Friday, 24 February 2017

Do You Remember The Days In The Old School Yard?

A set of middle school memories.  Age eight to twelve.  In order of recollection.  I have included the only two photos I have on my computer taken on school grounds.  Probably I have more photos in albums.  It's tempting to look through those years tonight.

My memories have been highly edited before posting.  Because I was a weird child.  I did weird things.  You don't need to know.  And I am not ever going to tell you.

Do I remember the days?  Do I remember the times? ...

I AM the genie of the lamp. Aged 10.

That time J asked me for a kiss.  We kissed.  It was the least proficient kissing technique of all time.  I was so excited that someone like J might possibly like someone like me.  I ran all the way home and told my mum.  By the next day J had forgotten about the kiss and all it had meant.  She wouldn't talk to me.

That time I was so bored with the easiness of a lesson that I pushed myself once too often and made a tiny mistake and Mrs. B roundly told me off and humiliated me deliberately.  She told me not to be clever.

That time Mrs J said that I had to have a boy sit next to me because nobody else would talk to him.  I had to look after him.  He had Tourettes's.  But this was the early 1980s.  He didn't have a label.  Didn't have a diagnosis.  He was just the odd kid who made noises and shouted things out sometimes.  He was a nice child.  Perhaps more shy than me and who could blame him?

That time I was bored in a lesson and asked Mr. D whether he could explain the Theory of Relativity.  He could.  He did.  In detail to a ten year old.  I was left with no more understanding of Einstein than I had begun with.

That time I didn't ace a maths test and couldn't sit on one of the two seats on the back row.  It only happened once and the teacher laughed at me.  I didn't mind.  It felt good to be just another of the top set for once rather than half of the elite pair.  I got to sit next to a boy and there was no girl left unhappy, stuck at the back with me for a fortnight.

That time L went out with me once.  I used to dance with J at school discos.  She felt sorry for me.  I heard J say about L, "I thought I was crazy just to dance with him."  I later heard L say, loudly so everyone in the class could hear, "I only did it for a free meal."

That time T.H. almost broke my windpipe.  That was his idea of playing a game and I wasn't going to submit to a bully even though it hurt and was frightening.

That time I was chosen to pick lots of books for the school library when the local authority van visited and all the books I picked turned out to be the wrong ones because, I was told, I would be the only person who might want to read any of them.

That time I had to work through ever graded reading book in the school.  In order.  From the beginning.  Just in case I couldn't read.  I wanted to get back to my novels.  All I remember from those books was that John Wesley used to chew each mouthful of food the same number of times.  He did it methodically.  He did lots of things methodically.  And that's why Methodists are called Methodists.  All I remember turned out to be a blatant lie.

That time Mr. D when ballistic when we were learning to sing The Daniel Jazz.  A friend and I played with the words so that lettuce and cabbage could appear in the same line.  We were amused.  Mr. D was not.  We were nine.

That time Mr. D almost had a massive meltdown in front of the class when his carefully prepared science experiment didn't work.

That time we all first played in the middle school and realised that we were too old to play stuck in the mud and couldn't play kiss chase anymore without it being too embarrassing to survive.

That time the teacher made me go into the girls' changing room to collect the shower key for the boys' changing room.  While the girls were showering.

That time I was frogmarched into the headmaster's office so he could be shown just how awkwardly I held a pen and what a bizarre writing technique I have.

That time I lent my rock collection to the school for a display and never got it back and everyone pleaded ignorance.  I didn't see my collection again.  Until the day I was frogmarched into the headmaster's office so he could be shown my penmanship.

That time it was rumoured that Mad Mary was lurking down the bank near the school and everyone was far more frightened than they needed to be.

That time two of us got to choose which computer the school should buy for educational purposes.  We said to buy a Spectrum.  It was never used for educational purposes.  But we did enjoy getting to play Manic Miner at lunchtime.

That time I went home for lunch and came back just as my class were finishing off a game of strip poker and I missed out on the sight of the same J I mentioned above, who I was told had stripped to just her knickers.  We were ten.

That time S phoned me on a Saturday and asked me if I wanted to visit her that day.  I said I couldn't because my uncle and aunt were visiting and later my mother told me off and said I should have gone.  I thought staying for family was the rule.  I forgot to tell S I was sorry and we could meet on another weekend.  She didn't phone again.  Of all the events of my middle school years, perhaps I regret that social error the most.

That time I danced with the headmaster's pretty daughter at a ceilidh.

That time I danced with the headmaster at a ceilidh.

That time ... that whole rotten year in which I spent nearly every break time and lunch time solving everyone's bloody Rubik's Cubes for them.  My best time was less than thirty seconds.  They usually took me a minute.  That's nothing compared to the times of champions but my solving techniques were primitive.

That time I laughed in a sex education class because PB was playing silly buggers with a Rubik's Cube and I nearly got myself thrown out of sex education because Mrs B. thought I was laughing at whatever was on the screen.  It can't have been that exciting.  We were more entertained by a puzzle toy.

That time I snapped and very nearly broke someone's finger when I bent it back forcefully.  He was a perfectly nice boy.  But I snapped that day.

That time we were all taken to a big agricultural show and had to write a project about "some aspect of what we saw there."  They wanted a project about farming.  Mine was about nuclear power.

That time Mrs. J took us all to a battery farm with the hope that we might all turn out to be vegetarians.  When I saw the slurry pit I flashbacked to a public information film we had been shown some years before.  Apaches.  I still shudder at the memory of how that boy fell into the slurry pit and drowned.

That time I refused to do a piece of work on the very sensible - I thought - grounds that I had done exactly the same piece of work two weeks previously and not made an error and that my time would be better spent doing something new.  The teacher was unable to be reasonable.

That time I tied in a dead heat in the 200 metres with A.  He and his whole family would later change their names in an attempt to lessen the racial abuse they regularly received.

That time I was in a school play and had to sneeze the main character out of my nose.  I was a workman in that play.  And a clown who told awful jokes.  And a violinist.  And, my piece de resistance, a bus stop.  It was the height of my acting career.  I have never performed publicly in a play since.  I was eleven.

I AM that workman. Before the fateful, overacted sneeze.

That time we performed in a class assembly and I played a French hotel manager.  CC played one of the teachers at the school and we had a passionate holiday romance.  The teacher was not pleased.

That time I realised I was much better at netball than rugby and that it was a far more enjoyable game with far less chance of being hurt.  I didn't get to play very often.  I was a boy.

That time I finally convinced them to let me go in the big swimming pool because the little one was too shallow for me to swim in.  There were only two swimming sessions left at the school.

That time some evil swine stole one of my marbles in the playground.

That time some evil swine stole one of my Lego people at Sunday School, promised to give it back the next week, and was never seen again.  Not a school memory.  I do apologise.  I was ten.

That time we used to play Star Wars for a term and people thought I was a bizarre individual because I never wanted to be Luke or Han.  I wanted to be R2D2.  Or Leia.  What boy wouldn't want to be Leia?

That time a boy lost a shoe on a cross country and one of the teachers thumped him, not for the only time, and we made an unsuccessful petition to get the teacher sacked.

That time I went to a Christmas party at the headmaster's house and all the teachers were there.

That time my brother and I were at Mrs B's house and she showed us all the magic props they had used in a local theatre production and explained how they all worked.

That time I experienced my first real period of what was later diagnosed as depression.

That time, those many times, I tried to be myself and to use my head as best as I can.  Teachers taught me not to.  They taught me that being clever is a curse and that it inconveniences everyone.  They taught me that being mediocre is the way to go.

That time they slapped me down for being me.

Those times they kept slapping me down for being me.

That time I first chose to hide myself.

That time I was broken inside.

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