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.
But no more fucking school.