In my second year at secondary school, changes were afoot. My best friend had moved away, and my form ((in case you are wondering what my terminology means, the term “form” denotes the 30 or so people with whom I took registration and most of my lessons. There were 4 forms in my year)) group were assigned to a new teacher who, in my opinion, looked like Paddy Ashdown. Whereas our classroom where we took registration in the first year had been up in the languages department, in the second year we inhabited a cold, crumbling portakabin in the corner of the car park, next to the kitchens. This portakabin contained one classroom, a small storeroom and a locker room, which basically constituted the nerve centre of the school’s Religious Education operation.
The space that Stephen left was filled by a new arrival, Tim. Tim’s family had moved up from London and settled down in my village. Tim played the guitar, and was full of stories of sex, drugs and rock and roll. He had a phenomenally high opinion of himself. It seems strange, therefore, that Tim and I formed a relationship, but in retrospect it all makes sense. Firstly, he hadn’t ever known Stephen, and wasn’t aware of just how bad my reputation was. And once you stripped away that exterior, I was actually quite a nice guy. Secondly, I was probably the only person in the school who didn’t find him to be an obnoxiously cocky fuckhead, for reasons unknown. Perhaps I was seduced by his guitar-playing abilities. I remember one incident vividly, where it was in the middle of a lesson and the teacher asked each of us in turn for an anecdote satisfying some particular criteria. Tim told a story that involved a hole in the classroom wall at his previous school, and was fighting back the tears as he told it because it was the funniest thing that he had ever been witness to. The rest of the classroom sat in stony silence. I, too, was the kind of person who frequently told jokes only to discover too late that they weren’t actually funny, and so as a result I felt his pain. I guess we had a lot in common.
By mid-February, the powers that be decided that Tim wasn’t actually of the requisite calibre to continue attending the Grammar school, and off he went. Though we had paid occasional visits to eachothers’ houses, we didn’t see much of eachother after that. Partly because our relationship wasn’t really that tight, and I also suspect that our parents didn’t get on. My mum would have deterred me from sustaining a relationship with him, and I was an obedient child, so that was that.
My attitude to girls was still a bit peculiar. Looking back through old diaries for inspiration, I see that as well as noting down my exam results, I have also listed those of my main crushes at the time. I also had a brief friendship with a chap called Eddie. Well, I say friendship, in truth it was entirely about going round to his house and playing on his Mega Drive.
There was one small incident which is memorable because of its ramifications, but which at the time was inconsequential, and subsequently not in my diary. One day, a plump young first year with bad hair (and a reputation as bad as mine) ran into me from behind, intentionally, knocking both of us to the ground. For this attack on an older boy, he gained welcome respect from his peers. This young man’s name was Craig, and, for the benefit of new readers, you should be aware that he will return in a later instalment, in a much larger role.
At the end of the year, I and many others went on the annual trip to France. This trip is open to 1st and 2nd years, and booking takes place at the very start of the academic year ((I was actually one of the few people in my year who had also gone on this trip the previous year, because my older sister was at the same school and so I knew that it was coming. I didn’t mention it in the previous installment of this series as it didn’t have a notable effect upon my relationships with others (though I did lose my spectacles and spend the last few days of the holiday trying to hide this fact to cover up my embarrassment).)). From my form, Nigel and Stuart were in attendance, but also present were a couple of chaps from other forms called Adam and Nathan, both of whom I got on exceptionally well with. However, because of the fact that they were in different forms and most lessons still involved forms being kept together, I didn’t spend much time with them after that. In a few years, they too will return in very significant roles.
Also, memorably, I got on much better with the thug Nigel during the French trip than I generally did at school. I hoped that this would not be a fleeting improvement, and that our relationship in the third year would be much more amicable. Sadly, it was not. The funny thing about Nigel was that he knew the words that would cut me the most, but on the rare occasions when we came to blows, I caused him significantly more damage than he did me. In retrospect, I think that it shows great restraint on my part that I resisted the urge to give him a thorough thumping every morning to deter him from giving me a hard time.
*This is part 2 of a 7-part series called “My Teenage Years” which documents my school days between the ages of 11 and 17*