I always wore short pants. I don't know when I began to wear them. I was stubborn and stupid. I wore them in Summer and Winter. I even went sledging in them. I don't know what my parents were thinking. I don't know what I was thinking. All the way through primary school I wore them.
The primary school was called Our Lady of the Rosary and was a bus ride away in Dalton-in-Furness. We'd stand at the bottom of the Row and catch the bus, a red Ribble double-decker, the top deck of which would be battered by the low-lying branches to our noisy delight.
Mr Pool was the headmaster and our teacher was Mrs Classic. The building was a one story, flat-roofed, brown-stoned, sprawling bungalow with weird plastic skylights that efficiently collected the rainwater and routed it into the electrical system. It had two 'quiet rooms', purple carpeted where we'd hear stories, learn the guitar or nap.
We'd have assemblies in the big hall where we also played crab football when it rained. Here, we'd get more stories about Jesus. These were never from the Bible, but were like 'the further adventures of Jesus' with him walking on a beach or watching a football match, taken from a large funky book. We'd sing songs carefully drained of musical flavor and now and then a tall and scary bearded man would come in and shout at us about road safety. He told us that if we were stupid enough to climb walls and fall off and cave in one side of our heads, he'd come round to our houses and cave in the other side for being so bloody daft. He also told us about children playing in railway tunnels and being reduced to 'soup' by freight trains. He hinted darkly that he possessed photographs he wasn't permitted to show us.
We watched television in the big hall as well, educational programs like Words and Pictures and big 'historical events' such as the Pope's visit to England and the launch of the first Space Shuttle.
The arrival of the nit nurse was always looked forward to as an escape from class and the lovely way she'd touch your head.
Outside we ran around on the playground, reenacting Star Wars and having epic running battles of British Bulldogs and the like. A sporadic craze - yo-yos or cap rockets or top trumps - would come and overtake us and then as quickly disappear. We were only allowed on the large playing fields surrounding the school when the grass wasn't wet so we wouldn't trail mud in. Mr. Pool would walk out onto the turf to check for moisture as we waited on the edge of the playing ground, readying to cheer. He was like the Man from Del Monte, though he said 'no' more often.
At the bottom of hill, a banking rose up to the fence, ideal for dead man's fall or king of the castle games. It was here I earned my nickname Gnasher, by biting Andrew Bell's shoulder. It also garnered me a rulering. In state schools corporal punishment had been outlawed but an exception was made for religious schools like ours, in line with Jesus' teaching to 'Suffer the little children to come to me for a battering.' We got rulered on our palms for minor offences, on our knuckles for bad offences (biting Andrew Bell) and caned for really bad offences, like when I chucked a frog at a girl. I can't complain too much. Perhaps it made me the upright citizen I am today. I've not flung a frog in anger for yonks.
We ate our dinners in the canteen where we'd rush to our places and spit in our glasses to claim them. If we were feeling jaunty we'd spit in our mates' glasses as well. The food was all right though there was one time the dinner ladies ran out of ketchup and improvised something with tomato puree that turns my stomach even today when I recall it.
The dinner ladies would leave all the leftover food in enormous bins for the farmer and his pigs. It stank, but for some reason we all hung around this bit of the school. It was a good spot for a fight. I always fought Stuart Rhodes, incidentally (I hope incidentally) the only black kid in the school, and he always leathered me except one time when I got in a lucky blow to the solar plexus and he was at my mercy. Unfortunately no one was there to witness it and I've since come to the conclusion it probably didn't happen.
As school went on, first communion done and dusted, then our days became less about potato prints, glitter tubs and naps and more full of maths, spelling, comprehension cards and Richmond tests. It all got a bit gloomy and I began run to the end of the Row to catch the bus less eagerly. The first time I got proper mad at my mum was when she insisted I go back to school for the last lesson after a much needed trip to the orthodontist. I was livid and once out of sight crushed the banana she'd given me to placate my fury in my fist.
Secondary School loomed, a longer bus ride away (to Barrow-in-Furness), with homework, big kids who'd flush your head in the lavatory and school uniforms. Mum said she'd asked the Headmaster but the uniform rule was quite explicit on long trousers.
I suspect she hadn't asked at all, and I also suspect I was secretly pleased to be able to give up this foolish peccadillo at long last.
I was finally growing up. Though I would miss the quiet room. In fact, I still do.
25/9/2014 01:16:45 am
Loved it. It is so witty and I laughed all the way through even though I am not, and never have been, a boy or a catholic.
Leave a Reply.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.