I’ve been told that there is a thread of sadness running through these blogs. It’s true that I’m writing them as a way of driving out some of my 'demons', but also because I think there is comedy in how somebody who is basically normal can manage to fool themselves into thinking otherwise. You may not agree!
(didn’t you tell a story about getting your willy out in front of the doctor a couple of weeks ago? That wasn’t very discrete)
Maybe not discretion when it comes to myself. After all, if the only person I’m making look bad is me then nobody but me should really care. However, given how bad I am at keeping in touch with people from my past (and that is a whole ‘nother aspect of my inferiority complex) I doubt that any of them are likely to read this so I’ll just plough on.
So, I went to a grammar school in the North of England. It was and is a good school. I wasn’t wildly happy there, but I don’t think I would have been wildly happy anywhere. Just your average teenager trying to come to terms with the world, thinking about it a bit too much, worried about spots, girls, should hair be growing there? and there? and, holy mother of God, there? My best friends for most of the junior years were Dan, Ian, Ian, Owen, and A.N.Other. I’ll introduce them now, because they may feature in other stories. It was a boys’ school and the kind of school where everyone was referred to by their surnames. But to mention those may reveal too much information. For ease of use, I shall refer to the above people as Dan, Brynnie, Warv and Owen. I shall not refer to A.N. further. I thought I had a bad time at school because I was bullied by a couple of gits for a couple of years, however A.N. has let me know that he had a much worse time at school than any of us and possibly because of us – for which I am sorry. I should also point out that I often worry that I ended up being a bit of a bully towards Warv. I have no idea how he perceived it, but it has caused me some worry. I worry a lot about things that I can’t do anything about.
Anyway, as a group we were semi-nerds. I don’t think we were the biggest nerds in our year, but we came close. We were obsessed with computer games, especially on the ZX Spectrum, science-fiction and fantasy, and Dungeons and Dragons. I think I scored the highest nerd points because I read Doctor Who Magazine every month. I don’t know if I was obsessed with Dr Who in the way I am now, but nobody else liked it as much as I did. I seem to remember that the others were all more interested in music than I was, which also made them less nerdy. If we had to have a ranking, at this point in our careers, and I doubt that when we first met that coolness was any sort of consideration, I would say that our coolness could be scored thusly…
(1) Brynnie (despite the stupid middle name that led to this nickname)
I really think, at this stage, that we were very much of a muchness and you probably couldn’t have inserted a fish slice between our levels of coolness.
When we had to make our ‘O’ level choices, for some reason I chose to do Latin. I know! Seriously, I chose to do Latin. The choice was between Latin and Art, and essentially the choice was made because I liked the Latin teacher more than I liked the Art teacher The Latin teacher was a cool guy with a beard who, when he wasn’t teaching the curriculum, would read Apuleius’ ‘The Golden Ass’ to us – I’m not making myself sound less nerdy, I know, but it is a funny book! The Art teacher was a cranky old guy who wore a flasher mac around town – as far as I’m aware he did not use it as a flasher mac but that is unquestionably what it was. I have an inkling that the Art teacher’s wife had died and that this was used to account for his general air of being pissed off with the world – however I also believe that this is something I made up a few years ago but it has become part of what I ‘know’ about him and I can’t be sure any more.
Anyway, I chose to do Latin and then got put in a different class with a different teacher who looked like Alistair Darling with a beard and who was mighty pissed off that our previous teacher had apparently not taught us anything about Latin Grammar beyond the nominative and accusative – everything else to do with declensions and whatnot, literally no idea. So all of that time listening to ‘The Golden Ass’ was because our first teacher couldn’t really be arsed. Or he had some modern theories about teaching which did not involve any pesky facts.
In our 4th or 5th year we were offered a trip to Italy to visit all the classical sites of Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum. All that jazz. My parents very kindly stumped up the cash and away we went. It was in the Easter holiday and I had a cold. As we flew down into Rome Airport my ears popped in such a way that for the next 3 or 4 days I couldn’t really hear anything. As far as I can recall, it was me, Brynnie and Warv who were on the trip (along with a multitude of supporting cast) I’m not even sure if Warv was there.
(On a side note, it used to make me ridiculously angry that my Mum and Dad couldn’t cope with Warv’s nickname being Warv. They would insist on calling him Dwarv. Repeatedly, even though I told them that wasn’t his name. It occurs to me now, that the degree of annoyance I exhibited whenever they did this, and the fact that they kept on doing it, surely that must mean they were doing it to wind me up? But surely not?)
So we were ferried around various classical sites, stayed in a variety of nice little hotels. Nothing special, the kind of place that would put up with teenaged boys doing the kind of things they do. E.g. throwing about 1million paper planes across the street from the 4th floor hotel room to try to land them on the roof of a church. E.g. playing ‘catch the orange’ in an increasingly violent way inside a hotel room. E.g. trying to purchase alcohol. I have to say this last one wasn’t me. I was too timid and scared of adults to do anything like that. Still am, really.
(By the way, given that I went to an all boys school, I feel I should point out that playing 'catch the orange in an increasingly violent way in a hotel room' is not a euphemism. I can't imagine what it would be a euphemism for, but it suddenly sounded a bit ropy and I felt I should clear that point up.)
Now, at this point, although I say this is a formative incident, I can’t really give full details. But at some point the schoolgirls indicated, possibly via the medium of pointing and laughing, that my friend Brynnie was a handsome chap who they would like to know more of, and that I was a hideous monster who should be ashamed to show my face in public.