E is for Education


The cliché was that school days were the best of life. This is clearly nonsensical propaganda. Personally, my best days are scattered through my life and I entirely hope and expect that I still have a few to enjoy (let us draw a veil over the ones that I’m not going to like so much and just get through those). That said, I consider myself quite blessed, as generally speaking my school days were on the positive side, and sometimes, whisper it, rather enjoyable.

Mainly this was because I seem to have been lucky enough to blunder through my education without any real plan or direction and managed to pitch the amount of effort in that ‘just enough to get by’ zone (being inherently lazy at work, especially work I was not that interested in, e.g., mathematics, which I always saw as a means to an end rather that something worth studying for its own benefit). It all started off rather simply at my local state primary school where I enjoyed being and (intellectual) bigger fish in a very small pond; afterwards and ever since I have had to cope with being surrounded by people much brighter (and worse, more motivated) than I was. Luckily for me, while I may be loud, I’m not hugely competitive. So, I very easily resigned myself to mid table mediocrity and it has served me rather well over the years, and put me in a good place to support friends who have placed themselves under much more pressure to achieve.

My teachers at primary were the first main blessing, not so much by their teaching as much as insisting to my parents that they get me into somewhere, anywhere, other than the big comprehensive school across the road, onto whose grounds our house backed. Funnily enough the school is question has now been flattened to make way for a new housing estate, which is just a more permanent fate then it used to meet fairly regularly at the hands and matches of the local bored arsonists. My parents did not take much persuading, although the solution at the time meant a private school somewhere and that meant fees. At the time (see, this is all working out here in ways I have nothing to do with) you could get government help if you passed the entry requirements of the school concerned and your parents were on a low income, as were mine. I passed and had a choice in the end, but the most important choice here was that my parents chose to forgo anything for themselves for the next seven years as my fees (plus the other inevitable expenses such as uniform) took up every penny, not that I realised at the time.

I am very fond of Newcastle Royal Grammar, which is where I chose. I worked reasonably hard and it was the kind of school where if that was the approach you took the teachers would respond positively back. The only exceptions were music and games, both of which I was useless at. Perhaps surprisingly considering my lack of fitness at the time, it was the former I truly hated. At least the teachers had no real expectations of me as a great athlete, so largely they treated me with mild indifference providing I didn’t grumble and turned up. Music though… I just couldn’t get my head around it (I still cannot read music) and the staff couldn’t be bothered to take the time to teach me the basics. It is a shame as I love music and singing. But in the end the only time in my life I have been thrown out of a class at age thirteen and it was a music lesson. I was thrown out for coughing, I presume I was not expectorating to the right rhythm or something. Git.

So, that was not one of the best days.

Thankfully, other days were better. But maybe I’ll save some of those for another time.