Wednesday 1 July 1987

…Another morning at Woodbrook for the induction, and it began with us having
to do some French.
It was actually quite good.
I have learned “Je m’appelle…”
This doesn’t mean “Seems like hell” but “My name is…”
Then we went down to the science labs for some science with Dr Something Or
Other, it sounded a bit like Dr Zopatzo.
The entire subject of the lesson was how a Bunsen Burner works.
Unfortunately then it was time for PE which was boring and afterwards we were
Except I “forgot” my towel…

Yes, the tried-and-tested bogus memory lapse. But there was no way, absolutely no way, I was going to go into a communal shower with a load of strangers. It was enough of an ordeal being around them fully-clothed.

Later in the year, when I was at secondary school for real, the post-PE shower was enforced more rigorously. A teacher would patrol the changing room, drawling a little-too-enthusiastically: “Come on boys! What are you, nancies? Drop that towel! I don’t know why you’re shy, I’ve seen it all before!”

He’d also threaten not to return our valuables, which we’d had to hand over before the lesson to his tiresomely unoriginal cry of “Baubles, bangles and beads!” and which he kept in a Tupperware container.

If absolutely everyone had been forced into the showers, and absolutely everyone had shared the indignity and embarrassment, it might have been a little less unbearable. But the cheats cheated, the skivers skived, the bold ones answered back, and the remaining minority of us did what we were told and just felt even worse.

Wednesday 2 July 1986

…The people who were involved with the scrap in the boy’s changing room got told off by Mr Colton [the headmaster].
Instead of doing the spelling test we did a quiz today. Yippeee…

The end was in sight. Just three more days and school would be closed for eight weeks.

Yes, eight whole weeks.

We had long summer holidays in Leicestershire, thanks to a local tradition for factory workers to take the first two weeks of July as leave.

The “July fortnight”, as it was informally known, meant schools shut their gates earlier than much of the rest of the country. But they remained closed all the way through to the end of August, in order to reopen at the same time that the academic year began across the whole of the UK.

In turn, we had shorter half-term breaks than everyone else.

All of this meant, for me and me classmates, two massive months of holiday. At the time, this felt impossible to quantify. With my cliche hat firmly planted on my head, I can state that back then summers did indeed feel never-ending.

Today’s extract suggests some of my fellow pupils were already a touch demob-happy.

A dose of punishment from the headmaster was the most serious form of reprimand at my primary school, short of being sent home. In this instance the telling off was particularly potent, coming as it did from a man who was actually about to leave for another post in another town. He clearly wished to maintain his authority all the way until hometime on the very last day.

As for the scrap in the changing room, I have a memory of it being to do with something appallingly juvenile and tasteless. I don’t think anyone actually got seriously hurt, but I’m glad, as I was then, I had nothing to do with it.

Tuesday 1 July 1986

…Because it was the last swimming lesson in the school year we had the inflatables in the pool.
There was a scrap in the boy’s changing room.
Luckily I was not involved…

I’m being disingenuous here, for there was no luck involved.

I actively made it my business to not to go anywhere near the scrap, and not just because I was a wimp.

I suspected there would be consequences… as indeed there were the following day.