Saturday, February 10, 2007

Unnecessary Introspection Part 4: School

I woke up at 3pm. I normally relish my lie-in on Friday nights, but this is ridiculously late, even by my standards. Perhaps I shouldn't've gone to bed at 6am though.

Large Northern Flatmate is in the living room, watching the Rugby Six Nations. Italy have just scored their first seven points against England in what I am told is a lacklustre game. We reminisce about playing rugby when we were younger (him as a Large Northern Schoolboy in a large northern school, me as a petrified fat kid in London) and I suddenly find myself overwhelmed with horrible, repressed memories from my childhood.

I hated school - loathed it, actually - with a quite superb passion. I went to all-boys' schools and couldn't stand the lack of girls. And when I was 9 or so, I began to pile on the pounds to become the fat school mascot. Except mascots are liked.

Games was my most hated lesson. I never learned a single thing which explained why I was unable to regale LNF about my old rugby games. Not one teacher taught me a thing about sports; they'd all written me off as soon as they saw my lumbering frame heave into view and concentrated instead on the sporty kids who seemed to give a fuck.

When I was 10 and only just flirting with hyper-sensitivity and weight gain, my old Nazi of a games' teacher got the entire class to choose who the fat kid was, and who was simply big-boned, between me and Gavin Reddy. I remember thirty children pointing at me when the teacher yelled 'Now point to the fat one.'

To this day, I have no idea what this has to do with being taught sports, and what he hoped to achieve. What I was taught was a deep-seated hatred of authority, and of physical activity. I had to discover exercise myself many years later.

I switched schools when I was 13. (I was now enormous and was rolled to my barmitzvah.) My Mum had been talking to Simon's Mum, a friend I'd known since I was four, about moving us out of our fee-paying school and into a well-respected and, even better, a free school.

For the first time in my life, it felt as if something big and important was happening, something exciting, and different, and a little bit scary. But at least Simon and I had each other to fall back on.

Until two days in when Simon quickly made friends while no-one seemed to like me. Desperation, I should imagine. Simon, for his part, made it clear that I shouldn't rely on him and that I was on my own. My first week at a new school, and my old friend was telling me to fuck off in front of the other lads. But that was minor. On the morning of my 14th birthday, just as I was headed to my first lesson, I was floored by about ten kids who began kicking me as they yelled 'Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!' Looking up through squinted eyes, I saw the most enthusiastic kicker. He had a great position with his legs at my torso, and was grinning and kicking me with gusto. It was Simon. Bizarrely, I remember that event with some fondness. It was tragic, and tragic, for some reason, very funny.

I was regularly in detention or put on report. I was the lad who dealt with the bullying by being jovial and friendly or, in the teachers' eyes, by being a smartarse. To this day, I have no idea why I got into so much trouble but I always seemed to, and my Mum was frequently called in for meetings about my behaviour. My Mum would tell them that I would come home crying as I'd been spat at again, or called the Son of a cripple, but this didn't concern them. What mattered to the teachers was that I didn't seem to respect them, or take my lessons seriously, and that just wouldn't do, so I'd be put on report and had to have my work checked and signed off daily.

But to me, being in trouble just made me more interesting to the other lads. And all I wanted to do was make people laugh and be accepted. As I told Large Northern Flatmate all this today, I disturbed myself as to what I could still remember, despite vowing to never remember anything about those years again.

I hated school. I hated the bullying. I hated the teachers. I hated being so sensitive. And I hated being fat. So I comfort ate, watched a lot of comedy on TV, and didn't venture out. I had no-one to go out with anyway. And armed with the very powerful belief that I was pretty much useless, I simply assumed that this was how life was going to be from now on.

I still remember my last day at school with pin-sharp clarity. All that bullshit, all that discipline, all those tough words and veiled threats, and it all ceased with a squeak. The Headmaster who no-one ever saw or really believed existed, walked into an assembly room where 100 of us were gathered, and made some weak, two-minute speech about going off and hopefully making the school proud. I can still see the look of smug satisfaction and sarcasm written all over his face. He was just grateful that these dregs were fucking off to leave the kids they only ever really cared about to stay on in the sixth form and improve that shitty school's standing in the league tables.
And that was that. The Head walked off. No-one clapped. I remember looking around and thinking, 'Fuck me, is that it? Do we all just walk off and go home now?'


The final moments of School that I was ever going to experience were as we shuffled away from that assembly. I turned to Kwabena, the last kid I spoke to, and said 'Some kind of yearbook would've been nice'. And with that, I got on a bus and went home.
No party.
No fanfare.

But no more fucking school.


Z said...

I always feel rather sorry for those keen types for whom school will always have been the highlight of their lives. After that, life could only get better.

But, superbly written as it was, that was painful to read.

Z said...

I meant, 'your' life...

oh bugger. and i'm not even drunk.

VI said...

Geez, that reminded me of my school days. I was also known as the fat kid (even though, looking back on photos, I was only one size larger than the other girls)

I remember joining a group picking on a carrot top, reducing him to tears, my fave teacher came along to break it up and said to me 'Vi, I really didn't expect this from you, YOU should know better'

I was so humbled. The one and only time I got involved in bullying, only because it wasn't me for a change.

*Now Vi goes off to cry...*

luna said...

In many places school is nothing more than juvenile concentration camp.
Your mother did what she could to help you,but short of home teach you,what could she do?

Nowadays there are antibullying procedures and charities,even courses,have you thought about looking into them?
Not that it would do you any good now,but might make you feel that at least other "fat kids" shall avoid your fate.

Shoshana said...

I feel your pain, and the only consolation I have is knowing that things got so much better after high school (at least sometimes), where it didn't matter so much to fit in and you weren't cheered for being a bitch. I was also a fat kid those years, with horrible hair to boot, and while I've moved on tremendously, those feelings never completely leave, they always linger in the background, even now, over 10 years later. Awww, the sweet memories of school, thanks for reminding me of them.

Anonymous said...

People who believe children are all sweetness and light have no clue. Boys and girls between around 10 and 14 are some of the nastiest creatures around. Most of them do become reasonable human beings at some point, but they do so much damage to each other before that happens. I'm sorry it was like that for you, ducky. It really was their problem, not yours.

isabelle said...

So well written.... I can actually smell school now, dust and chalk and cooking and tarmac for some reason.I was always the ginger geeky girl but for some reason the boys were so much nicer than the girls, I'm so glad I didn't go to a single sex school.

Your post took me right back though, it made me sad. It sounds cheesy I know, but it makes me want cuddle you somehow.And at least things can only get better .....

Anonymous said...

Seems like all you bloggers were bullied at some point. Is it all that repression which makes you want to share your trivial existences with the world? Personally I like to keep my trivial existence to myself, lest I should bore the crap out of the rest of the world... This is akin to what I would imagine Jade Goody's 'autobiography' to be like.

Huw said...

We were never taught the rules of rugby at school either. Just shouted at or deafened with piercing whistles until, gradually over the years, I think some of us implicitly knew what was expected of us but not why. The rest of us just shivered and looked troubled by all the running and endorsed violence.

The Nothing Man said...

Hey Anonymous,

Not to blow a huge hole in your argument, but if this blog is as trivial as you suggest then why are you (a) reading it and (b) commenting upon it?

All seems a bit trivial to me!

Just a small counter-point to your point!


fwengebola said...

Z ~ Thanks Zed, sorry if it was unpleasant. I'd just remembered a whole lotta crap I'd forgotten about. Yep, if someone ever says 'My Schooldays were the best of my life', they're clearly either deranged or else lacking a pulse.
Vi ~ Bitch!
The main thing is, you acted out of character. And you and the ginger patched things up. And became best friends. Otherwise I'm afraid you're a lost cause.
Luna ~ I don't know if I've hardened, but are there too many charities and campaigns now? I just had to get on with it and I've turned out ok. Hmm, I'm not sure. I think I may have forgotten how miserable I was at the time and now think it was all character-building. Which is, of course, bullshit. I just went on a diet and cheered up.
Shosh ~ High School's 16 years old-ish, isn't it? I think a lot of people hated school. It's rather pleasant to find that out.
LFM ~ Ha! Most schoolchildren are immature stunted reprobates. It took me a few years to realise that the General Public don't treat each other the way schoolchildren do. I thought I'd be picked on forever.
Isabelle ~ Tarmac? Thanks Is, I appreciate that. But this was 17 (erm, seventeen???) years ago and I really had forgotten about all of it until it got dredged up talking to the Flatmate.
Anon ~ Strange. You could always keep your 'trivial existence' away from this blog.
Huw ~ Yep, they were our rugby lessons too. And that was the point of the discussion I had with my flatmate - that I couldn't remember anything about the fucking rules. Probably because every rugby lesson I had was like this, so to this day I know very little about the actual fucking rules, other than if you want to kick someone's head in, do it during rugby and you won't get arrested.
TNM ~ My point exactly.

Fussy Bitch said...

That Simon was a bit of a cunt, eh?

I bet he comments on blogs as anonymous these days...

VI said...

Oh, Fwengebaby, BIG fan of the carrot tops now! ;)

luna said...

That's right anonymous,we all blog cause we were all bullied by some anonymous coward like your vile self.
And you're doubly right to "anonymous" your name,cause then we'd all gang up and bully you to even things out.
And I bet the real reason you can't blog yourself is that your MIND is pathetically trivial,mean,repulsive and tedious.

fwengebola said...

FB ~ That would be amusing, if it were him. But it's probably some other cunt.
Vi ~ You like gingers? Eurgh.
Luna ~ Excellent. I haven't heard the word cretin for ages.

Anonymous said...

Now, people, read further into what Anonymous has said. "You bloggers" -- right there is the telling moment. Anonymous feels completely intimidated (and probably out-thought)by those who are more articulate, and, frankly, popular and liked than him / herself. It's hard when it hits close to home, isn't it Anonymous?

luna said...

Bring 'em on, I'm currently sharpening my tongue on the Collins Cobuild

Fussy Bitch said...

luna, you are totally bonkers. You need a blog.

luna said...

Thank you for the compliment F.B.,I mean the second one.