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INTIMIDATION PETER QUINCE* My Mother once came to our School Sports. I was competing in the 220 yards under 14. Just before the race she said to me:—"You will take care and not overdo it, won't you dear?"—I came in last but one. My brother did not win his race either. And with him history repeated itself like pickled herrings. He went into the circus business, and one matinée when he was balancing blindfold on the high wire preparing to do a standing somersault, the Ringmaster bawled up at him—"I say, you will be careful won't you?" He missed the wire and fell many feet. Luckily he landed on his head, but it put paid to his circus career. He then became a Gynaecologist—rather a blind alley occupation (perhaps) but better than nothing, I suppose. And then one day when he was doing a highly diverting and intricate operation deep in the heart of the pelvis, the theatre sister hissed, "Oh, do be careful." His handjerked and there was a shocking mess to clear up. Blood on the ceiling. Horrible. He ended up as a lay preacher, but nobody could say that he was a really powerful lay preacher. I myself was luckier than this brother of mine. I got hauled into the Army—into the Artists' Rifles, to be precise—while World War I was still raging. And there, for the first time in my life I was encouraged to do things flat out. Regardless. "Encouraged" is perhaps an under-statement . You either did everything flat out regardless, or else they didn't like you and you would find yourselftransferred to "E" Company, which sent drafts out to the Front: and in about a fortnight the news would get round that you had met a hero's death in action. Something to be avoided at all costs, or at any rate postponed as long as possible. Within four months the war ended—and I went back to school—trans- * This article appeared in the January, 1966, issue of Sf. Bartholomew's Hospital Journal and is reprinted with their kind permission. 96 Peter Quince · Intimidation Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Autumn 1966 lated. From having been a nondescript non-athletic, rather bookish type, I became an athlete. Victor Ludorum and all that sort ofthing. And later at Cambridge I didn't do too badly either. Why I relate this piece ofimmodest autobiography is to draw attention to the fact that my bodily machine was just about the same as it was before, and very like my brother's, though a slightly earlier model; but the chap inside who drove the machine had undergone a radical change. He no longer had any inhibitions about getting into top gear and putting his foot down. For a while I quite forgot that nonsense about "overdoing things" and "straining the heart." For it is nonsense, isn't it? After all, the 'Varsity boat race is probably one of the most gruelling physical ordeals in the world, especially for the losers; and yet, as the researches of Sir Percival Horton-Smith Hartly in 1940-something showed, ex-rowing blues have exceptional longevity . . . though it is of course a sedentaryjob. Nevertheless, intimidation is one of the commonest of disablements. It can strike any one ofus. Some ofyou are doubless martyrs to it. Why? Well in the first place many of us are nurtured in what Lord Action so neatly described as an Atmosphere ofAccredited Mendacity: in other words, downright lies which are traditionally accepted and accepted without question. The baby in his cot is not afraid oflife. He lies there crowing and gurgling and lunging out and bellowing with rage ifhungry or uncomfortable . Butjust you wait until communications are established. Then it is:— "Ifyou don't get offto bed, you'll be tired and never grow up into a strong boy." "Ifyou sit about in those damp shoes, you'll get pneumonia you mark my words." "Ifyou don't get offto bed, you'll be tired tomorrow and do badly in school." "If you go bathing too soon after lunch, you'll get cramp in your stomach and drown...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 96-102
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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