Following my recent report of people looking at the posts in the “Schooldays” category of this site I thought it would be rude not to write something for he/them – whoever they may be.
The word “she” was omitted deliberately there as the only female at my secondary school was the Headmaster’s secretary and it’s unlikely to be her.
Incidentally, if you don’t know what I mean about “categories” go to the bottom of the menu down the right of this page. There you will find the tags that I have, so far, chosen for these pieces. This one will be marked as “Schooldays” too when it’s published.
My next thought was of what aspect of school life I could write about that I haven’t already done and since I appear to be blessed (or cursed) with a memory full of this sort of pointless crap I thought:
“I’ll start at Day One and see where it goes!”
At the end of the summer 1964 school term I left Britannia Road Primary School in Ipswich having attended there for but a single term as a result of a family house move across town. I did this in the in the knowledge that, along with only one other boy in my class, I had not passed the “11 Plus” examination and was not destined for Northgate Grammar School!
So, at the beginning of the following September I presented myself in my new uniform (including a cap with a badge on) in the large playground of Copleston Secondary Modern School for Boys – which was actually within sight of the aforementioned Britannia Road school and only the width of a public footpath away.
We “newbies” were gathered together – they found us because only first years bothered (because we’d been TOLD to) to wear caps – and marched up to what was then the school hall. There we were given details of the school rules (which I must have forgotten instantly), the School song (of which more later) and sorted into our classes.
And it was here that I had my first and fortunately only, problem with the school authorities!
Now, as most of you, especially those of you reading this via my Facebook link, will know my real name is neither “Little” nor “Alfie” but is in fact “Searle”. And at the end of that Hogwarts-style “sorting” I was the only person left in the room but for the teacher with the hand-written list of names and HE now had two problems; what to do with me and what to do about “Scarfe” who had not turned up!
It does, I think, say much for our respective intelligences that I worked out what had happened first and had to timidly point out that if you wrote my name badly it might appear to read as Scarfe!
Upon reflection this may be why you never saw the cartoonists Ronald Searle and Gerald Scarfe in the same room together before (very, very) distant cousin Ron’s demise in 2011!
That initial trauma apart there were a number of very new and very strange things that we had to get used to, including:
- No girls – they were all in the adjoining building and contact was forbidden. This probably explains why so many of the people I know from those days seem to have had so many marriages! We simply weren’t used to them! At least it stopped those sloppy and embarrassing games of “kiss chase” – it did for me anyway although there may even in those days have been some in that all-boys environment that weren’t fussy!
- Different teachers for different subjects (I’ve mentioned some of them in the following pieces; https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/introduction-to-a-masterpiece/ , https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/master-piece-part-1/ and https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/master-piece-part-2/). I should, in fact, do another in that series to pick up all the ones I’ve remembered since.
- Lessons in different classrooms all over the school (and even at a different site 1.5 miles away – https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/remember-remember/) and with only minutes to get from each one to the next. The moves from the distant annexe to the main school were done either in the 30 minute slot after registration when the rest of the school was having the daily assembly or during the 15 minute mid-morning break. I must have been so much fitter in those days – especially as I didn’t get access to a bicycle until after the completion of the new building works made the Clifford Road annexe unnecessary! The other bad changeover was when you finished P.E. in the gym and had 5 minutes to shower, get dressed AND get to the next lesson. We became experts at dressing while still more than slightly wet!
- I don’t recall there being physical punishment at junior school but I was such a goody-goody that I wouldn’t have known about it anyway! At Copleston we had teachers who utilised things like the sole of a Plimsole, the 2 inch thick climbing ropes in the gym, the well-thrown wooden-backed blackboard eraser or Headmaster Ken Armstrong’s cane. I have to say that I had sufficient wits to avoid all of those but suffered my fair share of individual, class and whole school detentions, the latter type including the notable one that followed the detonation of the pipe bomb in the waste incinerator near the cycle sheds. I still wonder who was responsible for that one!
- Michael Vincent! Yes I do know you’re reading this Mike and I don’t mean anything bad by it! Just remember that I’m listing some of the things I found to be “very new and very strange” and to ME you certainly came under at least one of those headings. OK? For anyone else reading this I should say that Mike was a force of nature at that school. His enthusiasm for anything (such as the “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again” radio show or any other “off the wall” comedy of the day) was so “over the top” as to appear almost manic. And as for his out of school activities ….. but I’ll let him tell you about those! We didn’t really understand Mike at all and were somewhat unkind to him but I apologised for that when we resumed contact in 2009 and we are good friends now even though separated by 6000 miles and 6 or 7 hours of time zone difference. I’ll bet if any of us “non-entities” from that year met any of our old teachers and they had trouble placing us mentioning Mike would do the trick! They would probably recede very quickly over the horizon too!
- Daily Assemblies. I don’t remember having such gatherings of the whole school EVERY DAY at junior school but we certainly did at Copleston. There were only a limited number of ways of avoiding this. Needing to run from the annexe to the main school was one them but I also got out of some by being in the school Recorder Group (later glorified with the name School Orchestra) who met and practised during one Assembly per week. There was a very minor Church of England religious component to the Assembly – one or two hymns and The Lord’s Prayer was about the limit of it but that was enough for the handful of Roman Catholics to have permission to wait outside until the important announcements were made by Ken Armstrong or his deputy. In case you are wondering about students with “other” religious backgrounds – there were none!
On special occasions such as the start of term, end of term, state visits by local councillors or just when Ken felt like it, we would be required, in these assemblies, to sing The School Song! This had been composed by Ken himself (to try to make us feel like we were at Eton or similar) with music arranged by “Wombat” Woolford the Art Master and Official Pianist. The song was based on the school’s Latin motto which was on our uniform badges and which was “Prospicimus” or “We look forward”. That translation was also in the lyrics which were tediously banal and the first line began with the words I have used as the title of this piece. I won’t bore you with them here but I do have a printed sheet with both the words and the music which I picked up at the school’s 50th birthday event and wrote about here: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/boys-will-be-boys/ – if anyone wants a copy……..! I do sometimes think it’s a little ironic that I keep looking backwards at a school that constantly wanted us to look forwards!
Well, that went well! From wondering what to write to almost 1500 words in one evening – that should keep you all going for a while! And, as I’ve said before, if you wish to comment but don’t want to do it on this post directly, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond.