One day in 1980, I decided that I had to take a day off school. The operative word there is ‘had’ because, put simply, I couldn’t face going into school that day.
I had been at Croft Hall for a little over three weeks, but this was long enough to grow to hate music lessons. Not because I was uninterested in the subject – although I cannot for the life of me understand why any sane human being would want to devote their professional career to trying to prove to a bunch of thirteen year olds that Mozart is better than anything they can hear on most radio stations – or because I was particularly unmusical. It was simply that in that lesson I had to sit between Ian Payne and James Mannion.
James was very small, had a false tooth which he would pop out at the slightest provocation and had absolutely no interest in being in school. Ian was just a very average schoolkid, not especially bright but still about 400 times more intelligent than James.
For some reason, the music room was not equipped with desks, but with chairs which had a specially designed arm rest so that you could use the right arm as a table to write on. The problem was that James was left-handed and Ian, for some reason, decided that he should use my arm rest to write on rather than contort himself into a position where he could use his own. This viewpoint was reinforced by repeated pushes, nudges whilst I was trying to write and so on.
I had no idea how to deal with this. It was behaviour which was completely alien to me. So I convinced my mother that I did not feel well and really needed to spend the day at home in bed. I must have been pretty convincing as, generally speaking, being dead wasn’t a good enough excuse to take a day off school in our house. And stay at home I did, thereby removing what was, at the time, the least favourite part of my week.
It wasn’t a trick I ever pulled again. I got my comeuppance the next day, in spades.