i remember: the sixth form.
the sixth form was a turning point in my life. unlike many people i don’t have that many turning points or epiphanies – and generally when i do i treat them like captain jack and wave at them as they go by.
the sixth form is where i learnt that life was not going to be kind, i learnt that my carefree childhood was soon going to come to an end and with it was to come the stresses and strains of being an adult.
the sixth for was where i learnt about unrequited love and how to write very (very) bad poetry. the sixth form was the last time i a creative genius, it was the last time i was genuinely funny (no once upon a time i was funny, trust me it is true).
the sixth form is where i discovered music. most of my contemporaries were veterans of numerous punk gigs while i was buying the albums of the manhattan transfer (“coming out” was one of the first lps i ever bought – and it still rocks now chanson chanson….)
the sixth form was where i cemented my love of sociology.
i was in the sixth form for 2 reasons:
my parents were happy, and encouraging, that i have an education.
my first choice of career was denied me. i wanted to be a copper, but i was colour-blind so that was knocked on the head… years later in my first class of a degree course i made a joke about it that sunk like a lead balloon – i shall spare you….)
so i was a sixth former, i suppose i really should have been a sith former (groan).
now northolt high may not have been the greatest school in the world (in fact i know one person who positively thinks it damaged him in terms of learning) but there were a number of teachers who were inspiring and in love with the job they were doing.
one such was mr. adrian watson. he was a fey, gaunt (a look he was nearly 30 years too early for), intense, new blood teacher. he took a lot of stick from the kids, well he did wear a duffle coat, but he was a good teacher.
from him i learnt the basics of sociology. i fell in love with the subject, i thought the subject loved me – but sociology is a harsh mistress and while i was becoming a proto marxist functionalist, she swans of with those cute guys of post-modernism (whom she later ditched for the globalisation hunks….)
now i am a little ashamed to admit it – but back then i could be almost be described as a conservative (with a very small c) (yeah i know the shame, but better than being a liberal democrat….) mr. watson saved me from becoming jay and pushed me along the road of armchair radicalism, and lets hope for all us armchair radicals the revolution is televised or we are going to miss it – pass the remote!
in a class where we were discussing the failure of education for working class kids, we were all engaging in lively debate. throwing ideas back and forth, dismissing out of hand theories of out betters. when mr. watson asks, “why do kids swear?” or something like that. (now go on admit it you know where this story is going).
he was making a point about limited vocabularies, limited cultural opportunities, peer pressure, cultures of failure and a heap of other things.
i raised my hand. a nod and my answer:
“i don’t fucking know….” laughter, in my mind it was thunderous laughter, but probably a gentle titter.
oh well i spent the rest of that class in the sixth form centre….
thus was born the radical(ish) pat you all know.