Before I start, let me just say my memory of my summer holidays…. it was always long, hot and sunny with fun and adventure. September, the month when all the kids go back to school……not for me though, those days are long gone. What does come back to me though are the memories, only now being sifted through my adult(ish) brain into seeing what really happened.
Let me take you back to my very first day of school. It happened…. after five years of being at home watching Mother Frantony making Welsh cakes and pikelets in between watching all my favourite cartoons, albeit I now realise that some of them made no sense whatsoever, ‘The Clangers’ for instance. I know The Clangers are from another planet but that’s no excuse, they knew that they were being watched on national T.V. Fair enough they might not have been able to speak English, but subtitles wouldn’t have gone amiss, I might have been a better at reading in school……..who knows?! Also, of all the billions NASA have spent on designing space suits, the Clangers were in knitwear, if only they had watched the Clangers they would have saved….. well….. billions! Anyway, I still loved it though and as we’re friends here on my Easyblend blogs I feel comfortable to tell you that at one point I think I wanted to be a Clanger.
Now came my first experience of butterflies in my stomach. I was made to go somewhere I didn’t want to go. It was a short walk to the school at the bottom of the hill from the house, but the hardest journey of my life………. at that time anyway. Mother Frantony on the odd too many occasions still likes to tell this story….. and I, now in my 40’s have to listen to it…… oh joy.
I cried all the way to the school door where other children were in a similar state….. well, not as bad as me, my eyes were red and puffy as I clung on to her leg and weighed her down like an anchor from the biggest ocean liner you’ve ever seen. I think that’s what Mother Frantony likes to tell everyone, as she laughs every time. One thing I can remember which today I am surprised by, and was a sign for the rest of my life, I don’t like to be made to do anything I don’t want to do! Hmmmmmm…..
As well as constantly crying as my mother abandoned me in the school (nah, not really), I then had the frightening experience of the tallest, skinniest teacher I ever encountered. With the biggest meanest eyes and wearing the thickest blue eye liner that any woman could possibly paste around her eyes without blocking her vision, when I eventually stopped crying after my mother run home, I would start again because her eyes pierced my tiny soul… even the kid’s souls in the next classroom. Apparently she lived on a farm; I suppose the horse-riding boots were a giveaway. Clearly she didn’t know the difference between animals and children. I’m just glad she didn’t take any of us to the abattoir. She brought in a live lamb once, though I bet she ate it on Sunday. I’m still scarred from when she handed a crayon drawing back to me, I said “Ta”…. then her eyes widened like dinner plates “Ta?! Tar is the road!! Say ‘Thank you’!!” I now think, I’d been on planet earth six years….. cut me a bit of slack. Looking back now, she was always in the room when the nit nurse came who by the way, had the habit of spreading your hair until it parted so far apart, both sides of my head reached different postcodes. I did enjoy the puff crisps, custard cream biscuits and a small bottle of milk in the morning playtime.
After trawling and crying through the infants for the first couple of years, it was now time for less puffy eyes in to the junior years, still in the same grounds but a different building. I was a slow learner in the school, nothing came easy; I wasn’t one of the clever kids, just a bit of a late developer when it came to academia. I’m still scared with the vision of standing up in class reading out the times table but have fond memories of acting in the school plays with parts such as a fish in Thumbelina, an Oompa Loompa and not your average one either, this was a drunken Oompa Loompa in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I even played Long John Silver………aaarrr shiver me timbers!! I had the part because of my rat’s tail hair style; yes they were in fashion in the early 80’s….. at least I think they were. Anyway, it got me the part. In fact they must be due back in fashion soon (won’t be having one though). I’d love to see the plays again as one teacher would film them as his twin daughters were in the plays too.
I also loved drawing and painting. I even had one of my paintings put up in the main corridor of the school until I left and went to comprehensive school (for you beautiful Americans ‘High school’) I still have the painting today, in fact it’s now hanging up in my house above my stairs in a glass frame, commissioned in 1984 when I was eleven years old…. it still amazes me today that an eleven year old came up with it.
At play time most boys played football, but not me. One of my favourite games was kiss chase…..I know, nothing wrong with that you say, but like everything this also had its down falls if not played properly. For me, this was a chance to kiss lots of girls and get away with it (no chat up lines required). My first conundrum was that I didn’t counter in the fact that ugly girls also wanted to play, but I thought not a problem (yes I know, I’m no oil painting myself). I have a plan, I’ll pretend I didn’t see them, there’s loads of people in the school yard playing different games, they’ll be easily missed and they won’t know if I’ve seen them or not. Things were going well, my plan was working, this was a fantastic game I wanted play every day. That was until one of
the ugly girls jumped out in front of me pointing her finger “Dave, I know you keep seeing me and running past!! Now kiss me!!” I had no choice but to do what she said, so I kissed her. To be fair, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be…… I just shut my eyes a little tighter than normal. Once the deed was done she looked at me, gritted her teeth and with both hands she pushed me on to the grass, shouting “Next time we play, you can kiss me again!!” That was my first lesson in life realising that woman are always the boss (in or out of a relationship!) but to be fair I’m happy with that.
Now, as I lived not far from the school I would go home for lunch so I still hadn’t experienced school dinners yet. But going home caused a problem. Even though I had an hour for lunch I wanted to quickly eat and go back and play with my friends. But of course, in my experience (of my school days anyway), the dreaded dinner ladies, cleaners and caretakers all seemed to have been trained by the Third Reich and acted as if they had more power than the teachers, and one particular dinner lady was no exception. She was the most evil of them all. By day she had normal but small beady eyes, but by night, I honestly think they turned red with lasers shooting out of them that would burn you up in a flash.
Lunch time was 12 noon till 1pm, I’d be back at the school gate by 12:40pm but this particular dinner lady……hang on……. ‘dinner battle-axe’ was on guard. She had tall ginger hair that looked like a traffic cone on the top of her head, which made her look even taller as she stared and towered over me. Although I’m sure there was a team of little evil people inside her tower of hair working as air traffic controllers, co-ordinating children (not planes) to where they wanted them. The Battle- axe would never let me back in to the yard to play with my friends. She’d say “If you go home for dinner you shouldn’t come back until 1pm so you can stay at the gate until then!” But she’d say it with a look of evil in her eyes, her hands clenched in a fist position in her pockets of her apron.
That’s another thing…. why an apron? She’s in the school yard. What on earth do they think an apron is going to protect them from? Or is it that it’s a uniform of power? Maybe they think they’re part of the Avengers team?
Well, for a while I listened to the battle- axe because we’re taught to listen to adults right (why?) But then, after some thinking as I watched my friends play, I decided for the first time in my life to take matters into my own hands (always a good life skill to have). I started
sneaking through a small hole in the fence at the back of the school yard, albeit she would catch me a few times and place me back outside by the main gates. But I wasn’t going to give up. Even at the tender age of 9 or 10, I sussed out she was just a horrible person taking whatever her problems were out on the young and the weak, and WOW, I’ve come across a load more since…… they’re everywhere. The school yard had lots of big trees around so in the end I mastered the art of hiding from her.
I did cause a bit of drama for everyone when I was nine, I came out of class on the 1st floor and slid down the banister rail…. only I didn’t, I tipped over too far and fell 3 metres, hitting my head on a tiled floor. I was in hospital for week with a suspected fractured skull (oops)!
Then there was the Friday afternoon collaboration of the two schools on the housing estate coming together for Rugby practice. A game most Welsh men watch and play, apart from me that is. So I had the idea to not bring my kit in to school that day and therefore not to be picked to play……. wrong!! My plan was utterly useless. My head was obviously as thick as the china wall at the time….. or was I pushing boundaries?
My P.E Teacher knew what I was up to. I was given some old, sweaty, oversized kit from the bottom of a black refuse bag that had never been washed….. ever…. never ever!! Now from experience of wearing these abandoned rugby jerseys and shorts, I can tell you they smelled of every single child’s sweat since the school first opened twenty five years before my puny body was used to model them.
But that wasn’t the only problem, nothing fitted me! I was the smallest in my school, in fact, the smallest until I actually left school. So this was my procedure in wearing them. It started by standing in my pants on the cold tiles in the changing rooms, surrounded by other boys in nice rugby outfits. I would put on each item one at a time, first the rugby jersey; it must have been red when it was first made. Once the top was over my head, it would fall like a set of expensive curtains in Buckingham Palace with the bottom stopping at my knees and the bottom of the V neck just covering my belly button. Then it was time to step in to the what used to be white shorts that were built for an adult, plus the elasticised waist that had now stretched so far it was never coming back….it was like stepping in to a Hula Hoop. So the only way to hold them up was to tuck the Rugby jersey inside (or the ‘dirty dress’ I called it). But of course, the problem with this was that the jersey would fall out of the bottom of the shorts. Then it came to the Rugby boots. Again, they were boots that I’m sure only fitted Coco the Clown. To make them fit, I had to use a handful of paper towels scrolled up in to ball and shoved them in to the toes of the boots, which was job on its own as it was like crushing up sheets of plyboard.
After making everything fit, it was time to walk the sad walk on to the Rugby pitch where more problems came to light. Every child loved Rugby so they played with passion and aggression which I didn’t have (for rugby). My feet would lift up in a scrum, and every time I ran (with or without the ball) one hand was always scrunching up the front of my shorts to keep them up as I dragged the toes of the boots in the dirt like a farmers plough. Honestly, any savvy farmer could have followed me and planted enough seed to feed a nation for a whole year. But one Friday, the P.E Teacher did something that made me realise “Dave, bring in your own kit!” He spun me around on the field in front of everyone, folded up the back of my shorts and placed the biggest bulldog clip I had ever seen on my back to stop my shorts from falling down, saying “There, now you’ll run faster!”……. and YES it did work.
In the next blog, I’ll tell you all about my big school years after leaving the juniors.
Today on the Easy Blend, I’m listening to Imagine Dragons, Rise Up.
You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)
Until the next Easy Blend blog………..
Stay warm and fuzzy……..