Thinking About – Walking to the Beat of a Different Drum

Thinking About – Walking to the Beat of a Different Drum

When was that first moment when you realised your view of the world was somehow different to the perceived norm? Have you had that experience?

I’ve been asking myself this question and, of course, I find many instances in early life that express that, somehow, the Path of my life was going to lead into very non-conventional places. So I keep stepping back in time and I think I’ve found the moment it all clicked for me. It wasn’t the first moment, but it was the precise second it all fell into place.

I was very young, maybe 8 or 9. I was over staying the weekend at a friends house in Burgess Hill – our parents were friends so we had been drawn together, and I was very fond of him. We had great times playing with our torches on the ceiling of his bedroom when we should (at least according to our parents) have been sound asleep. So the next day I met some of his other friends. We lived in Haywards Heath which, although very close to Burgess Hill, made Burgess Hill feel like another world to me back then, so I had never met these other friends before, and I never met them again. We walked off as a group into the countryside that surrounded Burgess Hill. Don’t think you can find these places now, they are all covered in housing estates and bypass roads, but back then Burgess Hill was a relatively small town (although it was obvious that money was beginning to be spent to make it the sprawling town it is today). We walked across the fields and found an old orchard. It was late Autumn and a lot of the apples had fallen. Now to an adult those fallen apples might have meant cider, or apple sauce, or some other culinary delicacy. But to a group of very young boys they meant one thing – ammunition.

So a game of war was proclaimed. Sides were chosen and each of us found our base camp. When I say this was an old orchard please don’t think of pristine lines of well kept trees upon a glorious green field. No, I think these trees must have been planted on waste land after the war, and all around the trees were still bomb craters that hadn’t been filled in since WW2. This was only 28 years after the end of the war, so think back to about 1992 and that’s how fresh the end of the war really was during my childhood. So choosing a base camp inside one of those bomb craters was, of course, brilliant.

Now then, I’d been used to playing war with my fiends with toy guns. Yes I know that is definitely not PC these days, but back then it was just a part of growing up. Boys played with toy guns. Plastic cheap things that made a noise when you pressed the trigger for about a minute, then it all seized up, and so we ran around shouting “da-na-da-na-da-na!!!”. If you got ‘shot’ you had to fall to the ground for 10 seconds, then you could get up again and carry on. Nobody ever got hurt (again, not a time to go into the ethics of plastic guns here – that isn’t the point of my tale) and we were outside in the fresh air having a ball.


Apples, thrown at full strength, hitting you in the side of the head… Well, they really hurt. But we were very young children, so most didn’t worry about that. “You could lose and eye!” I hear parents thinking, even those parents reading this, and it’s true. But it would never happen to us because, well, we were invisible, and had a war to win! So we ducked down, hid out of sight, until someone broke cover, then all hell broke loose as apples flew through the sky, pelting the poor kid running and slipping on the wet, clay soil.

Then the moment happened.

A boy I barely knew really did slip, and we felt victory within our grasp so we went ‘over the top’ and ran towards the enemy’s trench. Apples flew towards us, a boy went down next to me. And as my army (of about 5 other boys) ran towards enemy camp, I just stopped. I remember time slowing down, and I just stood there, watching the apples fly in slow motion, bursting upon the head of one of the kids in the enemy’s trench. I sat down. It all felt really bad, really wrong. Some of the other kids saw this and they stopped too, and in the end they all ended up just looking at me. My first thought was “they are all going to pelt me now”, but they didn’t. They all slowly walked over to me and one of the boys, I would say the leader of this group, said, “Are you ok?”

“I don’t think I am,” I remember replying.

“What wrong?”

“This is wrong. I think this is wrong,” I just replied. “I don’t want to hurt my friends.”

And I remember the conversation of 8 and 9 year olds begin to debate the ethics of playing war, how it felt to hurt their friends, and pretty much everyone agreed.

It was all ok.

They walked off, glancing back at me, but the lead boy stayed behind.

“You’re really different aren’t you,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied. “Yes, I think I am.”

And with those words, of speaking them out loud, and with the acceptance of what they meant to me, life continued.

The war carried on of course, but I found myself watching, and thinking, on the sidelines, and hearing the beat of a different drum.

19 responses to “Thinking About – Walking to the Beat of a Different Drum”

  1. I know I’m terrible with math, but I don’t think that adds up.

    Great story, though. I never thought I marched to the beat of a different drum, I thought I was the only normal one.

    • Is that the end of the war bit? I was born in 1965, so was 8 in 1973, that is 28 years after 1945. It’s 2019 now, so 28 years ago, according to my calculator, is 1991. A year out. Damn you mathematics!!

  2. I think mine was in a school playground, sitting watching rain drip from a railing – and looking closely and seeing everything reflected within each drop. Mesmerising – a change of perspective, a moment out of time. The other kids thought I was just weird, but that flash of insight & realisation has stayed with me. I must have been about 8.

  3. For me, it was a bit later.. I was 14 I think and camping in Wales with the Scouts. We all went on an overnight hike, Walking two days with Hike tents. The first day ended with us on top of Cader Idris, we were all really chuffed with ourselves for making the long walk and ending up at the peak. But.. all of my friends were looking at the view and saying things like ” wow haven’t we come a long way” “Look how high we are” etc. Whilst moaning about the midges. (they were a nuisance) But I remember just standing at the viewpoint and looking at the view. Really looking at the view and the countryside around me and thinking Wow!.. Yes I was elated at walking so far in hard conditions , but I felt something so much more than just physical achievement at that point…

    • Cader Idris really does have some of the most spectacular views! There is an old legend, that suggests that if you spend the night on there you’ll wake up either a poet or a madman. It sounds like you should get writing 😉

  4. Growing up in Australia, playing outside brought with it some risks and so, we were taught about “Bush safety” from a very young age.
    I recall in primary school, oh I would have been about 7, we had a visit from a snake handler who taught us about the different snakes found in the area, what they looked like and what to do in the event of being bitten.
    A lot of the other kids were freaking out, but I was fascinated and couldn’t wait to handle some of these beautiful creatures.
    The handler was telling us all about what we should do to make sure we remain safe when I’m an area where there would be snakes. I raised my hand and asked what we and the snakes could do to make sure THEY remained safe. The other kids laughed but I was serious. I knew, somehow, that we humans were more dangerous to them than they could ever be to us.

  5. I think I was 7. Someone commented on finding me sitting up on top of the monkey bars reading instead of running around with the other kids. I never thought of it as different until then. Just a peaceful place to read a book. 😀

  6. Beautiful story and beautifully said. I had a similar moment. I was about the same age. My family was fishing on the ocean. Everyone was celebrating the adventure of the moment and especially the haul. But to me it was like I’d stepped into a horror movie. These beautiful creatures were being pulled out of the sea and they were silver and rainbow one moment, gasping and struggling desperately the next. All they wanted was to be free again. To be surrounded by the life giving water. I begged for their release. And then the people I loved most in the world beat them into submission. It was my one of my first steps toward vegetarianism and animism.

  7. As a child in junior school, I really enjoyed religious education and listening to stories from the bible but then I Was about 8, I remember being in the bath with my mum. While I Was brushing my teeth, a really strange feeling came over me and I remember saying to my mum:’ I think I just stopped beliebig in God.’ Just like that. And from then on, chritianity didn’t speak to me any more.

  8. I‘m not sure when it happened. It seemed to me I‘ve always been the outsider. When playing with other kids I mostly got the role no one wanted to play. If something broke during the play I was accused to have it broken and sooner or later I kept to myself.
    I loved sitting in the woods near our house and watching the stream, hoping for a glimpse of fish inside. Or reading – hour after hour. I loved – and still love – fairytales and hero tales. Oh and gazing the stars… I miss it sorely.

    I only know it took me ages to discover it’s nothing wrong with me – it’s the others who are broken.

  9. You tell every story so amazingly well. I felt I was there feeling your thoughts. Your story triggered memories of how I felt. Such a long time ago…..
    My special places were at the bottom of the garden making potions and spells in puddles and the earth talking to nature . And always a white horse somewhere near. Or on rainy days I retreated inyo the wardrobe camping there with the cat. A blanket, Biscuits, a torch and a book.
    I always knew as far back as I can think I felt different. It was in the pie mash shop in Deptford near Greenwich ..time slowed down….I saw everyone around me in slow motion and knew then I was different….
    It took so long to find my place I serched and serched. And found it… on a hill side in East Sussex /|\

  10. I love your stories. I think you should compile a memoir someday. For people living in the UK, they will relate; for those of us on foreign soil (like Canada;) it’s like stepping into the wardrobe and turning up in Narnia!

  11. when i was about 4 my grandmother used to take my younger sister and i into these vast fields of wildflowers around where we lived. and i remember just how beautiful it all seemed to me. and i wasnt afraid of the bees buzzing around our heads….we were pretty short and the weeds were taller than us lol. she would also take us up in the woods behind the house and walk and teach us different things about the plants and trees (dont ever pick jack in the pulpits bec there are very few left in the world). idk as there was a defining moment for me. if there was i cannot recall it but things like those i speak of here defined me in some way that most anyone else in my life wasnt interested in (with the exception of grandma) or that they just didnt understand about me. very few people in my life resonated with me at all. and that got worse after my mom remarried when i was about 5….then i really felt all alone….i guess i have always just had a “knowing” that others around me just never had nor never understood….

  12. I don’t remember the exact moment I realised I didn’t quite fit in – I guess I just never have. I did occasionally have a few of those “slow-motion” moments, particularly when I was little, but unfortunately after the age of about 20, time seems to just accelerate and get faster and faster…

    I have always felt like I haven’t belonged in the era I’m living in. Whether it’s 908, 1908, or 1968 I’ve always had a greater affinity with certain eras of the past. In recent times, it’s the TV, music, fashion and cars of the mid-20th century that have always really appealed to me since I could walk and talk. When I was very small, I had extremely vivid “memories”, for want of a better word, right down to very mundane details, of the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, and the 1950s/60s. I never got into a lot of the crazes that my peers were interested in. While they played with Ninja Turtle figurines I would be more inspired by antiques and curios, investigate the woods, fall in the brook, light fires, and read about castles, ghosts, history… or the famous five! If I could find a magical place like an ancient building, well or rock formation, I could just feel the energy of the place buzzing. Magick, Druidry/ism and Wicca always interested me, although I didn’t necessarily know that’s what they were called until much later. I was part of the massive explosion of Paganism in the late 1990s, which was partially fuelled by the sudden emergence of readily-available, cheap internet connections! Whilst my introduction was probably via one of Silver Ravenwolf’s then-new books, it was when sites like Witchvox and Spirit Online (now defunct) first launched, that for the first time, I felt “normal”! It’s a bit like that line in “Cauldron Born”, where you say, “…come with me and let me show, there are others, just like you…” I often wonder what happened to all the other teen-witches that appeared to exist at that time. I seem to remember that back in the era of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, everyone my age was Wiccan! Did the rest all grow up, after going through “just a phase”? Or are there actually only very few of us dancing to the beat of the more interesting drum? 😉

  13. I never understood why kids wanted to hurt eachother. I only wanted to be friends with everyone. That made me a victim to a lot of bullying.
    Now I realise, I was born as a high sensitive person. I’m proud to be who I am, but that took a long time.

  14. I remember from an early age being very aware of the “atmospheres” of places, or how people were feeling. I felt at home outside, on my own rather than with people who seemed to make me feel uncomfortable.
    I watched my dad growing things and when to plant using the phases of the moon and my mum taught me about wild flowers and herbs and their uses in healing . My gran taught me much country lore and what would be called superstitions now. From them I learnt a respect for the Earth. Mum had a friend who was involved in Findhorn where they approached planting in a very spiritful way. I always talked to the plants,trees and animals and after being taken to an outdoor production of Midsummer’s Nights Dream at about 7 years old ,would write letters to Oberon and the fairies and leave them under the bushes in Dad’s garden. I suppose you could say I was raised in a family who followed the “Old ways” but would never have called them that! I am still on a journey of discovery,

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