Born in 1944 to a naval family living in India, with two sisters, all of us close in age, and a third 10 years later, we moved to the UK in 1948. I remember being assessed for my left ear aged about 5 and being told it was ‘too dangerous to consider surgery.’
I had private schooling and was very conscious of being different. I walked with both my arms hiding my ears. I don’t recall being over teased by the other boys, but my headmaster was very aware of my reactions and unhappiness, but never protected me from boys making a comment, as they will. I realise now that this was a deliberate decision he took, with the active support of my parents.
I don’t recall much further name calling, even at the public school I attended, Sevenoaks School, but I had built up sufficient strength to rebuff any comments and ‘fight’ back (not literally). I was a tall child, about 6 foot at 14, represented my school in all sports, socially active, with friends and normal ‘enemies! I never felt different, but the difference was always there.
I left school at 18, worked in London for a while, but needed more action and joined Kent Police as a Constable in March, 1963. Some minor comments from my friends but nothing serious.
Starting ‘on the beat’ in Kent, I developed my own repartee to the ‘yobs’ – some who needed to be ‘sorted’! When they asked me about my ear, I told them I had lost it in a fight, ‘but you should see the other guy!’ No more comments!!
I became a Sergeant quite young, was the Cadet Training Sergeant due to my physical fitness, swimming, camping and general training skills, and don’t recall any comments from the young cadets-to me. Sure they spoke about it amongst themselves! I probably kept them too busy!
During my 30 year career, to Area Commander as Superintendent, I recall only two occasions when I took action.
I found a comment on the notice board at one station, on night duty, referring to ‘one ear’ when I was an Inspector. I called the section in to my office before going off duty, and told them what I had seen, apologised to them for causing one of them some difficulty due to my appearance. I indicated that if they needed to, I would be happy to help them get over their discomfort and chat through with them, in private, ways of helping them to live with it as I did. No more was heard or said.
I did this approach once more in my career as a Chief Inspector on a station in the Medway Towns.
I was the Chief Constables’ Staff Office for two years, met many, many officers and VIPS from around the world and had not one comment made to me.
As an Area Commander in Medway for several years, I did occasionally ‘use’ the issue to be able to help others with their own personal problems. I never hid it publicly.
Retiring, at 49 , I worked in the NHS in London for eight years, and had no comments from any person, staff or patient.
What I really loved, and still do, are the young kids, 2 or 3 years old, who quickly point out my ear when we first meet. I drop down to their level and they usually touch it, tell them it’s my special ear, and I then ask them how many fingers have they? We count the ten fingers, and they run off happy that they have all their fingers!!
I did ask Sue when she first saw it and her reaction! We’ve been married for 54 years now, that says it all!
Just a few pictures showing my ear over the years!!