As a kid I always used to hate it when the summer holidays started and shops immediately began to advertise items under the banner ‘Back to School.’ Reminding us of the next school year when we’d just started our six week holiday seemed a particularly malevolent form of sadism.
So, now I’m a grown-up (of sorts) I thought I’d add to the tradition by posting a sample of my children’s stories. I wrote these many years ago when I was a school teacher and used to read them to my class to see their reaction, claiming they were written by an acquaintence. They were the best audience and editorial team I could hope for. If they liked something, or hated it, I could see it in their faces. Thanks very much, kids.
Here’s the start of the series, from the collection ‘The Big School.’
I turned over in my bed for what must have been the millionth time that night. The sheets were that ruffled it was like a ploughed field and my pillow had turned all wrong in the darkness. The next day I was going to Braithwaite Comprehensive, the big school, and I’d not slept a wink all night.
Willie Belfield who lived up our street had been at Braithwaites a year now and since the first day of the six weeks holiday he’d been telling me things about it.
There was this teacher, Mr McTavish. He took PE and was the cruellest man in the world. He used to make kids do impossible things in the gym and when they couldn’t do them he’d go mad and hit them over the head with this chunk of wood. They reckon all the other teachers were scared of him.
Then there was a maths teacher, Mr Batty. He had right bad breath and he used to talk to you ever close so that you had to smell it and feel sick. And when he got mad he used to throw board-rubbers and compasses at people and sometimes even chairs.
But even worse than the teachers were kids. They were always getting you, especially if you was a First Year. When Willie Belfield first went he came home crying because big kids had put slime in his shoes and set fire to his tie. He said us First Years could reckon on being beaten up four times a week.
The first day was supposed to be the worst. It was on the first day that everybody had their heads put down the toilet in the chain pulled.
The only kid in the whole school who’d not had his head put down the toilet was our Eric. He was going to be a fourth year now and when he first started the school was even worse. But he still managed not to have his head put down the toilet. According to Juddy, our Eric’s best mate, the first day they started school all the big lads rounded up the First Years for the toilet treatment.
Of course, they were all screaming and kicking and threatening to bring their big brothers round; all except our Eric. According to Juddy our Eric was near the back of the First Years and was jumping up and down making out that he was dead excited at the thought of having his head put down the pan. He called out to the big lads to hurry up because he couldn’t wait to have his turn.
So they all looked at him funny and decide not to do it to him. Just to spite him. He put on a right show about it, sulking and moaning, saying it weren’t fair. But Juddy says that when our Eric walked past the drenched kids with his hair bone dry he gave a wink and a smile.
I turned over again and sighed. I weren’t like our Eric. As soon as I walked into the playground I’d be yanked off to have my head put down the toilet. Or perhaps even Mick Patterson would get me.
Willie Belfield had told me about Mick Patterson. He was this right big kid and everyone was scared of him. What he did was pull down your trousers and underpants and write swear words on your bum with indelible ink. And of course Mr McTavish would see it in the showers and you’d be half murdered by him. I kept wondering what it would be like to have someone write swear words on your bum or have your head put down the toilet and the chain pulled. I thought that perhaps if you have one thing done they wouldn’t do the other and I kept trying to work out which was the least horrible.
When I got up next morning my eyes had dark circles under them like I’d been given two black eyes already.
Our Eric shook his head when he saw me. ‘Have you been awake all night?’ he asked.
I nodded my head.
‘You shouldn’t be so daft,’ he said. ‘Don’t believe half what people tell you.’ He put milk on my cornflakes for me. ‘And even if the worst does come to the worst,’ he continued, ‘having your head put down the toilet isn’t that bad.’
‘It’s all right for you to blinking say that,’ I replied, ‘you never had anything done to you.’ But he did make me kind of feel better. He had to finish my cornflakes mind.
Juddy called for Eric on the way to school but they didn’t seem to mind me walking with them.
I met my best mate Pricey at the school gates. He looked right funny in his uniform. I suppose I did as well. Mind you I didn’t look as though I put my tie on with my feet like Pricey did.
It were a right shock when we got into the playground. We were used to being the biggest at the Junior School but now we were the smallest. Everybody looked like giants; some of the biggest lads even had moustaches. And everyone wore uniforms. It looked ever so strange as though it wasn’t a real place.
You could easily tell the First Year though. They were all huddled together trying to look like they weren’t there. Some were stood stock still against the walls as though they were hoping their black uniforms would blend in with the grey of the concrete. All round the First Years prowled gangs of older kids. It was obvious they were looking for someone to get.
Suddenly somebody tapped me on the shoulder. I jumped about six foot. I turned round to see this really strange looking kid. He had great big floppy ears and eyes which were nearly popping out.
‘What you want?’ I asked. My voice was all high-pitched with fright.
‘I ask all the questions,’ he said. Me and Pricey looked at each other; his voice sounded even higher than mine.
‘Are you First Years?’ he asked.
He looked at Pricey’s peculiar tie. ‘Did you tie that?’ he asked.
‘Are you mad?’ he asked with his head to one side.
Pricey’s not, I thought, but I bet you are.
Pricey shook his head.
The strange kid turned to look at my tie. ‘Did you tie that?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ I lied. Our Eric had done it for me really.
‘It’s a nice tie,’ said the weirdo and suddenly whipped out this pair of scissors and cut it off. Before I could stop him he’d stuffed my tie in his mouth and started eating it. Me and Pricey looked at each other in amazement; this place was like a loony bin.
The weirdo had only just finished eating my tie when a whistle blew. Everybody stopped moving. It was like the kids had been turned to stone or had seen a ghost. Then two whistles blew and everyone started running like they were mad.
The weird kid pelted past us crying, ‘McTavish!’
We didn’t know what to do, none of us First Years did. We were all terrified. We ran around in circles, not knowing where to go, banging into each other, falling over and nearly crying. We must have looked just like ants when you lift a stone from off of their nest. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Mr McTavish glaring at us. He had a huge piece of wood in his hand.
‘Stop running,’ he bellowed.
Me and Pricey collided with each other and fell over. Every First Year was shaking with fear.
‘Now then,’ said Mr McTavish, sneering at us like some baddie in a cowboy film, ‘stay silent and listen to me. My name is Mr McTavish.’
He held the piece of wood above his head. ‘And this is what I call my “Persuader.” It’s rather heavy, rather like a caveman’s club. And it hurts.’
He suddenly whipped the club against the wall, making a crack like a rifle shot echo around the playground. I shuddered.
‘And if,’ continued Mr McTavish, ‘any First Year is not lined up silently within five seconds of my blowing his whistle, they will feel my “Persuader” around their backsides.’
He pointed to another playground where all the other boys were lined up. There were two flights of steps up to it. The whistle blew and everyone ran for their lives. I’d never have thought it possible but over a hundred First Years leapt up those steps and were lined up in silence in a lot less than five seconds.
‘The Big School’ is available from most retailers priced 77p, $1.21 or €0.89. Give it a try.
The second in the series, ‘The Guy Fawkes Contest’ will be available shortly.