d get away with the shit these days on those tough streets.

Primary school was coming to an end and I was as full of shit as ever, still angry and violent and increasingly prone to self-destructive behaviour – smoking, drinking every now and then and tearing up the house from time to time. My ma gave me an option – Boys’ House, Potchefstroom Boys High School or Parktown Boys High School. The thought of going to either Boy’s Town or Potchefstroom Boys terrified me, so I made a promise to my ma I would pull up my socks so that she would send me to Parktown – the best of three bad options in my mind – I’d wanted to go to a co-ed school, so I could be amongst girls. Turns out Parktown wasn’t such a bad choice.[/quote]

I think you should write it using screenplay format. And open with the time you discovered masturbation.

But seriously, you need to ask yourself–what is this for? Psychological self-understanding? The joy of confession? In that case, I guess any style would serve just as well. But if you are trying to tell a story, then you have to ruthlessly eliminate anything that is not a part of the story that you want to tell. All things being equal, nobody really wants to read about your kindergarten, unless your style is outstanding, or something really interesting happened there.

Let’s see…what about MY kindergarten?

  • While getting off the bus, I swore at my teacher (“You…STUPID PENIS BOTTOM DUMMY DUMB!”) and then ran into the house. To my horror, the doorbell rang a moment later.

  • I watched two little girls playing on the jungle gym–one on top, the other below. The one below laughed and touched the other’s panties under her skirt. I ran over and did the same thing. One of the teachers’ husbands–a big, tough man–grabbed me and shook me: “Don’t you EVER DO THAT AGAIN!”

  • Once my mother discovered that I had spent most of the day with shit in my underpants. It happened just before chapel. We were supposed to file in silently, with folded hands, and I could feel a warm turd weighing down the stretchy cotton folds between my legs. It must have gotten smeared when I sat down, and then from recess.

  • At my father’s suggestion, and with him serving as amanensis, I wrote a letter to President Nixon asking him to “bring our boys home” from Vietnam. Shortly thereafter I received a letter in the mail. “It’s from the WHITE HOUSE!” my father explained. “Who lives in the White House?” I guessed my grandmother. President Nixon thanked me for my concern about this very important question.

Thanks fellas.

I’ll work on my romance novel instead.

This is going to sound flippant after all that ‘content’ advice, but is also important. Paragraphs! The modern reader doesn’t do Dickensian long ones.

And like the others said; who’s your reader? Write to communicate, not to express yourself.