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Being a quiet and sensitive child. With help from Black Sabbath, The Who, The Beatles, Elton John and Lesley Duncan!

Date posted: Saturday 12th July 2014


When I was a boy I was often found sitting on my own somewhere. Actually, I was often not found, because I was quite keen to be undisturbed. I think I was OK, but I enjoyed having time to think big thoughts. One day, aged seven, I was lying under the big tree in the garden, wearing my favourite shoes for the last time. They had become too painful to wear, because my feet had grown. There I lay, looking up into the branches, wondering about whether my mum would be able to find me an identical pair of shoes. Suddenly my reverie was broken by a rustling in the trees. My dad later explained to me, as he washed my hair, that in some parts of the world what had happened to me is considered to be a sign of good luck.


After that I taught myself to climb the tree, so I could sit up there watching the world go by.

Later my dad told me, as he said goodbye to the policeman who had just visited us, that I should consider myself lucky that none of my spit had actually landed on anyone’s head.

When I was 15 I skipped school. As soon as I left the school gates, in my uniform, I realised I was a marked man, so headed for the playing fields and lay on my back in the long grass, watching the clouds being pushed across the sun and leaving moving shadows on the ground as the grass rustled in the breeze. I was thinking big thoughts again: like why does every banging rock album have to have a ‘deep and meaningful’ song on side two, that is so bad that you have to get up, take the stylus out of the groove and drop it onto the next track. Here is probably the worst example:

Changes: How could Sabbath be so cruel to the world?

Well maybe that’s not the worst example. Ozzie was later to record the same ghastly song with daughter Kelly. And how could The Stones, the band that gave us Honky Tonk Women and Brown Sugar, unleash Angie on a totally unsuspecting fan base? And what was Getting In Tune by The Who doing on side two of Who’s Next?

Then there was Rubber Soul by The Beatles. Rolling Stone Magazine rates it as the fifth best album of all time. Back then, three years after The Beatles had finally called it a day, I was still puzzled by In My Life: John Lennon’s song of nostalgia for the Liverpool he grew up in.

In my life: The Beatles. Now I get it.

In our own adolescent fashion, I think us boys discussed these musical conundrums as a way of safely giving voice to our worries about emotions, the future and relationships. If you talked openly about your longings for mutually rewarding emotional conjunction with a nice girl, you were likely to get your head kicked in. So slagging off Ozzie and the rest of Black Sabbath for singing ‘I’m unhappy/I feel so sad /I lost the best friend that I ever had/ She was my woman/ I loved her so/ But it’s too late now/ I’ve let her go/ I’m going through changes’ was a safe way of broaching the subject of emotional turmoil. One boring Sunday afternoon, in my solitary ramblings around the school, I met a guy playing Changes on the piano and singing mournfully. I snuck up on him and asked him why he was playing the song: “It’s just how I feel man. Right now I feel like my whole personality is turning 180 degrees. You’ll feel the same when you’re 16 and a half.”

I was so moved by this experience that I told my friends. They kicked the guy’s head in.

But I had more perplexing problems on my 15-year-old mind, as I lay in the grass. How was I going to meet Lesley Duncan and get her to marry me? My older brother had convinced me that this new singer called Elton John was going to be an international sensation, and that I should forget The Beatles and The Stones and Black Sabbath and shell out £2.80 (20p off my entire pocket money allowance for the term) on Tumbleweed Connection. I thought it was indeed awesome. (My brother had decided, as soon as I had bought it, that maybe it wasn’t as good as he had thought, and maybe this new band called The Eagles were going to be the next big thing. He later said the same about Bob Marley, Donna Summer, Dire Straits, The Clash and The Police. His predictions about Mary Hopkin and Chicory Tip conquering the world were oddly incorrect.)

I liked Tumbleweed Connection. And I absolutely LOVED Love Song. This was to prove to be one of the few songs that Elton recorded or performed that was not his own composition. And it was written by a girl!! I did some research about Lesley Duncan (there was no Wikipedia in those days, so it meant spending hours scouring back issues of Melody Maker). Not only was she the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, but her voice was like honey and reminded me of a Welsh mountain stream running over stones on a misty morning (I was only 15, so please give me a break). Over the next couple of months I scraped together enough money to get two of Lesley’s albums, and even had a mad idea to run away from home and see her live at The Reading Festival (which, apparently, was not a huge success. By all accounts she suffered terribly from stage fright and the crowd did not take kindly to her after having been built up to a beer-crazed frenzy by the mighty Status Quo and Uriah Heep.)


Lesley Duncan It’s a little bit funny…

Lesley went on to sing backing vocals on Dark Side of the Moon, and various other classic albums. But while Elton wore glitter and high heels and moved to LA, Lesley withdrew from the music biz and went to live a quiet life, wearing sensible sweaters on the Isle of Mull.

Where is this going? In two directions really. The first path is a familiar one for regular readers: there’s nothing wrong with being quiet. Many children are quiet, or have the need for quiet moments. I liked the rough and tumble of being in school, but also benefited from lessons where I could think my own thoughts, even though I was surrounded by lots of other children. These lessons were called ‘story writing’ or ‘quiet reading’.

The second path is to flag up a new film that I just can’t wait to see. Boyhood is directed by Richard Linklater, and is probably totally unique in cinema history, as he has filmed it over a 12-year period, using the same actors. The film is loosely based on his own childhood, and traces the outer and inner life of a young boy growing through adolescence and into young adulthood. And guess what… the little fellow was quite thoughtful and prone to needing time on his own, to think big thoughts. Maybe there’s a scene where a pigeon drops something on him as he is lying under a tall tree. I’m really looking forward to seeing this film.

Take care out there


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12 responses to “Being a quiet and sensitive child. With help from Black Sabbath, The Who, The Beatles, Elton John and Lesley Duncan!”

  1. Carolyn says:

    Thanks Michael, Just what I needed to read today. With love, Cal

    • Michael Jones says:

      Hi Carolyn!!
      Thank you for taking the time to reply to the post. I think that Boyhood could be a great film.
      The issue of quietness is a complex one, but Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, certainly helped put it into perspective for me.
      Great to hear from you

    • Pól Bond says:

      HI I’m only seeing this now and I echo Carolyn’s thanks for the great post. I’m reading “quiet the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” and see myself and my daughter in this experience. I am an educational psychologist who often speaks in front of hundreds of people and who attends meetings all day with people yet I am completely introvert in that I love being alone with my thoughts. My daughter yesterday shared with me that she “Loves solitude”: being on her own is never a problem for her. She enjoys her friends and loves interacting with them yet prefers to be alone. Anything wrong with that? I don’t think so !

      • Michael Jones says:

        Thank you Pol! ‘Quietness’ is a very popular subject indeed! I suppose being quiet becomes an issue if the individual finds that it is a barrier to functioning well in a group. However there are real knacks to being in groups (e.g. meetings) where everyone can have the opportunity to participate. In many cases talking can just prolong meetings, and often what happens before, between and after meetings is what really counts.
        Having said that, there is often a need to help very quiet children, who are finding school difficult, to develop skills that will make sure they are included in groups. This is something Maggie Johnson develop in our book, ‘Supporting Quiet Children’.
        There is also a great book that looks closely at effective leadership, which includes many ideas about effective communication in meetings, how to give feedback to colleagues etc. These ideas help everyone to participate in their own way that they feel comfortable with. The book is ‘Engaging Leaders’ by Paul Gentle.
        Very best wishes and thank you for responding.
        PS My latest post further explores the theme, but be warned,, I do slate Simon and Garfunkel quite a bit!!

  2. Fiona Ford says:

    It’s so good to have someone else say there is nothing wrong with being quiet. Time and time again it is seen by school staff as a need for “more confidence”, and not a character trait. I’m an SLT working in schools and often say what you have in your post. I will be passing it on! Thank you 🙂

    • Michael Jones says:

      Hello again Fiona!
      Schools are by their nature very noisy and lively places, and are designed for extroverts.this is fine for most children,but some children who are introverts and highly sensitive can find school very problematic .
      There is an article on my website about this subject, and I will post it here shortly.
      Very best wishes

  3. Fiona Ford says:

    Many thanks. I’m still battling on trying to get Auditory Processing Disorder recognised as well. I’ve had some success where my daughter is concerned. Now to generalise it a bit! Best wishes, Fiona

    • Michael Jones says:

      Can you email me some info on APD please?

      • Fiona Ford says:

        I’ll send you what I’ve got. I have some paper copies of information which I’ll try to find the time to scan over the summer and forward any that seem helpful.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Hi again Fiona
      Here is the link to the article about a young woman looking back on her childhood and teen years as a very quiet person, and how she blossomed at university. Part of the issue was not feeling comfortable with engaging with ‘chat’ or ‘small talk’, essentially which is what being a teen in a group is all about. However at University, Hannah was surrounded by people who shared her passion and knowledge for music, and therefore had a shared reason for intense discussions.
      Many parents of very quiet teens have been heartened by reading about Hannah’s experience. it helps them be positive and counter the classic comments from school, which are ‘She needs to contribute more in groups and speak out more in lessons.’
      Best wishes

      • Fiona Ford says:

        Many thanks for the link. I do wonder how many children with unrecognised APD present as Hannah does – My daughter always acted the clown and made people laugh to cover up that she had no idea what was being said in a group situation. As she reached Secondary School she started to be more self conscious and she now sticks to a close group of friends who understand her difficulties and compensate. My eldest daughter had the “needs to speak more” comment throughout school with me repeatedly saying “That’s just how she is” but went on to be Head Girl this year at her school, and did so very successfully! I will certainly pass this on to offer a positive angle on “quiet” children! Many thanks – again!

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