Austerity – The School Years

Posted on July 21, 2010

Following on from my blog about my childhood at home, my mind started whirring away and picked up faded memories of what school was like in the 1970’s and early 80’s. My first school was Burnham Copse Infants school which is now a housing association estate. My memories are vague, though I can recall temporary type buildings and a concrete cat’s head in the playground. I am maybe second guessing here by think my my first teacher was called Mrs Nottman.

My first friend was Kevin Mitchell, who is still my friend 38 years later. He was later my best man, and I was his. We became friends after he shit himself in class, stinking the whole place out, but I stoically stood up for him and heaped the blame for the offence on a poor lad named Steven March. Unfortunately for Kev my buck passing loyalty was flawed as he was wearing shorts, and the evidence was there for all to see. The rest as they say, is history.

A DAF33 as driven by Mrs Leonard

At around the time I was due to leave infants, I remember being terrorised by my older siblings about the prospect of being taught by one Mrs Leonard at the junior school opposite the road. In my mind’s eye I had a picture of a fearsome witch who was going to make my life a living hell. I was not about to be let down as fate predictably put me into her class, she was a ferociously tempered throwback to Victorian times who ruled by fear. Her favourite term used to be: “Go and stand before Formica, and woe betide you if you move you horrible child”. I didn’t know what Formica was, and I didn’t know what woe betide meant, but I did know she meant business, I was terrified of her, and even seeing her driving the streets of Tadley or Baughurst in her DAF 33 (pictured above) would send me scurrying for cover.

Mrs Leonard did, however, provide one wonderful moment of joy when we were reading out loud in class. Dyslexia was a made up disability then, and the unfortunate readers in class were made to say a word time and time again until they got it right, it must have been misery for those with reading issues. Anyway, a lad in my year, for arguments sake lets call him him Andrew Florence (because that was his name) was struggling with saying King Kanute (can you see where this is heading?) but dear Mrs Leonard persisted.

Mrs L: Come Andrew think
AF: King Kn..utty?
AF: King Canoe?
AF: King Cunt?

Andrew was kicked all the way to Formica. What a marvellous moment.

Burnham Copse Junior School

During my years at the junior school we were always involved in charity projects collecting things like milk bottle tops and ring pulls off fizzy drinks cans. The ring pulls were for kidney machines for sick people we were told, and we collected thousands of them. I remember being amazed that it was possible to make a machine that could keep you alive, out of ring pulls from coke cans, what a contraption that must have been!! I was about 27 before I found that they melted the ring pulls down and used the money from selling the metal to buy kidney machines.

We also had a dentist attached (you can see it on the far right of the building) which was a terrifying place that still gassed kids. I had gas once, and all I can recall is this chap telling me I was a spitfire pilot and ramming this mask in my face. It wasn’t long before this practice was banned because of an alarming mortality rate, thankfully I survived and lived to fight another day of semolina and Mrs Leonard.

I was now showing a talent as footballer, and by the third year I was the first player on the school A team sheet, I was small an nippy and easily the best in the school, and after a virtuoso display versus Bishopswood School I was in line to receive a prestigious school colour when fate struck me down and destroyed my confidence. I was in the playground where perennial super twat Andrew Smith was bullying my friend Robert Badcock (probably because of his unfortunate name). Because I had two older brothers I had learnt not to be scared of bullies, so I punched him in the nose, and it bled. My school colour was taken away, I was thrown out of the football team, and sent to the despicable Headmaster Mr Searing to be the first child in a decade to caned, there was even talk of a child psychologist. The injustice of all this changed forever my perception of authority, everyone thought Mr Searing was a sweet old man, I fucking hated him for not taking the truth in to account, he was a spineless bastard.

My Brother Graham had a single at home by the Clash at home called ‘White Riot’ the opening line was:

Black man’s gotta lot of problems,
but they don’t mind throwing a brick,
white people go to school,
where they teach you how to be thick

At 10 years old I wanted a riot of my own.

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