How a small boy turned nasty before video was invented

Related Topics
DOES TV violence really encourage real violence? Will children go out and hit each other after seeing violence on the screen? Is the Government more likely to go out and bomb the Serbs after seeing the Nine O'Clock News? Is violence fun? Should we all try it before we condemn it so readily?

Well, I don't know the answers to all these questions, and neither does Michael Howard, but I do know something, and that is the other day in a wine shop in Bradford-on-Avon a man wearing a bow tie came up to me and smilingly accused me of being Miles Kington.

I pleaded guilty and waited to see if there were any more serious charges.

There were.

He accused me of having been a small boy living in Haytor Road, Wrexham, north Wales, just after the war.

Shaken, I agreed.

'How did you know?' I asked.

'I was a small boy in the same street,' he said. 'We played together.'

What a bombshell. A childhood chum come back to haunt me, and in deepest Wiltshire at that. What made it worse was that I had no immediate memory of him or even of his name. Under the guise of reminiscing, I asked him for some corroborative evidence.

'I distinctly remember one thing,' he said, 'and that was you trying to lay out a girl called Wilkinson.'

'Lay out?'

'Well, kill. You hit her over the head with a blunt instrument.'

'Did I actually kill her?'


That came as a relief. But as I always remember myself as a quiet, studious boy it also came as a shock to find that as a six- or seven-year-old I was, apparently, capable of mindless violence. And I didn't have the modern excuse of having ever seen a video nasty or violent television programmes. I had of course seen my father come back from the Second World War, where I was given vaguely to understand he had been responsible for the elimination of millions of Germans, but this never seemed to have any after-effects on him, and I can't remember him hitting any neighbours on the head, as apparently I did.

(Actually, we now seem to think that fighting in a war does turn you into a bit of a pacifist. It is always being said by American commentators that those congressmen who fought in Vietnam turn into doves when it comes to the possibility of more hostility, and those who didn't are usually the hawks. The ultimate example of this is Sylvester Stallone, who spent most of the Vietnam war period teaching in a girls' school in Switzerland, and has spent most of the rest of his life killing people on the screen.)

Perhaps I had the feeling that, gifted with a father who had eliminated so many enemy soldiers, I didn't really need any screen violence. I remember he once gave me an old American watch he had acquired during the war and no longer needed. It was US Army issue.

'How did you get this?'

'Oh, I swapped it with an American soldier for a Luger pistol.'

'Gosh. Where did you get the Luger pistol from?'

'I took it off a dead German.'

Gosh. How terrific, I thought, without really thinking about it. Of course, I had never seen a dead German. In fact, I had never seen anyone dead at all, and the nearest I ever came to it was when a friend with an airgun shot a sparrow nearly dead in front of me, and I was so sickened by the sight that I swore I would never cause pain to anything or anyone, and I very seldom have.

(The only time I have ever shot to kill, funnily enough, was when I was encouraged to do so by Alan Coren. In the days when we shared the same lunch break, we once wandered up to the Strand and went inquisitively into a penny arcade full of fairground machinery. We homed in on a sniper game that involved peering down a rifle's sights at a replica of a First World War battlefield and shooting any soldier who popped up from his trench or fox-hole. What really appealed to us was that you knew if you had hit the enemy soldier fair and square because he screamed as he died. There really was a pre-recorded scream for each soldier. Some screamed in more agony than others. Those were the ones we aimed for first. It was sickening. Especially the way we laughed and found it so funny . . .)

'This girl, the Wilkinson girl,' I said to the man in the Bradford-on-Avon wine shop, 'the one I am meant to have mindlessly attacked. Did nobody intervene? Did my peer group not drag me off and disarm me?'

'Not as far as I remember. I think we all felt she deserved it. Your action quite impressed us.'

If that is so, I am amazed that I grew up to be as non-violent as I am. And if I ever do turn violent, I can always blame Alan Coren.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'