28/28: Post number 1988

And then I was 11

I can’t believe this. It’s Monday, and I’m staring into my five-day week and the five years of secondary school all at once. Come Friday, it’ll be both the weekend and the end of my secondary school experience. Again. While the pleasure will be two-fold, the intervening five years – five days, whatever – had better have pulled their socks up since the last time I had them.

It’s already consumed five years of my life. So I plan not to spend very much time talking about my secondary school career. But it lived up to cliché well enough. Yes, they were some of the happiest days of my life, but that doesn’t say much coming from a depressive. Yes, they may have been my ‘salad days’, but only if you expect your typical salad to include things that don’t taste very nice, things that have gone off and bullies.

It was a school that liked to pride itself on its discipline and high moral standards, and tried admirably to pass those on to its pupils, and generally failed. It wasn’t known as the best school in inner London then, and now it’s apparently worse. My alma mater. Positioned perfectly close to both a hospital and a prison, which covered most of the important bases. We were only missing a morgue.

The teachers, though, were great. Slightly harrassed looking, perhaps, with a small percentage whose spirits had seemed to have left them entirely, but on the whole lovely. I went back a couple of years after I’d left, when I was eighteen and feeling more confident. And while I was there, I went for a chat with an old English teacher.

I remembered her from my first year at the school, the way she seemed to constantly amuse herself, saying things we didn’t quite understand, but certainly shut us up. It was only when I went back older that I realised how funny she was. She was the driest, most sarcastic woman I’d ever met. If I’m ever going to make a list of heroes, I may put her on it. I’ll have to remember her name first, but once I’ve done that, she’s a shoe-in.

So there wre good teachers. And then there was the PE cliché. Sorry, teacher. A mixture of the two. A PE Cleacher. He was built like an enormous brick shit, fond of tight vests and the sound of his own voice, and was my form teacher when I first started at the school.

We were all in shock. We were quiet, we knew that things were different in the new world of Bigschool, and we weren’t – I suppose – clear on what was and what wasn’t acceptable behaviour. Well, we knew what was unacceptable behaviour from us. Talking without permission, walking in the wrong place or time or sometimes at all, not standing when an authority figure walked into the room, lateness, non-delivery of homework, etc, etc, Most things natural to children, and to people in general, were unacceptable behaviour for us.

For the PE Cheacher though, anything was acceptable.

Ours was an extremely diverse multi-cultural school, as all of our primary schools had been, and therefore nothing surprising to us, and not worth commenting on. Or we would have thought.

Obi’s parents were from Nigeria, but Obi was from Willesden. Yet, if Obi walking in late of a morning, the PE cheacher would ask if he’d missed the banana boat and had to wait for the next one. Halfway through one of us giving a presentation on something he bored of, he would start beating the desk in crude drum fashion, and tell Obi that his mum was calling. Typing this in now, I can feel myself boiling with rage.

But at the time, I remember at the time we sat there, all quiet and confused. Was this what was allowed in Bigschool? Is this how teachers always were allowed to behave toward pupils? Was this allowed?

As it turned it wasn’t. And if he wasn’t fired, he certainly left, quietly, and without trace, very quickly, while we were on holiday.

Someone told me he’d emigrated. Canada, or the USA, Australia or New Zealand – the rumours were vague.

So, my international friends, should you ever come across a short musclebound cockney bigot, teaching soccer by rote and intimidation, hanging around and polluting your beautiful country, tell him that ‘you have a liberal stand on immigration but in his case you’re willing to make an exception’ and that ‘he should fuck off back where he came from’. Except we don’t want him either.

A Deal? A deal. Good.


Goodbye Mr PE Cleacher, you can disappear again now. Goodbye first year, good bye 11.

Four more years to go, just to get out of school. Still, the teenage angst will be rocking up soon, and I can only guess at how much fun that’ll be – yes, that’s right, I’ve got diaries.

Oh God.