The unshakable logic of children

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We were starting a project on biodiversity. This would include studying habitats, ecosystems and learning about conservation, symbiotic relationships and the world around us. For our starting point we were going to look at the familiar area of the school playing field.

“So what do you think we might see on the field?”

“Spiders.”

“Grass.”

“Daisies.”

“Spiders.”

Pause as everybody looks at each other.

“Anything else?”

“Sheep.”

“Sheep?”

“Yes, sheep.”

“Are you sure? Have there ever been sheep on the field before?”

“Not this field, no.”

“Why might there be today?”

“Because it’s a field.”

Unable to escape this feat of logic I tried to appeal to common sense;

“If there were sheep would you be able to see them now, through the window?”

“Not if they were hiding.”

“There’s nowhere to hide though.”

“By the bins?”

“Really? Ok, so even though there have never been any sheep on the field in the seven years you have been at this school, and even though you can’t see them out there now, you want to add sheep to the list of things we might find when we go out?”

“Yes, it’s a field.”

It is going to be a loooong topic.

Take the long way home…

Last week I went to a party, there was a band and a bar and lots of music and I had a good time.

There were also a large number of familiar looking old men drinking beer. I stepped forward and stood there in line with my old school friends who have all suddenly reached the age of 50, which is odd as I remember us all as young things in our prime with everything still ahead of us – not just our stomachs. In fact, I still do think of myself as a young thing. If only there were no such thing as reflections (or photos) I could carry on happily deluding myself forever.

sixth form

It is hard to look at a row of respectable middle-aged men that you knew as a child and not remember what they used to be like:

Carl getting his ear pierced and his mum not noticing for several months as his hair was so long. (Now, no earring – or hair.)

Mike dressed in the sharpest threads, all straight lines and creases. (Now, mostly curves.)

Mark crashing his first motorbike, and then rebuilding it. (Actually still riding motorbikes – but not crashing as much!)

And Gary.

Gary and I were inseparable at school, always out together, doing things and having a good time. I have so many stories to tell about Gary that I was expressly forbidden from being his best man in case the speech went on too long or got out of hand.

But the story that always comes to mind when we meet up is this one;

We had been playing snooker. This was not an uncommon way for us spend time when we were in our teens the call of the snooker hall was ever present.  Clearly we struck a balance between this and school as we did not want to neglect our studies. So we were making our way back to take part in the part of the school day we felt we were most likely to be missed from, cues in hand, taking a short cut through the park.

In the distance we spied a group of younger students and their teacher on a field trip. It was still not too late to turn around and head back through the gates and around the long way without being seen: Which is exactly what I did.

But not Gary. He decided the best course of action would be to hide up a tree and wait for the group to pass, thus saving the extra time and distance involved in walking around the park.

Gary’s description of what happened went along these lines; “He (the teacher) got all the year 7’s stood around the tree and started to tell them what sort of tree it was and that sort of stuff.” Gary was not much of a botanist. “I still thought he hadn’t seen me, but then pointed up without even looking and told them that if they looked they would see Gary ****, and if they wanted to see me again they could come and look through the windows of the detention room. Bastard!”

Did I really do that?

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In my previous post I alluded to the fact that my own childhood may not have been as Health and Safety approved as the one that I would wish for my own children. In fact, it was downright dangerous, including such joys as playing on the railway track, climbing up stuff, jumping off stuff and setting things on fire to name but a few.

I am certain this was all completely standard fare for children growing up in the 60s and 70s, it was a time of reckless abandon and anything goes. If you know this to be wrong please don’t tell me as it would mean that my parents were trying to get rid of me, and I am way too delicate for that sort of revelation.

Anyway, it brought forth a wave of nostalgia for the long gone days of primary school. (Actually, they are not gone as I have spent all my working life in primary schools, but you get the idea.) The marbles, the Top Trump cards, Spangles, Hopscotch, fist fights and the handful of chews from the newsagents across the road. These are all standard school memories that most people reading this will be nodding at and mouthing silently to themselves as they read. (At least those in the UK, it never fails to surprise me how far the internet reaches. For those not from here, I hope it is a window into our lives and culture on this tiny island)

But some of the things I remember are not necessarily on everybody’s list of reminiscences. Some of them are so specific to my own childhood that I am not sure if I even imagined them. I am sharing them in this post in the hope that putting them in writing will turn them back into the real things they once were. So, in no particular order:

  1. Crawling under the office Portakabin for a dare.  Exactly what it sounds like, we would crawl into the filthy, dark gap under the office hut and see if we could get to the far side and wave to our friends through the mesh cover.
  2. Drinking fountain rainbows. If the teacher left the art materials unattended for more than 5 milliseconds the paint blocks would be pocketed. Bits of these could then be broken off and dropped into the top of the drinking fountain, producing coloured water for our delight and entertainment.
  3. Peeing up the wall. Lining up in the boys toilet and seeing who could urinate highest up the wall. The aspiration was to be able to pee right over the top and into the girls toilets, although nobody ever did. I was only ever average at this.
  4. Getting brand new rulers. This was in February 1971, it only really affected people who were in the UK when it went decimal. As children it was our only indication that anything had changed, well that and we all thought we were rich when we started to accumulate coins that we later realized no longer had any monetary value.
  5. Trying to use the footballs to break the light fitting in indoor PE. This is quite self-explanatory.

These are some of the things that made my childhood unique and special. I am sure there are other people who loved school as much as I did and have their own precious (?) memories. What are they? What did you do when you were young and foolish – and did you enjoy it?

Things to do when you are a bored 5 year old waiting for your dad – no1

I remember when I was very young you used to be able to get liquorice flavoured bubble gum.  Unlike ordinary gum it was black, it stained your teeth and tongue black and no self respecting parent would let their child have it. Well, Mum wouldn’t, but if you pestered hard enough and made enough of a nuisance of yourself dad might – if only to keep you quiet on the bus ride into town for swimming lessons.

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I saved some for after the lesson, me and my brother had to wait in the seats while dad finished teaching his group of students who finished after us. Luckily I had my gum to keep me entertained so the time passed quickly.

At some point I became curious as to whether I could stretch it out far enough to make a black, gummy necklace. I pulled, teased, stretched and bullied my gum into what I thought would be a long enough piece, then I joined the ends together and slipped it over my head.

The problem was, my estimation of what might or might not be long enough was seriously off. I ended up with a crown of black gum around my head. I tried to take it off and start over, but quickly found that that was not an option. I had to brazen it out and hope nobody would notice – yeah right!

This is the story of how I came to have my very first (very) short haircut.