i remember the first day at big school.
for some reason or another the move from junior school to senior school scared the life out of me. it wasn't like i was going anywhere different brentside junior school was right next to the senior school. most of my mates, including my bestie: jody, would also be going. yet there was a twinge of doubt, a twinge of fear.
i shouldn't have worried.
we ended up moving and i had to go to a different school.
we ended up in northolt, to be sure not a million miles away from greenford but it meant i had to go to a different secondary modern, vincents, and it meant that i would know no one there.
fresh meat (of course i had no idea of the term because i was yet to become a fan of cheap action movies set in prisons).
vincents also had the distinction of being right next to a grammar school, eliots green grammar school – just so we could be constantly reminded that we failed at the 11 plus: failures already. not that we cared, we were just happy we were not saddled with their school uniform of purple blazer. no for us it was the standard plebeian black. it is quite possible that vincents had a school motto, i can't remember it, probably something like: you've got detention.
up until this point i can only remember one occasion of being dressed smart and that was to go church in order to receive holy communion. a trip to abernethie and son was necessary. t hey were the local school uniform supplier.
blazer, a tad too large but don't worry i'm told you'll grow into it – i wonder just how many times they had to say that over the years? trousers, shoes, shirts and school badge (to be sewn on later, but before school – it looks all very prussian double headed birdy thing). all needed. all got. just missing the school tie. oops no school tie. helpfully they tell us that the school should have some for sale.
come the first day of term i am dragged out of bed by mum, ugh too early. dressed and inspected, mum (clean behind the ears, fresh pants on). i pass muster.
off we go.
the plan is to get there early see about the tie and still be on time to start classes.
finding the school is easy – it is a big building, finding the admin office not so easy – it is a big building.
the secretary gives us the once over, not sure we are up to snuff. they don't have the ties, but the headmaster does. my first day at school hasn't started and i am already in front of the head. hopefully not a sign of things to come. the look he gives is a bit like the one we get from the secretary – somehow we are letting the place down even before we have started. he does have a tie, he gives it to me. i look at it like some foreign object, he ends up having to tie it for me (mum makes practice all night long to make sure i can tie a tie – i have no idea what sort of knot i do – but i like it medium and yes, before you ask, i do rock a tie when i wear one: mostly funerals these days).
there is a speech about the school and what it expects. it washes over me. he then points out that the badge on my jacket has been sewn on back to front. mum is mortified – like these things come with instructions. i spend the rest of the day walking around with my left arm trying to cover the badge – i look like a fool. a look i will maintain for the rest of my life.
later in the term we would discover that vincents was to disappear in a merging with eliots green. our year was the last of the secondary modern and the first of the new fangled comprehensives.
for all its faults i mostly enjoyed school. i made some life long friends there. i was inspired by a few good teachers. it provided me with some great opportunities – most of which i just frittered away.
if i learbt anything it was how to tie a tie.