For the most part, I don’t miss my own school days. I spent a lot of them being bullied by douchebags who hopefully haven’t amounted to anything by now, one of whom I rather memorably punched in the face just as the headmaster was coming around the corner. (He sided with me after the fact, noting that my outburst of aggression was quite understandable, given bully in question’s history. I got away with nothing more than a “five minute report”, a piece of paper I had to get signed by teachers every five minutes during break and lunchtime.)
But there were good times too. So I thought I’d share a few.
The Rough Book
Our school library used to sell exercise books for a few pence, just in case you lost yours and wanted to replace it without having to tell your teacher that you’d lost your book. The librarian (Mrs Miller, no! We will not let you go!) asked no questions, though, other than “what colour would you like?”
And so it was that my friend Ed and I brought in the concept of the “Rough Book” — an exercise book ostensibly for quick scribblings, sketching and note-taking but which usually ended up completely covered in graffiti, drawings of cocks and an elaborate middle two pages flamboyantly depicting the name of whichever girl I had made the mistake of telling my friends I fancied that week.
A key part of the Rough Book’s appeal was keeping it secret, and for the most part we managed to do so without it being confiscated or even spotted. It was immensely satisfying but also a bit sad to reach the end of one — while it was possible to look back on all the silly drawings we had done over the course of a few weeks, the book’s “magic” was lost, and it usually found its way into the bin eventually — largely because we didn’t want our parents and/or teachers seeing all the pictures of cocks and swear words we’d scrawled all over every available inch.
Our school used to do two big concerts a year — one in the summer, one around Christmas time. The weekly rehearsals for the various groups tended to revolve around practicing pieces for these big events, which always enjoyed a strong turnout from parents and friends of the school. Going to music groups was one of my main forms of socialising at school — since I lived seven miles away, it wasn’t always easy to just pop over to a friend’s house for pizza and video games, and music groups gave me a chance to make some new friends and see some of my existing friends in a new context. They were fun.
There was something special about concert night, though — a strange, almost romantic atmosphere in the air. Inevitably, being a horny teenager, I’d interpret this atmosphere as “God, I’d really like to get off with someone” and spend as much of the evening as possible attempting to flirt with the girls from the clarinet section. (Ahh, Nikki. How hot you were.) Being a zitty, socially-incompetent loser with crap hair, I inevitably failed to drum up the confidence to do anything to take advantage of the romance in the air, but all of the girls were good enough to humour me and not just tell me to fuck off, which was nice.
You know, I actually enjoyed the whole “learning” part of school. (This is probably why I was bullied so much.) I loved the fact that on any given day, we got to learn German, saw a plank of wood in half, spectacularly fail to compose a “reggae” piece and listen to our maths teacher make up an anecdote about the time he went windsurfing and knew he was exactly 200 metres from the shoreline. Exactly how much of that stuff has been retained over the years is perhaps questionable (my use of German nowadays can probably be filed under “racism”, or “Englishman Abroad” at the very least) but I enjoyed learning it at the time.
Except maths. I hated maths with a passion. Maths homework used to make me genuinely angry. In retrospect, this was silly, because a lot of things in the real world involve maths to various degrees. Granted, I have little use for quadratic equations in my daily life (and thus can’t remember what they are) but things like basic algebra and arithmetic occasionally come in handy.
I typically used to take a packed lunch to school, so eating in the canteen was a rare treat. They served chips and pizza and other awesome things, most of which Jamie Oliver has probably banned by now. In the upper school dining hall (which was later converted into part of the new sixth form centre that my year was the first to pass through) you could get chips and frickin’ cheese.
Yeah, I actually miss the people who taught me. It would probably be horrifying to see how much they’ve aged by now, since the mental image I have of all of them is how they were between the years of 1992 and 1999, but there were some truly fine folks at the chalkface of my school. There were scary teachers, friendly teachers, knowledgeable teachers, weird teachers and, yes, hot teachers — but I can’t remember any that I particularly disliked as such. (Except for the guy who taught me four-part harmony for A-Level music, but he was a peripatetic music teacher and thus didn’t count.) I wonder how many of them are still there. I also occasionally wonder how many of the students I worked with during my thankfully short teaching career will remember me in years to come?
That’s enough waxing nostalgic for tonight, I think. Time to sleep.