Posts Tagged ‘school days’


The middle tier at school was easy. The tests for the top tier were easy. Life in the top tier is so different. Everything seems harder to learn, more intense. I’m struggling to take it all in, to understand what is happening, what is expected of me. Maths is especially difficult. Algebra make no sense at all. I’m lost in a sea of knowledge and learning. I don’t know who to turn to or where to go. I don’t want to be at school anymore. I wish I hadn’t passed the tests.


Getting to the top grade at school was a big achievement for me. Maths and English tests and I was selected above everybody else, just one person, me. However I soon began to struggle and was overwhelmed by the harder lessons and tougher expectations of me academically. In the grade below I was near the top of the classes and was effectively cruising at school. I coped with the lessons and homework and had plenty of time to play with my friends. School was not a worry for me. Moving to the top grade was a very different matter for me. There was more homework, tougher questions, algebra was a new concept for me, how could you do maths with letters? I’m still confused by algebra but I can add up, subtract, divide and multiply, what more do you need for life! Moving home didn’t help either. Everything happened at once, moving home, moving up a grade at school and looking back I couldn’t cope. It was all too much for me I was overwhelmed and collapsed under the weight of everything that was going on and retreated into my shell, unable to talk to anyone about how I felt because I didn’t understand what was going on and I couldn’t even begin to put into words how I felt. I felt lost in the world and took to my bed as the only place I felt comfortable and safe in the world. Maybe if I hadn’t moved away from everything I knew I would have been fine in the top grade. Maybe if I hadn’t moved up to the top grade I would have coped better with the move. Life is full of if’s and but’s and so many unanswered questions and we all have them and all we can do is think about what might have been and move on as best we can.


Teaching in the 70s and 80s at state run schools in the North of England was a vastly different experience to the ones I read and hear about today. Teachers were in charge and they let you know it. We called them sir or miss, no names to ensure there was an invisible barrier between us that we could not cross. Yes the teachers were in charge and they let us know it. I remember one teacher who would trip you up if you ran down the corridor and simply say ‘don’t run boy’ as you lifted your face off the floor. Another teacher would hit you over the head with a piece of wood covered by a newspaper and when you asked him why he did it he replied ‘because I can’. One incident I remember is being in maths and the lad behind me was talking so the teacher threw the board rubber at him which bounced off the desk and smashed the window. The teacher just pointed at him and said ‘that’s your fault boy’! and it wasn’t worth going home and complaining to your parents because you just got a clip round the ear and told to behave yourself if you did. There were plenty of other experiences that I have forgotten now and a lot of the teachers were very nice and didn’t do anything they shouldn’t but it was a very different time and I’m glad I experienced it.


It’s my first year at Tong and I’m doing well academically. I’m getting top grades in all my subjects and soon will be progressing to the top tier. I’m still living on Holmewood at this point and walking to Marks everyday to call for him and go to school with him. I’m enjoying life, enjoying school. Everything seems so easy, so much fun. Little do I know how life is going to take a turn that will forever alter my life and turn it upside down. Life won’t be as easy after this event. This is when life gets hard for me.


In the days before we had a party for every occasion we had just one, the Valentines Day disco and the one from 1978 at Holme Middle is one I will never forget for the wrong reasons. I was at the disco with Mark and everybody was dancing, drinking pop and pairing up. I went over to a girl, a really nice girl and asked her for a dance. She looked at me and said no, just like that. I felt gutted. Rejected at an early age and little did I know it would set a pattern for me and the fairer sex although I didn’t know it at the time. I think I just went and sat down somewhere and had some pop wondering why she was dancing with everybody else but said no to me. I don’t remember any other parties although I’m sure there was but this one I do remember for all the wrong reasons but that’s life and sometimes we learn lessons at an early age that only have meaning later on in life when we have gained experience and have time to reflect on what has happened to us and give us an understanding as to why things happened the way they did.


One experience I remember vividly from Holme Middle is taken an English test comprising of spelling, grammar and a story and getting over 90% on grammar and the story and failing miserably at spelling. I still achieved over 200 marks out of 300 despite getting no more than 10 marks for spelling and my English teacher praised me for my imaginative and well written story and said had I achieved a similar mark on my spelling as I did on the other 2 papers I would have achieved the highest mark ever. At Tong I wrote a story about a racing car that had a 6th gear, at the time a 5 speed gearbox was only just coming onto the market, and how it won the race because of this 6th gear. This story got me moved up into the top class for English and maths. It was evident from an early age I had a natural talent for English and for story telling but in the 70s going to school on a rough council estate there was no opportunities to take this further and see how far I could go with it. Nobody was there to offer to mentor me or advise me what I could do with my talent to see where I could go. Maybe my life would have turned out very differently, a best selling novelist and playwright perhaps, or maybe it would have been no different to how it has turned out. I’ll never know but it would have been interesting to have known. For me this was the first of many missed opportunities to do something I enjoy doing and had a natural gift for. Don’t waste any opportunities that come your way, they don’t come along very often.


I have never been gifted in a sporting way and at school this was even less so. My mum and dad never had much money so I would play football in my Doc Marten boots and cricket in pumps full of holes. Two games stand out in my memory though. One time I played football at Holme Middle in my Doc Marten boots and I rang rings round everyone and people even passed to me. It just felt so easy and natural that one time. Another I was playing cricket at Tong Comprehensive and normally I swung wildly, missed and was out. This time I hit everything everywhere and in the end the games teacher gave up trying to get me out and called it a day. Again it felt so easy and natural. I’ve never felt like that playing football or cricket since and probably won’t do ever again now. It was almost as if life was saying, look at what you could have been but you never will be.


It’s January 1977 and I’m on a school trip to Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales. Like many kids journeys when you was younger seem to be much further away and take much longer than when you grow up and the world seems to shrink around you. I remember this trip well as it was one of the first school trips I went on. We went down Capnut cave which I remember for the freezing cold water pouring over the top of my wellies and onto my feet turning them from red hot to ice cold in an instant. One of the teachers Mr Exely had to carry one girl out of the cave as she couldn’t stand her feet being cold and wet. Another instance was when we stopped up late one night in the hostel thinking we were the biggest rebels who had ever lived! We were all playing games until we heard a noise at the window and looked out to see the teachers there coming back from the pub very drunk with a large case of beer in their arms! They said that if we didn’t tell on them for coming back late they wouldn’t tell on us for stopping up late. Of course being young kids we were scared stiff of getting into trouble so said nothing to anyone not realising until later on in life that the teachers would have got into far more trouble than we would have done! the most memorable incident though was when we walked up Ingleborough in snowy and icy conditions over 20ft snow drifts wearing nothing more than a jumper, jacket, jeans and Doc Martens. We got to the top and Mr Exely told us to hold hands. When we asked why he said that Gaping Gill the deepest pothole in Europe was somewhere around and he didn’t want anyone to fall down it! That was health and safety in 1977!


I still remember the very first time I saw Mark Holdsworth at Holme Middle. It was in the playground and Mark was leaning back against the railings that went around the school in his school uniform wearing a pair of Doc Martens surrounded by other kids. He seemed very popular and I remember thinking how I wished I could have a friend like Mark and be popular with kids to talk to and play with all the time. I can’t remember the first time I spoke to him, but we did, and we clicked too as we’re still friends I what must be forty years on from that moment. After that meeting, we were at each other’s houses, playing down the valley, down the woods and on Black Hill. We were pretty much inseparable, and Mark introduced me to other people, some of whom are still my friends and others who drifted away as time went on. These were good times, fun times, times when life is perfect because you don’t understand the world and what is going on in it.


It’s September 1976 and the start of a new school year at a new school, Holme Middle. It’s further away than Holmefield First but not by much and I enjoy walking to and from school. Some of my friends from Holmefield First have gone to different schools and I will never see them again, but I make new friends here playing games in the school yard and in lessons. It’s a great start to a new chapter in my life, one without any cares, worries or stresses, one where I can be me and no-one else and live a carefree, happy life. Looking back this could be the last time I felt like this for so long without the changes that growing up is and the stresses and pressures that come with the change of age. With a new school comes new teachers and one of the first to make an impression on me was an elderly gent, probably approaching retirement but one of the nicest teachers I knew. I can’t remember his name now but I do remember that he was kind and knew how to get the best out of you and always had time for you. He drove a Triumph 2500 which at the time was one of the best cars on the market and I loved it! I remember wishing I had one every day I saw it.