The schools in the area where I live broke up for summer today. All across the nation, children are celebrating the end (or, in some unlucky cases, the imminent end) of another school year.
I was at school from just before I was 5 years old until long past my 18th birthday. By my reckoning I should have had 13 of these. Which makes me wonder why, of all of those, I can only remember four of them.
One I know can be chalked off from the tally of 13, as I didn’t see the end of the school year because we moved house just before the school year ended, and it wasn’t worth enrolling me in a new school for the few days that were left (or, at least, I believe that this is what happened)
In another year – 1982, in fact – I was at school in New Zealand where the summer holiday is, obviously, in December and January, so I actually missed out on the end of year entirely.
That still leaves four out of 11, which I make a pretty paltry 36%. The one that I remember the most is the one that came before our New Zealand adventure (of which there will be much more later) in 1980. I only remember this because we had a relatively free afternoon – certainly no lessons – and Ian Pullar (who was sadly to die in a motorcycle accident a few years later) and I spent it writing end of year reports on our various teachers.
I can’t remember what we wrote. I suspect that for our metalwork teacher it said something like ‘Must stop telling stories about the War and actually teach us something’, but for anyone else I would have to guess. What I do remember vividly is our sense of outrage when our form teacher, Mrs Croft, refused to take it from us. I also remember her (quite justified) outrage at our doing something like this. How were any of us to know that we were merely prempting the days when teachers would have performance reviews, and the advent of the 360 degree review?
I remember breaking up in 1985 almost as vividly, except that all I can remember is walking out of school with my friend Jeanette Hill, performing our own peculiar rendition of Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’. We had developed a habit, learned from Chris de Burgh’s ‘Patricia the Stripper’ (no scoffing now, he only became deeply untrendy a year later), of performing spoken word versions of songs, whereby each of us would speak a line in turn. It is a whole musical genre which no-one has ever picked up on, probably because we were the only ones who thought it anything other than weird.
The other two occasions that I remember would be either 1974 or 1975, when we raffled off the classroom decorations and I won a large paper model of a pig – basically a lot of cut out pink paper, with a big sheet of pink paper wrapped around it – which I never did anything with and which eventually ended up on a bonfire, and 1980.
This last one was special, because it was my last day at junior school and I was chosen to make the leaving presentation to one of the teachers who was retiring, Mrs Lawes. Mrs Lawes taught French, and the presentation had to be given in French. Not many words of it – meilleur voeux de toutes les eleves de l’ecole moyenne de Telford if I recall correctly (and if that makes no sense it could either be my memory or the fact that it would have been written by someone who, for obvious reasons, didn’t teach French) – but enough for it to be something of an honour to be chosen. What Mrs Lawes would have said if she had known that her successor as my French teacher, Mme Davey, so successfully put me off of the subject that I gave it up aged 13 I do not know.
The other thing about that day was that I also won my only individual cricket trophy. Admittedly, it was for Most Improved Player, which makes it rather insignificant compared to the Best Batsman/Bowler/Fielder/All-Rounder trophies that I am sure were dished out between Steve Clarke, Nigel Dixon, Stephen Bolt and Marc Goodey in some order, but it remains my only trophy and I took it home, filled it with orange squash and stood on the patio drinking from it.