A chubby eleven-year-old boy sits on a bench at lunchtime in a playground. The school bully, eight-year-old Danny Adams, approaches and the older boy looks up with dread. Freckly-faced Danny scares him and Danny thrives on his fear. Grinning maliciously, Danny punches the boy directly in the face, giving him a bloody nose. The older boy silently gets up and walks to his bag to get some tissues. It’s 1986 and Damian’s decade of persecution has begun.
Overweight and with severe acne, Damian’s teenage years were unenviable. A sci-fi aficionado who eventually studied computing, he was a stereotypical nerd who could have been the inspiration for The Simpsons’ Comic-Book-Guy. A close family friend and a few years younger than him, I witnessed his unpopularity; distressed by the persecution he experienced, but there was little I could do to help. Relentlessly bullied and ostracised, he battled through.
At the bottom of the teen popularity ladder, he couldn’t fall any further. Interestingly, instead of this social leprosy crippling him, he decided to view it as a freedom. Though the constant ridicule was deeply upsetting, he was already condemned as an untouchable and therefore had no peers to impress. Liberated by this, he threw himself into pursuits he enjoyed (drama and other unconventional interests) with fervour, knowing he would be bullied no matter what he did.
In early adulthood Damian’s victimisation continued through a series of poor relationships, as emotionally unstable girls leant on his trustworthy, gentle and open-hearted nature. Frustratingly, each time he endured the relationship well past the reasonable point of tolerance. Abandoning eloquence for honesty, he was treated like crap and it pissed me off.
I’ve had a (platonic) soft spot for Damian for thirty years, however recently I’ve developed a real admiration for him. Through every difficult phase of his life, his attitude was remarkable; he didn’t just grit his teeth and bear the suffering – he smiled and radiated positive warmth. His kindness is ceaseless and his passion for, well everything, is truly inspiring. In 2011 he stayed with me in London. Already exhausted from a European tour, he didn’t stop for a second, pursuing his hobbies with awesome ferocity.
In London for four days, he:
- Went on the London Eye
- Visited Shakespeare’s Globe, where he tried desperately (& unsuccessfully) to be allowed on stage
- Underwent The Doctor Who Experience, where he flew the TARDIS
- Was strapped to a chair, had a hole drilled in his head and was bled from the wrists at the London Dungeon
- Wandered around the city searching for Monopoly board places
- Went to 221B Baker Street (the home of Sherlock Holmes) which he established is actually around 239 …
- Had his photo taken at King’s Cross station where the Harry Potter trolley is positioned at Platform 9 and ¾ (it was an oversight of JK Rowling’s that Paddington’s platforms 9 and 10 actually have train tracks between them …)
- Went to two musicals
- Eyed off a Dalek at the London Film museum
- Spent a fortune at Forbidden Planet, purchasing Doctor Who memorabilia, signed books, and a Dead Parrot (Monty Python, obviously …)
- Saw Big Ben, the changing of the guard, and fireworks on Guy Fawkes night
I’m ashamed to say that’s possibly more than I’ve done in the past year.
Damian’s addiction to sci-fi probably best illustrates his inherent nerdiness. He loves fantasy (preferably urban) and comedy by the likes of Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin and Neil Gaiman. He plays World of Warcraft, has a Murloc on his bookshelf , a DeLorean in his bedroom, owns 2000 DVDs and two 2-terabyte drives crammed with TV shows and movies.
From a caterpillar, Damian has become a brilliant butterfly. He says yes to anything and doesn’t waste a second of life. He loves acting and has been on the board of three different theatre companies. One of his life’s highs was directing a Terry Pratchett adaptation of Mort. His favourite performance role was Orin Scrivello (the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors). He’s written a novel and has been drawing comics since he was twelve. Oh and, having lived in Japan, he speaks Japanese.
Approaching forty, Damian’s soon to be married to a lovely, intelligent and attractive woman and I know it’s a cliché to say, but he really does deserve it. I’m grateful for him and proud to be his friend. The world needs more Damians.
It seems fitting to post this entry on Friday 13th, not only because Damian shares his name with the Antichrist from The Omen (albeit spelt differently), but because the timing of when I wrote it was peculiar. On Boxing Day, I stopped my dinner midway through because of an irresistible desire to write about Damian. It’s not uncommon for me to feel compelled to write, but it is uncommon to sacrifice food for it! An hour later this entry was complete and ready for public viewing later in the year – when Damian was actually engaged and after I’d obtained his permission for publishing (which, incidentally, I have). Damian phoned me from Melbourne on December 30th (I was in Fiji) to tell me his “big news”! He had got engaged at 9pm on Boxing Day … half an hour after I wrote this. I’m not a superstitious person, but I did find that quite a coincidence!
Simone! So brilliant! I’ve just recently had contact with Damian via FB and blogs etc and what a wonderful piece about him! I’m a big Terry Pratchett fan too and was incredibly jealous last year when I saw him all kitted up for the convention.
You’re a brilliant writer – I was meant to have an early night and I’ve sat here reading you blog!
Hope all is good in your world 🙂
Oh thanks so much Kate. I saw “raggedblossomhandmade” had subscribed, so I looked at the blog (which is great, by the way) and as soon as I read the “about me” I knew it was you (one brother, one sister, and a mother who taught you to make things gave it away pretty quickly!). It’s funny that you’d also remember the Damian of our youth – and us for that matter, christ knows it took me a long time to become the perfect creature I am today 😉 I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my blog so far and hope you’re loving family life!
You’re wonderful Simone. Thanks for caring about me since the old days of Fischer Street and Pudge the Vicious Pony.
I think you mean Pudge, my Mighty Steed. And for the millionth time – he didn’t mean to step on your brother, and it was very much worth the comedy value 🙂
It doesn’t surprise me at all that you have so many ‘drafted’, Simone. You are clearly a writer at heart and a very good one at that!
Despite all these wonderful things to do in London, on your return I would like us to go to Golds Cafe and have a hummous, falafel pitta and a coffee. I’ve been craving a lunch date with you.
Sigh, at heart I’m a dancer – sadly, a dancer trapped in a boxer’s body 😦
I’ll be there with bells on later in the year 🙂 Though promise me you won’t complain about not getting a free biscuit to go with your mug of plain hot water …
Yes. You have captured the wonderful genial spirit of Damian. He was a delight to have as a student in my clasroom many years ago where his writing skills and comic art were already apparent. May he find fulfilment in married life.
Yep – he deserves his current (and future) happiness.
And from my experience of being a student alongside Danny, I’m going to assume he wasn’t such a delight to teach 🙂
Thank you Mary. I fully plan on finding fulfilment in married life 🙂 You’d love Shereen. She’s very kind and incredibly smart.
And i thought i was the coolest friend you have! Damn! I can’t match this Damian chap! Also, why the hell wasn’t I invited along when he came to town?! I want him to be my friend too!…I’ve just had an amazing idea, if he ever comes to town again we must introduce him to my friend, Ruth, she is queen sci fi nerd (obvs nerd is said with affection!) – and is also engaged, so no funny business intended!
Don’t fret my little flower, you’re very cool – and the reason I didn’t invite you along wasn’t because I’m ashamed to be seen in public with you … no, no, not at all …
It is rare for me to look forward to blog posts – but yours are brilliant and beautifully written. x
Oh thanks so much, Ben. The truth is I really just love writing and I’d write even if no one was reading (or enjoying!) my “scribbles”, but it’s genuinely very nice to hear that they’re appreciated. At the moment I’ve got another fourteen “drafted” – I considered pumping them all out in a week, but I don’t want people to feel bombarded. For now I’ve decided to stick with my fresh “thought/event of the week” 🙂