Aged nine, sprawled on my bed, I wrote misspelt uphill stories about girls and their horses, and later filled a diary with intimate teenage confessions. My first school essays were a discovery. I found refuge in the written word. Shy and tongue-tied, writing gave me time to think about what to say, and change if I need be.
Adolescence, it now seems to me, is a period one gesticulates through largely in secret, and for no-one, least of all for oneself – that is, one’s past self and one’s future self. If one be, at this period, noisier than ever before in life, the noise, the guttural rages, the bitter bellowings, the beatings of brows and pounding on tables are a surprising and boring to the executant as boring to the listener.
While still sixteen I am put in charge of a class of forty children who are two, three or four years younger than I. I fall in love with them. They are my possession, my mob whose forty minds, under my flashy and domineering control, are to become one, a mind unsullied by errors, unmarked by blots, contaminated by misplaced originalities outside the curriculum, and as full of facts as a pomegranate seed.
Adolescence forces me to watch every move and gesture I make physically and socially, to weigh every word, and the accent and intonation of every word I utter. Some new creature is compelling me to make it stronger and sleeker, to get it ready for freedom.
Surfing and diving became a necessary escape. They burned off dangerous energy and gave me a great release from the entanglements of school, family, the agonies of love and loyalty. I was unsociable but not quite antisocial.
The sea got me through adolescence, pure and simple. I was loved and supported, maybe indulged by my parents as a teenager, but I fairly burned with turmoil. I was frustrated, impatient, confused, angry. From thirteen to eighteen it was a tyranny of hormones – what a republic that was!
The teenager is a fascist and a fool as well as a seer.