Who Am I
It is polite to say something in more detail about who I am, but I do not want this to be overdone. I do not intend this website to be filled by a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of rather insignificant events, because this will merely illustrate the futility and inanities of life (and my life in particular). Personal information may be posted later, but it will be muted and it should not overshadow other matters which will be put in this website. This particular entry may be long, but it may be all you will further get in any detail about myself. So, let us get started!
To begin with, I can just reiterate what I wrote when the subject was the River Waldron: I think that if you really want to understand me, you should first go to Haslington, walking around the old part of it, and then walking to the River Waldron, trying to walk along its banks and imagining what it was all like in the 1950s and very early 1960s. What happened to me later and what I did later merely elaborate on the things that were moulded by a childhood in Haslington and my times spent playing along the river bank there. Of course, that is not all; you need to read more to get a bigger picture of me. But, if I wanted to be overly dramatic, I could say "Around here you may find part of the soul of David Dudley Stretch".
I was born at an early age (haha) and lived until I was eight years old in village in South Cheshire in Haslington. My parents and my older brother and I then moved to a small village in Lincolnshire when my father got promoted in his job with the Post Office (see Great Hale, near Sleaford) and it was there that my younger brother was born. I had a very happy time in Cheshire, and a slightly less happy time at the primary school I went to in Lincolnshire.
Grammar (High) School
I had an extremely unhappy life at the Grammar School I attended until I went to university (Grammar Schools would be known as "better High Schools" now, I guess.), and I was bullied there so badly that I wanted to kill myself. These events are too painful to expand upon here. The experiences left such a deep impression upon me that they acted in many ways and in many areas like a millstone around my neck. I sincerely believe they have affected me to prevent me from achieving my full academic and social potential all my life. However, they did leave some positive effects as well, and it is those that I wish to try to emphasize and nurture, even to this day.
The Effect upon me
The terrible events of my Grammar School occurred along with some times of happiness and achievement, but overall they left some significant effects in me. At first the positive things were buried deep within myself, because I was extremely shy and withdrawn after the traumatic experiences I had had, but eventually, I became able to think I could express myself a bit more. I recall one day coming home on the bus after the usual day of being bullied and insulted at school when a classmate asked me "When are you going to come out of your shell?", and I replied "When are you lot going to stop pushing me into it?" Nevetheless, the traumatic times began to form the following ideals in my mind from an early age:
- I was left with a deep mistrust of traditions and authority which I show by questioning them (I am not a very physically violent person).
- I was left with a belief that critical thinking and proper education are one of the main ways by which ignorance, prejudice, and hate can be challenged.
- The experiences taught me that it is far better to try to show love, care, kindness, empathy, and compassion towards others.
- Furthermore, the experiences left me with a belief that we should strive to try to help people, especially those who feel themselves to be "outsiders" in society, or who are marginalised, discriminated against, and so on.
In other words, I began to form the idea that we should try to build connections between each other with love. kindness, care, empathy, and compassion, etc, rather than put up barriers using fear, hate, exclusion, bad language, and ignorance.
I studied at university, gaining a BA (Hons) degree (at Bangor University), then an MSc (at Stirling University), and finally a PhD (at Birmingham University) - all good universities. I did well in all my studying, and I did make a few very good, close friendships that are long-lasting. I had academic jobs in good UK universities, but I consider my academic life to have been largely a failure because I did not achieve my full potential.
Yes, I published my first research article when I was still a second year undergraduate. Yes, I discovered some major errors in thinking in previous research in psychology. Yes, I used mathematics in a novel way to prove some approaches could never solve a problem that some people had argued about up to then. And yes, I did novel research later and made some major theoretical discoveries in some areas of psychology and research design. As a backdrop to all that, I was also a major contributor to joint research projects in various areas of psychology and child psychiatry, and delivered talks at conferences and published articles and contributed to encyclopedias and books. I was even (briefly) sought after by major media organisations in the 1990s to give interviews about some research I was the lead publisher for into whether the odour of lavender could promote sleep in elderly people.
However I was never able to follow through all these research ideas and discoveries properly. The chronic lack of self-confidence and fear of becoming a target by becoming "prominent" was always with me. It destroyed any motivation I had and any motivation that I fought to try to get to see these discoveries fully known and utilised. The feelings of isolation and inadequacy ended up combining with a reaction to what I had discovered which I felt was often hostile and unfriendly, and the result acted like a war of attrition on my ability to do more. What also did not help was that I ended up working in an environment in which others seemed completely unable to distinguish between someone "working with" them from someone "working for" them. Consequently, I continued to feel undervalued and de-skilled through being asked to do things a much more junior person could have done, but which they needed someone of my qualifications to do so they could demonstrate how much more important they were. These feelings were consolidated and deliberately played upon (I think to try to keep me subservient) when I was continually told that I was in a very weak and junior position, even though I was largely responsible for salvaging their poorly-thought out ideas of research they built their reputations on (as part of my job). After trying to assert myself and escape, I found myself placed in an impossible position, through no fault of my own. Consequently, the pressures grew and I became very ill, and ended up being retired very early in 2002. (I should point out that I am not the only person to have suffered the same things in similar jobs to my own.)
For complex reasons, professional help could not be easily arranged, and I had to deal with the aftermath largely on my own. My friends and family were of great help to me both before and after that time (for example, I still feel the loss of my parents to this day because they were a great help and very loving towards me). Time can heal, but it can do so slowly, and with me, it was slow and difficult, and remains incomplete.
Eventually, little by little I recovered slightly, and this recovery has carried on to this day. So, I am able to write something like this webpage, which would have been impossible for me to do 20 years ago. I was extremely happy when I got to know and married a Chinese woman, and thereby gained a son she had had in a previous marriage. We settled down initially in Britain, but we decided to go to live in China after around 5 years in the UK. My son means a very great deal to me, and it is matter of great pain and distress to me that he has developed a chronic debilitating illness, and all that this entails.
China has always fascinated me from a very early age (before the age of 5, from what my mother told me). I recall reading my first classical Chinese poem (sadly in translation) by Wang Wei, and being moved almost to tears by its subtlety and beauty. These tears upon reading Chinese poetry were not my first tears concerning Chinese art and culture: tears had come earlier when I saw my first classical Chinese Paintings. I recall standing in a bookshop in Sleaford when at Grammar School, with tears running down my cheeks as I looked at some classical Chinese paintings in a book. They moved me completely in a way I find hard to explain. These deep emotional reactions still happen to me when I read Chinese poetry or see Chinese paintings, or, indeed, when I stand and look at some Chinese scenery when traveling around China.
So I was very happy that I was able to visit China, and eventually to live there with my family. It seemed that I was "returning home", in a very real sense. I remained for five years (see Zhangjiajie, Hunan, PR China, Haidian District, Beijing, PR China, and Fengtai District, Beijing, PR China.) Whilst in China, I made a number of additional deep, very close friendships with other Chinese people who I often came into contact with. They know who they are, and I cannot conceive living and not knowing these Chinese people because they occupy a greatly significant position in my mind, my heart, and my life. I am not naming any names here because the people I would want to mention are all living and I would view it as an intrusion into their lives. I think you could also say about China, "Here you may find part of the soul of David Dudley Stretch", just as you could say it about that part of Cheshire in which I played when I was young.
Back in the UK
I returned from China to the UK in the summer of 2015 after a chronic illness I had became much worse so that it could not be treated well within China. So, here I am now (in Smallthorne, in Stoke-on-Trent), fully retired and able to devote whatever time I have left to what interests me. Because of new visa restrictions introduced by the UK government in response to what I can only describe as xenophobia, whipped up by the popularist press for their own, dubious purposes, my wife and son cannot easily join me now, and this brings great pain to us all. We are not alone in being tortured by visa restrictions the UK government has imposed.
In many ways, I feel deeply conflicted. When I am in China, I have always missed Britain, and when I am in Britain, I always miss China. I miss Chinese food now, but when I was in China, I missed British food. I miss the countryside of the other country when I am not there, being able to experience it. I have come to love both countries, and so I am always in a state of longing to be in the other country. The Welsh word, Hiraeth, can be expanded to apply to other countries and situations, and I feel I am perpetually in this state with respect to Britain and China. Most of all, I miss my family and friends who are Chinese, because we are separated by so much distance at the moment. When I think of them, I am also often moved to tears.
So, that's it! I don't intend now to say very much more.