Goodbye to bad old days

19th September 2003 at 01:00
I'm watching Channel 4's That'll Teach 'Em!. Whoops! That's my old grammar school. The actual building! We're back in the 1950sI Look - three fifth-year boys wander across the quad in the evening sun. I am one of them. We've just come from cricket nets.

It's the one thing that I'm good at. I'm certainly not good at much else.

Like French, for instance. My teacher - a Pentecostal maniac from the Welsh valleys - just gets splenetic. "You make me want to blaspheme! I would rather teach a vegetable!!"

Or mathematics. Several minor sadists have rendered me innumerate. The lessons are pure trauma.

"If train A leaves Neasden at seventeen-and-a-half miles an hour and train B leaves Crewe at a million miles an hour and the driver's name is Sid - when will they crash?"

I get a migraine. A board duster hits my head. It bleeds. I get two stitches. Still got the bumps. Still innumerate. Still miss trains.

Or geography. My teacher's blotto. He gets the wrong syllabus. We do Venezuela for five years. I get a grand total of 7 per cent.

Or Combined Cadet Force. We are learning how to kill sacks with bayonets.

Is Rommel imminent?

"Stick it in the ribs! Twist it through the heart! Jerk it through the chest!" yells Major Bloodknock. I faint....

We wander on with our Tizers and Penguins. We see a figure. A figure in a frock. Is it matron - or a woman? It sees us and plunges head first into a large rubbish bin. We get closer.

A head pops up. To see if we've seen her. We have - waist high and sporting an off-the-shoulder Ruby Murray number.

The chest is hirsute and deficient in bosom. It can't be matron. It is my English teacher. A nice bloke rather keen on Marlowe - and frocks it seems.

"Good evening, boys," she says formally. "Good evening, sir," we reply to the transvestite in the dustbin. The head pops down. We shuffle off glugging on our Tizers.

This is our first experience of women in the school... I'm still exploring my sexuality...

Welcome to the Golden Age of the Grammar School - when exams were tough, standards were high and deference ruled. A loony bin for the elite.

Most, like Dave Mania, weren't allowed in. He did dovetail joints at the Secondary Modern and left at 14. He was only "good with his hands".

And some people want this back. Trust me. You don't.

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