In my school the expression ‘head banger’ was used as a term of abuse to indicate lunacy, stupidity and more general mental insufficiencies. 

I don’t think the good lads of Hyde County Grammar School were a particularly heartless bunch. No-one really conjured an image from the insane asylum of the individual, lost in his own incomprehensible internal logic, repeatedly striking his head on the padded cell wall.  No-one really was a head-banger – although, come to think of it, ‘Dobber’ Downes did come quite close.  

What makes me think of Dobber for the first time in many years is the fact that I have been banging my head for months now and I am worried that it indeed signifies something amiss in the cerebral department.  Or that it will cause something to go amiss.  On board the boat there are many opportunities to bang one’s head – and I have explored them all in full.  There’s the companionway (= steps down from the cockpit to the saloon, unicorns.  Cockpit = central place outside from where one controls the sheets.  Sheet = … oh, whatever).  The booms.  The lazarette lid.  You name it (if you can), if it has less than 6 feet of air displacement I’ve struck my head upon it.

I assured myself all along the Belgian coast that I would learn to avoid the pain – surely a most basic learned behaviour.  But across the Channel, down the South coast from Dover via Chichester and Yarmouth and Lulworth and Salcombe and Falmouth and Helford all the way to the Isles of Scilly and up to Eire I have continued to be a head banger – and remember, the top of my head is almost entirely without protective cover. 

The thought occurred to me that maybe the concussive damage incurred to the little grey cells was continually one step ahead of the learning intelligence therein, not a vicious circle, more a vicious plateau.

I blamed the varifocal glasses, the caps, the Tilley-hat.  Mrs C – whose mother was a psychiatrist – puts it down to some form of subconscious voluntary self-harm.  But that would make me crazy, wouldn’t it?  A head-banger head-banger? I dare not broach the subject of why then she keeps twisting wrists, ankles etc.

This is surely an unacceptable thought.  Two subconsciously self-harming people sailing together in some of the world’s really nice places.  Were this to be the case, the pre-PC boys of HCGS would have had a word for our boat.  ‘Spaz-chariot’.  I won’t explain.