Friends Reunited

Friends Reunited was a Social Media site launched in the UK in June 2000 aiming to reunite old school friends.  I joined at a fairly early stage and soon became bored with the short descriptions that people were posting.  I thought that I could do better and wanted to encourage others to follow suit.  My entry, unedited and copied below dates from around 2002.


Hi everyone.  Having checked out a few of the other messages and been bored by their simplicity I figured that there needs to be an antidote to all the brevity around.  After all that’s what this site is all about.  We all love to find out who’s doing what.  And to whom.

I considered making up some story of how I’m a leading figure in the financial world, or a big Hollywood player or a tramp but in the end figured reality was what we all want.  So here goes.  Warts and all.

I can’t remember a lot about the Infants School and noticed that no-one else could.  It’s not listed.  The part now known as Shirley Warren Primary used to be the Junior school when we were there.  I recall many things from here and visited the place during a weekend a couple of years back.  Seeing the weeds growing up through the boy’s playground seemed rather sad.  Is it used now, I wondered?  I remember the place being quite noisy and vibrant.  Usually with massive games of football using a tiny tennis ball.  I was always the last to be picked, all say ahh!, sport not being my speciality.

I preferred playing with the girls.  Not considered to be the correct thing in those days.  I was always ahead of my time!  I particularly recall a fondness for Jean Brewer and will embarrass her now by reminding her of that.  How sweet.  I noticed that she’s still around.  Not that her message gives much away.  Like so many others.  Mind you she had to share her affections from me with Miss Osman, our teacher.  I can almost hear the nods of approval from the other guys on reading the name.

I remember a few other names from my time at Shirley Warren but more are missing than are listed.  I guess they never learnt to write!  Some could barely communicate.  It would be fun to find out what happened to everyone though.  The two I would be most interested to hear about would be Kevin Jukes and Debra Wyatt . Many may not recall Kevin because he wasn’t there for long.  He left to go to Leicester, I believe, after about a year in the Junior school.  I can’t blame him for that.  His parents moved and he was only about nine at the time.  I am interested because he and I were ‘best friends’ for a short time.  I mentioned Debra because I had a good deal of respect for her.  If I were American I would have voted her as ‘the kid most likely to achieve.’  But I’m not.  So I didn’t.

Being a bit of a school swot meant that I gained a place in King Edward VI Grammar School.  Either that or the fact that my father was a labour councillor at the time and they wanted to stop the state funding of grammar schools.  I wasn’t the only one in my year.  I recall at least three others in this category!  I changed a bit and concentrated on being a layabout and drifted gradually to the back row of the class.  Until my eyesight started changing and I drifted to the front again, not realising that I needed glasses.

Not that being one of the lads made up for still being a kid at school.  The best thing about the Junior school wasn’t at King Edwards.  Girls.  And no Miss Osman either, although I vaguely recall an attractive Biology teacher.  The female one you numbnut.  To this day I advocate that single sex schools with too much homework should be outlawed.  Freud would have a heyday with the misconceptions I grew up with at the time.  Women were either my sister, my mum or Valerie Singleton.  I didn’t even have a chance to meet my mates’ girlfriends as they were also my sister, Hi Dawn.  Why didn’t they have sisters?  Or mums?

The other main trouble was location.  I lived a few miles away from the school, which in turn was a few miles away from the guys I considered my friends at the time.  But I had no push-bike, too little bus fare and hours of homework.  So Ady and Mick, that’s why I never got to join the band.  And the fact I couldn’t sing or play an instrument of course.

This new found slightly yobbo role meant not trying very hard at school so inevitably the mock exams suffered.  I spent too much time dreaming about my girlfriends at the time.  My first – Ruth Lugton, yes, I’ve still got the letters you sent, and Debbie Picano to whom I send deep apologies for Christmas, because I was an arse.  So my dreams of becoming a vet had dissipated.  Ady was right.  I would never be a ‘ten thousand a year’ vet.  Mind you, after six extensive weeks of knuckling down I nabbed ninety percent of my qualifications.  And after all, who needs French?

But by then the future was forever changed.  I figured I never had a chance to go to university and left school at sixteen.  That’s why I’m listed in 1978 as opposed to most of my school mates in 1980.  Best move I ever made.  Except that in 1979 they allowed girls in.

Generally my time at King Edwards was tolerable rather than exceptional but I would be happy to join any reunion that was organised.

Anyway time had moved on and I was forced to make a career choice which would shape the work for the rest of my life.  Not easy when your first 16 year’s dreams are smashed.  I opted to do work involved with drawing and somehow ended up with an apprenticeship with a heating company.  Three years out of the five later I resigned.  You may remember the week.  The government announced unemployment to be a million for the first time.  Top move.  But I had missed out on the gap year all my old school mates were having.  And partying with my biker friends.  Jeff Bull on his Yamaha Fizzy with sexy girlfriend Jackie.  Dave Bareham on his Honda SS50, who was sadly killed later in his early twenties.  Mark with his Strange Heath Robinson Machine.  John Crook on another Honda SS50.  Dave ‘Spike’ Reeves, strangely in his Dad’s big Vauxhall VX490.  And me, on Mark’s Gilera.  Brother Mark.  No not a monk.  My Brother.  Not forgetting the girlfriends of course.  Hi to Theresa, Sue, Inger, Fiona, Susan, Karen and Yvette.  Busy days indeed.

I preferred anything to work and wanted to be a writer.  So I left for Hollywood.  Unfortunately I got to Boyatt Wood.  I had met my wife, Lynda.  Well, obviously she wasn’t my wife at the time, but you know what I mean.  Before that we spent some good and bad times at Arthur Road, in Shirley.  Outdoor fireworks indoors anyone?  The place was a bit like the house in the young ones.  A few guys from King Edwards were there.  Keith Gunston was one.  Tim was another new friend.  He claimed to be prospecting for the Angels so we had a few colourful guests.  Not to mention the rat.  Which ate the mice.  I also recall Lee, who I ask to say hello to Marion and Jackie for me, plus Heather.  And burning the furniture.  And servicing the bikes indoors.  And the telly repossession.  And the electrics, which started the fire which nearly poached Tim’s fish.

Anyway, Lynda steered me back on the straight and narrow.  Technically, I still owe her fifty quid!  I started work again.  Temporary work led to a builder’s merchants which led back to the same heating company.  Eight years seemed to pass quickly.  Although we did move to our present house in Bishops Waltham.  But eight years is a long time in one job, unless you are my wife when nothing short of 30 is a career.  So I resigned.  You may recall the week.  Unemployment was announced again.  Three million.  Great move.  Seriously.  They went bust shortly afterwards.  So I worked for a small time with a national services company then joined a Southampton plumbing outfit.  One of the Directors invited me to start a Mechanical Services division.  Things were going well at first but the other Director was scared by the changes.  We parted company in 1997.  They went bust in 1998.

I moved to a company in Fareham then resigned two years later, my timing slightly amiss.  They were just going bust.  Pattern of the industry I’m afraid.  I became self employed.

Now I work mainly for a London based company, working all over the South, in London and wherever the work takes me.  It’s a good life, always moving around with no time to get bored and contemplate resigning.  My earliest school reports, and most of the subsequent ones, read me well.  Can do anything – if only he bothered to concentrate.  8 out of 10 must try harder.

So what of the future?  I guess when people read this there could be changes.  In your own poor submissions if nothing else.  Perhaps Debra will contact me then introduce me to Jean, with whom I’ll fulfil a life long ambition.  Lynda will find out and kick me out.  Thankfully Kevin will have contacted me and I’ll move to Leicester.  Only he’ll be a drug dealer.  And a woman since the change.  In a landmark European Court rights case we’ll marry and have children.  But it won’t work out because without Lynda I will have stopped working again.  And I’ll end up on the streets.  A tramp.  With warts.  C’est la vie.

Author: Vince Poynter

Originally posted on my Friends Reunited page around 2002 then republished recently within the Social Media section of my web site, vinceunlimited.co.uk/socialmedia.htm, as Version 5.288 on 5 Mar 2020
Friends Reunited was a UK based social media site launched in June 2000 aiming to reunite old school friends.  FaceBook, a similar Social Media site was launched globally in 2004 and proved very popular which squeezed the more focussed and geographically independent nature of Friends Reunited which closed in February 2016

De-smarting

The School Years from the autobiography of Vince Poynter

Image of Vince Poynter stood, wearing a small hat and large red nose, holding a gonk, with Lilian Poynter sat in the background
Clearly a genius, with his mother in the background

It is one of the most dramatic times of our lives.

In barely over a decade you start school, graduate to two completely different ones, learn about money, relationships, fighting and sex, get progressively smarter, meet hundreds of other people, decide on what floats your boat and suffer the indignation of a growing army of zits on your body.  And everyone tells you it’s the best time of your life.

I’d disagree but suggest that childhood might be the busiest.

You may have no money worries, because you haven’t got any, nor any concerns over time, because you haven’t any idea that it might stop one day.  And no clue what to do about anything.

But there is one overriding factor about childhood that dominates the time – children.

Unless you chose a career path that involves them such as a teacher or Scout Leader [those poor fools] you will never again associate yourself with so many of the little blighters.  Because by and large they are the most evil, deceitful, mean, bullying individuals you are ever likely to meet.

Alright, I might be being a bit harsh and by now all those little urchins have now probably grown up to be nice, rounded adults.  Rounded in more senses than one.

Children will constantly taunt, wind up and bully each other until someone bigger says stop.  And as a very young person I was in the thick of it.

My schooldays are not full of happy memories and although I [used to] fully list myself in friendsreunited [a now defunct, previously popular, Social Media gathering spot], complete with picture and 1600-word narrative, as that is the social thing to do, plus I felt I had a good story to tell, I have no real wish to meet up with most of the old characters again.

My first school, Shirley Warren Infants, has now been demolished.

In fact I own one of the apartments [read flats] there and rent it out.  It is now a lovely little oasis in the grime of the surrounding area and handy for the hospital and my letting aspirations.

It used to be a single story building filled with screaming youngsters.  I recall the basic layout but not much of the detail.  I cannot really remember the classrooms or any of the teachers even though I spent five years there.

I do actually recall one of my first days there and the pairing that kids do during the first break so we all ended up with a best mate.  I chose a similar looking friend to me called Kevin but he was soon shipped off to a strange remote location that he referred to as ‘Lester’.  Near to the moon I gathered at the time.  I had lost my first best friend. All the others had already paired up and I never again had such a [male] relationship.

Other memories from the Infants school include the attention I sometimes got from the ‘older’ girls.  I remember being cuddled a lot – it was a blond hair thing.  And I recall once pretending to be dead so I could peek up the skirt of a teacher.  I couldn’t get away with that now.

Other than that my only memories were the walks to school with my mum and strangely the bike shed.  No, let me re-phrase that, before everyone jumps to the conclusion that the pre-schooling preamble was in the company of a mother and some sort of strolling bike shed.  I recall walking to school with my mum and I recall the bike shed, which I duly tested the back of with a couple of volunteers.  The shed, not my mum.  Oh, sort it out yourselves!

The little Infants school was not too far away from the main school which brought together the Junior and Senior elements.  I duly graduated to the Junior side, the details of which are much clearer to me.  I could probably accurately trace the whole school layout with its several classroom, play areas, tin huts, assembly hall and car park.

School photograph of Dawn and Vince Poynter
Sister Dawn [no, not a nun] and Vince in School posed photograph

I returned to the site a few years ago and was saddened by its demise.

The boys playground had obviously not been used much and weeds had ripped through the surface of the tarmac.  In the early seventies they wouldn’t have stood a chance from the incessant pounding of football feet every couple of hours.

The football games were quite fun with teams of about 50-a-side fighting over whatever ball someone could smuggle into school.  It was never a proper leather ball, in fact often just a tennis variety but the game was always fought with passion.

I even recall days where a stone was used as no one had a ball. Of course, by the end of the playtime session I had ‘introduced’ several other stones to add to the pace, and cut shins.

Formal games held on the green near Lordshill were never such fun.  Although I often found plenty of space away from the massing defenders I would rarely be passed the ball as my team-mates would hardly involve the chap that was last to be picked for the team.  I was so distrusted in sport that if there was an uneven number they would argue about who would have to suffer the indignation of an extra player!

Can’t think why I bothered to do all their homework for them now.

I used to have to do the homework for several other boys.  I was gifted academically, which set me apart from the other kids.  Couple this to a timid personality [at the time] and I’d be bullied into assisting the lazy slobs.

I recall having to ‘grade’ the homework so that these unintelligent pond mammals would seem to have done the work themselves.

However, one thing I could never comprehend was how a teacher could think that some toad getting 35% when he normally got 15% was so good, when next to the toad was a smart little chap with [yawn, another] 95% score.  Even more surprising was later in the playground the idiots boasting of how well they did.

In my opinion teachers do not like clever children.  Perhaps they don’t like the competition, or losing their superiority.

Gifted though I was I had yet to understand the complexities of personality and was constantly derided for something I thought was good.  I would sit at the front of the class showing great keenness in their efforts but couldn’t understand why the teachers would be annoyed by me volunteering to answer any question they posed.  I’d be dismissed with comments like “Can anyone but Vincent answer this question?”

Another example was a lesson we had whereby the teacher would try to raise awareness about understanding with a word association game.  The teacher would say a word and ask the pupil to say whatever word came into their mind.  For example, the teacher might say ‘tree’ and expect the child to say ‘forest’.

As ever, I had to wait until near the end to have my say, despite my arm thrust up in the air so hard it had grown two inches longer than the other had.  Having waited [im]patiently for the other automatons to attempt to formulate a word it was finally my go.

“Alright, your turn Vincent, your word is rabbit.” Instantly I replied, “Rabbit”.

The teacher was aghast.  Perhaps I had misunderstood?  Was the blond boy human after all?

She re-explained the rules, then repeated “Rabbit.” And “Rabbit” was what she got in return.  She enquired why I had just repeated her.  I explained that “When you said rabbit the first thing to come into my mind was rabbit, the word you had just said.  What you meant to say was ‘What is the second word that springs to mind?’  In which case I would have replied carrot, or even warren.”

Smart-arses are never appreciated.

I couldn’t loose my skills so I had to start hiding them and did this in my next school.  Smart eh?  I graduated from Shirley Warren Juniors to the finest school in the vicinity.

King Edward VI Grammar School was my saviour from the certain ‘ducking’ I was promised on the first day of Senior School at Shirley Warren.

I comfortably passed the entrance examination and started life as a ‘Spud’ along with a hundred other smart-arses.

School Photo of Vince Poynter at King Edward VI
A Spud.  One of dozens of smart arses

One of my first actions was to stand up to the first bully.  It worked and I was no longer the weakest link, but I was also determined not to be the brightest as well.  I drifted toward the back of the class in lessons.  Until my eyesight weakened and I found myself drifting back to the front again.

I recall a lot about the characters there, and even a few teachers but cannot recall any good yarns.  There wasn’t many things funny about the school or having to travel half-way round the county to see your friends when I wasn’t allowed a bike and certainly nothing funny about not having any girls at the all-boys school.

I can’t even amuse you with stories about public school initiations because it didn’t happen.

In fact the only story worthy of mention is the skiing trip to the French Alps, where I got badly sunburnt.  Under the chin of all places, because snow reflects.  As a result I missed half the holiday but I was determined not to let that stop me attending the black run on the last day but was too inexperienced to handle the highest ice slope at the top.

So my friend and I [apologies for not recalling who] jumped off the ski lift one hundred metres from the top.  Into six foot of powdered snow.  It took us three hours to traverse the twenty metres back to the run.

King Edward VI supplied me with enough education to pass nine ‘O’-levels, my only failure being French.  I would have had half a dozen more had I stayed with the Warren as they didn’t restrict entries to ten, or more likely I would have been stabbed as did happen to someone during the time.

I didn’t have enough money for the independence I was seeking as a young man and my fantasies of becoming a Veterinarian were being dismissed from every angle.  My parents were concerned that failed Vets have nowhere to go and the school looked at my failed mock exams.

In fairness I had cruised all the way through King Edwards using minimum effort in an attempt not to look clever but knuckled down in the last month to pass the main exams.  This must really grate if you are the sort that tries hard to achieve your results.  Sorry, can’t help it.

As I had no need for Oxford or Cambridge University the school was disinterested.  I left the school under a cloud.  Only at a Grammar school could nine ‘O’-levels be seen as a cloud and they refused to acknowledge my status as an ‘Old Edwardian’.  That is, until they wanted some cash when they went private of course.

I left the year they brought in girls.  Just my luck.

But I had finally achieved my metamorphosis.  No longer a smart kid.

I left school, grew my hair and left behind the side parting.  I opted for a trendy centre parting style that nowadays they would call a mullet.  In fact they still do!

And to top it all the spots started getting worse.

I had become a teenager.

Author: Vince Poynter

From My Poynter View, from the Autobiography section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 31 Mar 2018 but first published in the website in Jul 2005
The first image shows the author being silly at a Christmas visit to relatives, around December 1966.  The author’s mother sits in the background
The second image is a formal photograph of the author with his sister Dawn, taken by Shirley Warren Junior School around 1970
The final image is a formal photograph of the author, taken by King Edward VI Grammar School around 1975
All images added in 2018