Although the teasing and abuse abated when Colin's stepfather went to the school to speak to his teacher about the problem, Colin was still constantly on the perimeter of the social world of the playground. He became a withdrawn and lonely boy who had few friends. "I would not say I joined in with the others, I'm not a mixer. I would often be on my own, with one or two at most, no more than that." He was "very lonely at times. Often at the edge of things." ("I still am," he adds, without conscious irony.) When teams were chosen for football or cricket, he was one of those boys who would spend "more time on the side line waiting to be picked" than playing, which was "very humiliating." His few friends were chosen because they were unthreatening: "In many ways I was immature and tended to seek out immature associates."
Although he was a member of the Sea Cadets for two years, which provided him with some social structure, he mostly played alone after school and at weekends. It was during one of these solitary games that Colin had an accident:
"My grandparents had a fireplace that had a raised surround. One day I must have been playing knights in armour or something as I was wearing a saucepan on my head... I fell and hit my head on the fireplace surround. In the accident I lost or damaged teeth, the underneath of my eye was cut and scarred and in general I had a 'knock on the head'."
He believes that this knock rendered him unconscious for a time, but as his grandparents are now dead, and his mother was at work when the incident occurred, and he himself has no clear memory of the incident, he cannot say for sure. "I do remember having my teeth corrected afterward but do not remember the accident. Is this a pointer to being dazed or worse?" he asks.
In 1964, Colin's parents' financial situation eventually became so bad that they were evicted from Farnol Road due to non-payment of rent. Ten-year-old Colin and his mother were forced to go back to Westmalling for a time, and as men were not allowed, Colin's step-father went to live with his parents. When Colin's mother discovered that she was pregnant later that year, they knew they would be unable to cope with the increased emotional and financial strain. But she wanted the baby, so it was decided that Colin would go into care until his parents' monetary situation improved. As Ireland puts it, more understanding now than he was then, "We lacked the structure that would allow us to be together." Colin was sent to stay with a foster family in Wainscott, Kent. Of this period he simply remembers that, "my foster parents were ordinary and during my stay with them I felt ordinary." He was returned to his parents, who were now living in West Kingsdown, once they were better able to cope with him and his new brother.
Throughout his childhood, despite - or perhaps because of - their relative poverty and constant upheavals, Colin was always very close to his mother, whom he remembers as an affectionate and benevolent force throughout his life. When the family were struggling for money he recalls how his mother would make sacrifices herself in order that her children could be fed and clothed. The children usually ate well, he recalls, but this "involved my mother not eating so that we could on a number of occasions during the worst periods... As a child I was shielded by parental sacrifices from the worst effects of our poverty." He vividly remembers one Christmas:
"I can remember having extra presents. Through either the efforts of my mother and stepfather, or a benevolent uncle, this would have been my uncle Alan, I had been provided with a train set! This Christmas I also received gifts donated to the NSPCC and I was told by my mother that I was not to mention the train-set to their officer when he arrived. I can still remember that man's arrival in all of his uniformed splendour, knocking on the door... He did leave me with a rather splendid tin plate toy American police car that did all sorts of things."
Their poverty, in retrospect, had one positive effect, as "the shared adversity my mother and I faced helped to bond us further."