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The Dominic Effect - 1



From that summer, I was nothing if not inquisitive.  I went through the ‘why’ phase with some gusto, applying it to my parents, teachers and anyone older that might have some information to impart on me.  Once I started to think, my mind went into overdrive and I just wanted to know, and understand, everything.

            In my second year, our teacher was Miss Pawson, who I regarded as ‘really old.’  She was a stern teacher, very much of the Victorian mould; thin spectacles rested on an ample nose, permanently arched eye-brows and a shrill but menacing voice.  She had served her time as a teacher and clearly had no love for it anymore, so I can understand how I could have rubbed her up the wrong way from day one.

            It had hardly been an auspicious start.  She was calling out the register and referred to me as “Daniel Lizard.”  Some of the more aware children sniggered, but I quite innocently ignored her.

            “Daniel Lizard,” she repeated and looked around the class.  “Is Daniel not here today?”

            “He’s there, miss,” someone pointed at me. 

            “Then why aren’t you saying ‘yes miss?’” she turned to me.

            “My name is Daniel Lizar,” I said with a matter-of-fact tone that clearly irked her.  “You said Daniel Lizard.”

            “Surely you must have known I had made a mistake,” she replied.

            “No, I thought there might be a Daniel Lizard starting today.”

            Some of the other children were laughing heartily by this stage, aggravating our new teacher even further.

            “But they’re almost the same name,” she persisted, not wishing to lose face in front of her new rabble of infants.

            “Yes, Lizar is like Lizard, but different.  My name is Daniel Lizar.”

            My card was marked from that moment.  Miss Pawson wrote me off on that first day, and I did nothing to make myself appeal to her.

            I wanted to know why the alphabet needed to be in a certain order, and why we needed numbers at all.  Why was blue called blue?  I wanted to know about languages and other types of people.  Sometimes I would have questions relating to things that I had seen on the television that I didn’t think Mum would tell me about.

            Miss Pawson just saw me as disruptive.  I was in a way, but disruptive in the right direction.  I wanted to learn, it wasn’t like I wanted to stop everyone else from learning.  I just wanted to make sure that I knew everything. 

            “Well if it isn’t Daniel Lizar with another question!” she often sniped.  Teachers like that can alienate a child from education forever.  Luckily I was made of sturdier stuff, and continued to ask my questions.  My need to know outweighed her reluctance to tell me as far as I was concerned. 

            I can see why she was annoyed.  Second year infants are not meant to go around asking evocative questions that could possibly embarrass either the teacher or the rest of the class.  I don’t think I was asking about sex or violence, but death was something that played on my mind.  That was the taboo that I was really interested in.

            When my questions annoyed her, it told me that I was onto something interesting.  By shooting me down she should have shattered my confidence, but it strengthened my resolve and my desire to know.  It was an irony lost on both of us at the time.

            A typical exchange would involve Miss Pawson teaching us something and me raising my left hand whilst trying to contain myself in my seat with my right hand.  I would lean and stretch and make little noises so that I couldn’t be ignored.  I wouldn’t put my hand down until I was addressed, and as the year progressed this waiting time increased.

            “Who made up the letters of the alphabet?”

            “That’s not important.”

            “Why isn’t it important?”      

            “Because I’m teaching you about words, not letters.”

            “But aren’t words and letters the same?”

            “No.  Words are groups of letters put together to make sense.”

            “Were words and letters invented by the same person?”

            “It isn’t like that.”

            “How is it?”

            “Daniel, this is not helping Miranda learn to pronounce ‘Church.’”

            “You’ve said it for her now.  Can you answer my question?”

            “It’s not what I’m here to teach you.”

            “Do you not know?  I thought you were a teacher.”

            It was a provocative line such as that which would make her explode and send me into the corridor.  If a teacher walked past, they would look at me with suspicion.  Even though I was just asking questions, Miss Pawson was building up a reputation for me as a trouble-maker, which meant that when I went into successive classes, the teachers expected me to be naughty and were ready to send me to the corridor at the slightest provocation. 

            She was an important figure in my life.  My first enemy.