For the first time in my life I had to wear a school uniform. I could see the logic at the young age I was. Albeit it was because I never saw a need to have a new pair of clothes for every day. A school uniform made sense. My only issue with the ensemble was the tie. I still do not understand why children had to wear ties. Sure the slacks, shoes and jumper made sense, but should we have to wear a tie? I never liked my tie and lied about forgetting to wear it. Of course, forgetting to put on a lie is an awful excuse. It restricted my breathing, how could I not forget to wear the throat strangler. To this day I still dislike ties and if possible, I would avoid wearing one. If by chance I had no choice, I would wear a black tie as a form of protest of feeling dead inside.
Every morning I would make my way to school over a 3 mile walk through an old single lane path that once led farmers to the market town. It had long been neglected but was a pleasant walk in the morning and I was quite fond of the birds chirping away in the trees. The path winded in such a way that every 200 meters I would come to a pronounced curve in the lane and I might be met with other students. Unless they were from my classroom I would usually ignore them, unless they were older students, in which case a little detour was needed.
Older students were no more than 12-14 years old and they had usually seen most other students my age as nothing more than a shadow carrier. They could see our shadows but not us. On the off chance they did spot us, you could expect heckling and chests being bolstered out as if to suggest a fight would be coming. The fact remained, I was nearly coming on 9 and they were only in and around 12 to 14, I could still hurt them as much as they could hurt me. I was a tall kid you see and although I could stand up for myself, I would rather avoid the drama of after school fights. One memory sticks out in my mind of a classmate of mine make little slips of paper with the word “Tickets” which he would hand out to students as they left the front school gate. Everyone thought it was quite funny until the parents who came to collect younger students found them lying on the ground. The student was ultimately scorned rather badly for his joke.
After a little detour through the brushes the path ahead was usually open to be strolled on. Even if the older kids I passed had somehow made a corner before I made mine, they would not give chase. Mucky shoes and wet socks were never the effort of doing anything. After making it through the small lane, I would come down a narrow path next to the school. Before I could make get to my school, I would have to go past the bigger kids school. These students with acne and weird hairstyles. When they congregated into larger groups there would be such an upshot of smoke. For a long time I had thought it was condensation from their breaths but I would find out when I attended the big kids school they were smoking cigarettes. When I would walk past the jeering would begin. Comments about my uniform were most common and I would be asked if I was lost jokingly. Most kids going to school would not come from the old lane, they would make their way through the town square and up past the old residents of people who were older than time.
I would sometimes be late for school because I would wait for the crowds of older kids to move along to class or at least wait for a teacher to come out and shout at them for smoking. Either way I would be late if I wasn’t brave enough to manoeuvre my way through the crowds. Just like my school, everyone wore school uniforms. Though this had mattered little. Everyone there was at the age where they could make their hair look like they just got out of bed forever. On the off chance I would make it through the crowds quickly, I would make it to the schoolyard with enough time to play for a while. For some reason playing before class in the morning seemed to be the most satisfying. The oddest thing of all was that we were not allowed any footballs or basketballs out of fear we would break a window. Instead we used a tennis ball. It took slightly more school to play soccer with a tennis ball. You were far more likely to kick the shins off your friend than to have kicked the tennis ball.
With all that said and done it was quite thrilling to be in a big brawl kicking violently for a tennis ball which was probably already kicked far away, but nobody noticed. Eventually the bell would ring and we would be summoned to painted white lines on the schoolyard and line up. A teacher would eventually come out of the two different entrances and slowly lead the rows of students into their classroom. It had made sense, you didn’t want hundreds of kids running all at once through a narrow corridor. The early morning kick about was to change though.
One morning I came in extra early. I had wanted a nice long morning of good fun before I had to go through the day ahead of me. After 10 minutes there was a shriveled yell. I thought it was someone with a scraped knee making a song and dance about it. It was much worse than that. One of the students a class below me had been fetching the tennis ball at the end of the schoolyard which had gone over the metal meshed fence. He climbed the fence a short bit and fetched the ball with one hand and kept his balance by grabbing the fence with the other. Unfortunately as he made his jump back to earth, a ring on his index finger had caught the top of the fence and with his forcible jump back down, his finger was stripped clean.
I remember see a piece of his finger on the ground and the shouts of students at the windows. They were banging frantically. One of their own was on the ground missing a finger and the younger students were constantly enquiring what was going on. We had told them to mind their own business and to ‘fuck off’. They seemed upset they couldn’t be grown up like us but it was for their own good, the only blood they had ever seen was the nose blood they had in the car ride home from their grandmothers. Eventually a teacher came outside with a cup of tea in their hand sipping it just as they came out of the door and exclaimed “Ah now lads what’s going on with this noise?” he quickly saw the student on the ground holding his hand and shaking slightly. An ambulance was called and from that day onward, we were not allowed onto the schoolyard in the morning until a teacher could come to supervise. The party was over.
Now we had to wait together outside the white wooden fence until a teacher arrived to make sure they could see us hurt ourselves. After all, teacher or no teacher, kids will hurt themselves. Waiting outside with the other students was hell. At least when we would play tennis ball soccer or if we were playing some army game with pretend guns I didn’t have to feign interest in their stupid conversations. I liked sports a lot, I just hated having to talk about it so profusely. It was like listening to my mother and her friends talk about sheer nonsense while I tugged at her jumper for us to leave. Now I was with my peers in school listening to the same tabloid tales, except it was footballers, not soap stars.