Saturday 18 June 2022

'A Working Class Encounter With Grendel In the Nineteen Sixties' by Derek Routledge

One day we had to pretend at being afraid. An easy thing, given all the ‘learning’ offered up at this place. In bare feet, shorts and vest, a lot of us bare chest on a bog cold November morning, we were told the story, an offering, a bare outline of Beowulf no less.

All details laid out in a blur, but essentially carnage. And there we were told to imagine ourselves at the centre of it. Night and Day. Grendel, coming for us.

That script reading if you want to call it that without a single word put in front of us produced an eerie silence.

Suddenly we loved the cold.

We all clutched Oscars before we even moved.

Nominees for savagery, no lies only truth.

All of us knew.

Punishment in the place we’d found ourselves as children was the norm and here was a weird mirror held up.

Grendel was a beast of darkness and had to be fought and driven out of our lives. Hated by God.

That’s what he said.

Didn’t he realise, our so called ‘teacher’ what he was saying?

Apparently not.

Get ready, he said.


Our faces our forms waiting for it to dawn fully, moving as we froze as we were moving, whooping as instructed to whip ourselves up until the signal - Act! - and we got down to essentials. Took it to the limit. No holding back.

We acted; and he was no more – Grendel.


A lesson taught.

Before he could hand out another.


After that we left this place and went out into the world and learned to love. Most of us, anyway.

There are Grendels out there, in the darkness, everybody knows that, but we’ve managed to stay in the light.

Stay in the light.



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