The School Years from the autobiography of Vince Poynter
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.
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.
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