School Daze

When I first came to London I had to learn table manners, or at least better table manners, at home it wasn’t thought of as bad manners to lick your knife during meals or lets be honest, use your fingers, but I remember getting the ‘looks could kill’ glare from then girlfriend as I sat there licking my knife during dinner with her parents, her eyes screamed bad words at me and I knew not why, what I didn’t know was that everyone else at the dinner table was glaring at me too over this faux pas but in my ignorance I was too busy chasing petit pois around my plate to notice.

Licking bits of cold metal isn’t something I make a habit of these days, well, not unless I want to starve but in Canada it’s said that if you lick a metal lamp post in the depth of winter then your tongue will stick to it. I’ve never tried that or felt the urge to lick anything metal outside the dining room but it appears to be a national pastime in Canada, at least according to Mr Google. I do wonder who discovered this and why would anyone be licking a lamp post in the middle of winter anyway and of course I’m curious now…hmmm I feel a trip coming on.. I have this image in my head of large swathes of Canadians attached to lamp posts and fighting for space with passing dogs, waiting for the spring when they can free themselves with cries of “free at last” just like MLK ..assuming their tongue isn’t still numbbbb.

So, lamp post licking isn’t my forte but I kind’a know how it feels because in my first primary school the toilet block was separate from the main building and one had to really need to go to the toilet during the winter. The toilet block was across the playground and the wind howled through it, it kept the air fresh (to say the least) but during the winter it was freezing cold in there, chilly on the willy and one didn’t hang around. The toilets themselves were actually metal – this was Northern Ireland in 1965 – and after trudging your way through the snow you’d be faced with the world’s coldest bog as we referred to them. You’d have to check all the cubicles and hope there was one with toilet paper as you jumped up and down impatiently, your bowels already gearing themselves up for a massive expulsion after a school dinner of prunes and custard, the most effective purgative known to man and beast. There was none of those new-fangled automatic toilets that wipe your arse with nice warm water and air like they have in Japan these days, in Trinity primary school you risked hypothermia exposing your lower cheeks to the elements and took your life in your hands every time you visited the bog in winter. As kids we learnt not to place our butt cheeks on the frozen metal surface out of fear of getting frozen to it and spending all of January and February attached to it. We knew that if we did then we would indeed get stuck, it was guaranteed because the older inmates – I mean pupils – had told us the story of how one of their lot had been stuck there all winter and had to eat his dinner on the toilet and have private lessons there too until Spring arrived – and the older pupils wouldn’t have lied…would they..? Consequently, Trinity Primary School produced a class of kids each year that knew very little about Canada but we all had excellent bladder and bowel control for you only used the school toilets in a dire emergency.

I spent my first three years at Trinity primary school and then we moved to Conlig, a little village in the arse end of nowhere that made the bright light (yeah, light, not lights!) of Bangor seem like Las Vegas in comparison and it was here that I endured years four and five. Conlig primary school was a four room building;  year’s 1,2 & 3 were taught in one room, year four and five in another room, year six and seven in the last classroom and the only other room was Assembly Hall/Dinner Hall/Sports Hall/Stage for Naivety Plays at Christmas.  It was a small village and even smaller school and I spent many a long hour staring out the window in a daze watching the assorted wildlife of Conlig use the school playground as a toilet. This was usually the local dogs who in those days roamed wild but one would see cats and squirrels and sometimes even foxes sniffing around the playground, especially after lunch hour when the opportunity for dropped food was highest.

There’s a scene in Monty Pythons ‘Meaning Of Life’ where John Cleese is teaching his class all about sex, it’s a sex education class and he hits the blackboard on the wall and a bed falls out in front of the pupils, then in walks his wife and lies down on the bed and he says to the class “OK, we’ll take foreplay as read’ and proceeds to make love to his wife in front of the class discussing his technique loudly. And of course the pupils are bored senseless and one of them is staring out the window daydreaming. And it’s the juxtaposition of all this, him making love to his wife in front of the pupils and they are so bored like in an English Literature class studying Henry The Fourth Part One or studying quadratic equations in mathematics.. and one day I had a similar experience at Conlig. Slightly. I was staring out the window one summer, bored to tears whilst the teacher was droning on about some dirge when I noticed a couple of dogs sniffing around the playground. Then two of the dogs started humping each other right in the middle of the playground – have these dogs no shame?  And so of course I woke up and said ‘HEY! look at those two dogs!’ and the whole class looked out the window, probably the entire school was looking out the window. These days the idea of having sex ‘al fresco’ is somewhat (ie VERY) appealing but I think I would choose my place carefully and definitely not in the middle of a primary school playground. Perhaps the dogs should have sold tickets. However, at this point one of the other kids said in all innocence (I think) “Miss, what are they doing?” and like the true pro she was, without missing  a beat she answered back “Oh, that dogs got a puncture and the other dog’s trying to pump her back up…” and with that we went back to our lessons..  For years after that I was sure that if two dogs got into a fight and bit one another then they would deflate and might even go flying into the air like an untied balloon. God, I was naïve… still am..

At my next Primary school, Bangor Central, I spent my final two years, years six and seven with Mr Iverson. He struck fear into all of us, he was ‘well hard’ as we would say, he had a cane and knew how to use it. We knew he was ‘well hard’ before even coming to Central because it was said that Iverson polished Hitler’s boots. We were told this by the outgoing pupils and we were suitably impressed – we had no idea who the hell Hitler was of course but the other pupils were very impressed and so were we.. and they wouldn’t lie to us ..would they?

Central Primary School had some good points and some bad points, by far the best point was indoor toilets, I considered this a real luxury – especially as I was living in a house with an outside privy so conversely I saved everything up for school in my last years rather than undertake the ‘back door trot’ at home. However the downside of Central was that there were a few bullies in the class I joined.  One guy in particular used to beat me up all the time, it was a pretty rough school, I was beat up all the time by the group of bullies in the class, they would take my lunch money and once  I actually was hospitalised and this was in year six. This set in a pattern that would later be repeated during my 20’s, the class bully would still take my lunch money when I was 25 – the only difference being that I would say “No, I don’t want fries with that..” as I handed over my lunch money.. ahhh, I tried not to gloat too much..  ha!

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