Introduction
 Short Version
I was born in 1950. I had two brothers and a sister, but they were a lot older than me and, from the time when I was three years old, they spent most of their time away from home. My father left the family home when I was three and a half years old and set up home with another woman. My mother was recovering from the breakdown of her marriage and, after some years and major disappointments, she descended into a state of depression which, although well covered up, finally ended in her suicide in 1960. I believe that she cared for me as any mother would and there were occasions which I well remember where she made a great effort to bring some joy into my life but, due to her mental state, she was not able to cope with a small boy who was always up to mischief the moment her back was turned. Her relationship with me was rather distant. Between the ages of seven and ten, I was frequently left to my own devices at home while my mother went out to work part-time. Had she known, many of the things I did with other children in the neighbourhood when she was not around would have upset and worried her, even by today's standards. From the age of five, I was sent to a series of boarding schools and, for the first three years, this included the summer holidays as well. These years were particularly unpleasant. The boarding schools I attended were a stark environment in which to grow up and in one case, was filthy and unhygienic. Discipline was enforced with the cane, a hefty smack around the head and other punishments. Bullying was frequent and more difficult to cope with than the punishments administered by masters because it was more personal. It was impossible to escape from the feeling of powerlessness. Justice had its own peculiar meaning and there was no form of human affection. For me these schools were more a form of prison which had to be endured than a place of education and enlightenment. Although I was often punished for crimes I had not committed I was rarely found out for those which I had. I learned to become very devious. School life was ostensibly intended to 'make a man of you' but actually taught me how to ignore my own emotions and made me insensitive to the pain of others. I know there are some who are content with institutional life but it did not suit me at all. However, I found some escape and release in music as I was a keen violinist.

When I left boarding school at the age of eighteen, I appeared to be an amiable and generous sort of person with a very strong sense of humour but what was going on inside was quite different. My motives were, to a large extent, self-centred and I found I had a number of seriously disabling social inadequacies. I was lonely and fairly proud. I did not make friends at school because of the atmosphere of distrust. In my hometown, people of my age had already formed their own social groups and there was no way I could easily break into them. In some ways, I was used to living my life in isolation. Emotionally, my years in boarding school had left their mark. I trusted no-one in my own generation. Girls, of course, were a different matter; I saw them as angels sent from heaven! (In 1970 or 71, when I was crossing an empty car park one Sunday morning on my way to a spiritualist church, I was suddenly confronted by a beautiful girl I knew with long blond hair who asked me where I was going. When I told her, she said that in the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible, God calls trying to contact the dead an abomination and that we are not to do it. Had the person who said that to me been male, I would have argued but, as it was, I immediately turned on my heel and went straight back home!)

My inability to make friends meant that I started to take refuge in drink. This resulted in some drink-related offences for which I found myself before the magistrate on two occasions. After work, I practised my violin for a couple of hours every evening and, although I was not a very good violinist (since I lacked the patience for proper disciplined practice) that did not stop me from struggling with pieces which were too difficult for me to play. After one such session of frustration expressed in sound, I remember my father waiting at the bottom of the stairs with his hair awry and looking as though he had just undergone a period of severe mental strain. He looked at me and asked if I had had a bad day at work! I also joined a local amateur symphony orchestra, not that I liked playing in orchestras particularly but, like a lot of young men, I imagined that my only hope for personal happiness lay in a meaningful relationship with some lovely female (the amateur orchestra having a fair number of them) - although I lacked the emotional maturity to make such a relationship actually work. I joined a political club for the same reason.
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 My Early Life
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A Christian Testimony - Conversion Experience
by James Christian Petzold
My Early Life
 Einletung
 Kurzer Auszug
 Kindheit und Jugend
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