Thursday, November 24, 2011

1978: Come back and give me a chance

In my second year at school we found ourselves in a new home room.Tutor group we called it back then, and I have no idea what they call it now, but it's the one bit of the day when you're all together in your form for the taking of the register at the beginning of the day.

This room was a science lab, and we remained in science labs for the duration of secondary school. Our new form teacher was the peculiarly- and unfortunately-named Mr Polkinghorne. He was kind of eccentric and very strict, and there were to be no open jokes about his silly name.

Despite this warning, I coudln't help myself. I was terrible at school, very disruptive, easily bored, as a report after report stated, supercillious, only interested in making the class laugh and an all round bad influence. My parents were furious, but nothing could be done about it. If I wasn't engaged, that was the end of it.

Mr P was also my science teacher, and because I had little interest I was top of his shit list. His threadbare patience finally wore through one afternoon, as I (quietly, I thought) sang the opening acappella bars to the Darts' second superhit Come Back My Love. But I was caught. A board rubber hit my head along with some very harsh and very loud words. It wasn't the first time my navy blue jumper had the chalky imprint of a board rubber on it.

I was the bane of many teachers' lives. I would love to have been a fly on the staffroom wall, though on the times I'd poked my head round the door I neary choked to death in the thick fug of smoke that hung there. No fly would have stood a chance. I had letters home about just about everything, had the slipper and the cane and was known to the highest school authorities. The thing is, I wasn't actually a bad person. I wasn't Gripper Stebson, I was Tucker Jenkins. Wrong place, wrong time, can't rein it in, etc.

But I had to change my ways or there would be no holiday in the south of France that summer (see 1978: Hoping to see her). I spent the remainder of the year doing my best, and difficult as it was not to ask the teacher if she had a boyfriend or throw mud at the head from behind a high wall, I did it. At the end of the summer term, Mr P and I parted as friends.

Was I growing up at last?


  1. The board rubber was the ballistic missile of choice for teachers in those days; I can't imagine the uproar there would be now, should it be re-deployed. Did your school also do 'being made to eat the chalk' as a punishment?

    No-one really cared about it all that much though, did they.

  2. It was just a part of school life. No angry mobs arrived with pitchforks over the sadistic treatment of their little ones.

    Never did me any harm.

  3. A rookie German teacher arrived during our third year, and we immediately picked up on her weakness, and made her life absolute hell in as concerted and deliberate a way as we possibly could. We were so cruel that it makes me genuinely ashamed to think of it now. Amazingly she's still teaching at the same school, and according to one of my friends' daughters who goes there, is 'the hardest bitch you'd ever meet in your life'. I hate to think I helped turn her into that.

    If she'd lashed out with the board rubber once or twice, we'd probably have respected her and left her alone. So, HER fault really. Phew.

  4. A well-aimed chalk piece was another missile of choice for our teachers. We had a right pair in our Science block - Dr Dando and Mr Dingle. Can you imagine, allsorts of variations on Dildo and Dangle

    I would have hated a tutor room in the Science depertment - that rank waft of gas and the mix mystery chemicals. Our's was in the metalwork area and later the typing room (remember those - every school had one).

  5. I have no story of violent teachers or impromptu missiles to tell. But I do find Come Back My Love utterly joyous.