6: The School Conundrum

My early, very early, years seemed to me to be a very good arrangement. I knew where I was with them and the consistency was conducive to a happy state.

The first house I ever lived in was number 113 Commercial Road, Swindon. I was actually born in Seymour Clinic on the corner of King’s Hill and Kent Road, Swindon on 17th November 1957. Oddly enough, very few history books carry this momentous date in history. Though, come to think of it, even I rarely celebrate it these days, either.

So from Mummy Fitrambler’s womb to 113 Commercial Road, obviously a bigger place in which to play; something I was going to gain a great deal of pleasure from in those early days.

I have to confess I don’t know much about my days in Number 113, other than it was a little crowded. Living there at that time was Granny and Grampy Fitrambler, Uncle Fitrambler and Mummy and Daddy Fitrambler. This would no doubt account for us moving to larger premises some eighteen months later.

The place we moved to was a relatively new council estate, created, rather like me, in the 1950s. Number 3 Ripon Way, to all intents and purposes was where the memories really began. Then, there was no such thing as the dual carriageway, the Queen’s Drive was single lane road and a rather large piece of grassy land between it and our house.

The estates of Park South and North went as far as Shaftesbury Avenue and beyond Shaftesbury Avenue there was nothing but fields and an old farm-house. Eldene and Liden didn’t exist.

But in those days of youth there were the fields. But these were no go areas until I, and my friends of the time, were in double figures. It didn’t mean we didn’t go to these areas, it was just that we shouldn’t.

One of my earliest friends in those days was Velocipede, who hadn’t long moved in. He and his family were from the North and therefore, as far as I was concerned, had a funny accent, especially his mother and father.

We became great friends and shared many adventures based around the popular science fiction shows and comic books we consumed at an alarming rate.

I think I was approaching about four and a half years old when my cosy existence was first threatened. The darkness came and enveloped me for about thirteen years.

School reared its ugly head and its evil mouth enveloped me.

As far as I was concerned, being at home with the family was fine by me and I didn’t want to upset the status quo – I’ve always tried not to cause trouble. I was happy with Daddy and Mummy Fitrambler, Granny, Grampy and Uncle Fitrambler. I needed little else.

I’d heard of school of course, knew a few children that went, but no one then really explained the purpose of school? Why get up early in the morning to go to a place you didn’t know, especially in winter when it’s cold, when you can stay in the warm at home?

I didn’t really get an answer to that!

Then there was what you would do for the hours you were in this strange building. Apparently some adult would bang on about things you didn’t really want to know but for some weird reason were expected to learn. Why do that when you could be at home playing games you wanted to play?

I didn’t really get an answer to that!

You would also be amongst other children at a strange dinner table in the middle of lots of other dinner tables with other children, eating dinner prepared by strangers. Why would I want to do that when Granny Fitrambler prepared very good food at home?

I didn’t really get an answer to that!

Here’s the thing, as the school had hundreds of other children in it, did they really need me to go? After all with the other hundreds of children, surely they wouldn’t miss me?

I didn’t really get an answer to that!

What I was told, I remember, was that if I didn’t go to school then there were these men who’d come and take Daddy Fitrambler away to prison for a period undisclosed to me. (It wasn’t an easy decision for the young Fitrambler to take.) If it was to be a short period of time, like the time Daddy Fitrambler spent at work, then maybe not attending would be not so bad…

But, I was led to believe Daddy Fitramber would have to be away for a very long time and I didn’t like that idea. I was rather fond of Daddy Fitrambler! Besides, if he was away in this prison place, then who’d read my books and comics to me? You have to have a sense of priorities in life, I mean you’ve got to think of these things!

However, looking back, I must say that although I love my father I do feel rather miffed he hasn’t ever thanked or even acknowledged the thirteen year sacrifice I made to keep him out of prison!

So, young Fitrambler was left with no choice, I had to go to school or Daddy Fitrambler would be taken away. (And of course there would be no one to read my comics and books to me). So, being, as I see it, a reasonable sort of chap, I compromised. My idea of a compromise went something like this…

I would turn up.

That was it. I would turn up everyday for five days a week and sit in the classroom. To me it was the simplest solution to everyone’s problems. Once my time of sitting there was over, I would, of course, go home. A plan of the utmost simplicity and fairness, I thought…

Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised the extent of the selfishness of the education system. The compromise wasn’t enough for them. I had to do something while I was there. And not only did I have to do something, but it was the sort of something that I wasn’t particularly interested in.

Pretty soon I was beginning to feel vindicated. I was right, this school wasn’t all that pleasant and it certainly wasn’t going to be fun!

One thing they wanted was for me to learn to read. Well, how stupid! Why would I want to learn that? What was the point? It was of no use to me. I did try to explain this but it was explained to me that life would be difficult without being able to read.

“Why?” I asked, for I was a curious little chap then.

“Well, you like comics, well if you learn to read then you can read the comics.”

Dad reads me my comics.”

“Ah, but what if Dad isn’t there?”

“Then I wait ‘til he is.”

“But it’d be better if you could read them yourself, wouldn’t it?”

“But then what would Daddy do?”

So, despite their best efforts, I didn’t learn to read – well not right then. I would take home the book they’d given me to learn from. I’d get Daddy to read it to me over and over, then memorised what he said on each page and when the teacher called me up for reading I would recite what was on each page through memory of what Daddy said rather than any recognition of the actual words.

Then, by accident, Teach turned two pages over and that threw me. We always read in order, so I was found out. Teachers can be nasty, deceitful people!

If that wasn’t bad enough, Daddy suddenly decided I was old enough to learn to read and wasn’t going to read my comics to me (traitor!). No, from then on I would have to learn to read for myself. He’d help me with words but would expect me to be able to learn. Can you believe that, after the sacrifice I made to keep him out of prison! The ingratitude!

So Fitrambler the younger was on his way to getting an unwanted education. It was blackmail of the highest order. There was no way I was going to allow myself not to be able to understand the adventures my favourite comic book characters were having each week. I’d have to learn!

Of course in with all this was the other children. There were one or two I got on with rather well. Unfortunately, there were several bands of children I didn’t get on with and they decided to elect me as their kicking and punching bag. (I think the election was done by a show of hands and exclamations of ‘Yeah, go on, do it, beat the crap out of the ginger haired bastard!’)

At that time there were only two children bullied as I remember. One was a coloured child from the West Indies, and the other was me, the freckled, skinny, ginger-haired child. Both of us had one thing in common, there were no others like us. In his case it was the skin, in mine it was the freckles and ginger hair!

It was during those few years in junior school that Mummy Fitrambler was caused some embarrassment – other than reports telling her and Daddy Fitrambler that I was intelligent but lazy – when the teacher stormed out of the class at home time and approached my mother. She told Mummy Fitrambler I was the laziest boy she’d ever know, couldn’t get me to work. Mummy Fitrambler wasn’t happy.

I wasn’t too happy then either. That particular day I’d worked quite hard. Old Teach had read a story and then asked us to write what we’d heard and I liked the story so much I worked very hard to put it down on paper. Of course, that day was laced with a liberal dozen of thumping’s from the enemies I made by just existing.

Ah yes, the memories flow. I wasn’t lazy at everything as far as school was concerned. Oh no. Within a short space of time my geography improved, my stamina improved and my sprinting improved. But then, the incentive was there to improve those skills. Either that or find a way to deploy Superman’s power of invulnerability…

To explain, the geography improvement related to where I was, the layout of the streets around me and all the various ways I could get home. Very good for out-witting the groups of children who wanted to give me my daily thumping after school. The stamina and speed were also a great advantage in out-running those children after me to give me my daily thumping.

Learning not to go through narrow alleyways which could be blocked at the end by one’s enemies, always ensure you take a seat where you have a good view of everyone and no one can sneak up behind you…always avoid groups of people, three and upwards…

Even today I tend to avoid groups of people or am weary of them and change course…

Of course, the kids grew out of the bullying, and so by 12 years old it was practically over, all bar the shouting…of insulting names. By then, I’d learnt to read and write very well. I still read, predominantly, comics, American ones with the superheroes in but at around 14 years old I read a book which really encouraged me to move onto books. “Rex Milligan’s Busy Term” by Anthony Buckeridge.

It was around this time that I began to improve at art and English. The interest sparked from comics. I wanted to write and draw my own comics, so felt it was pretty obvious I should teach myself these subjects, which I did. Spoken English hadn’t been much of problem as I started talking at eleven months, holding a reasonable conversation at around then; apparently amusing my next door neighbour no end. Art and written English I hadn’t been all that good at but now felt there was a reason to learn and so did to a reasonable standard.

So I began illustrating my own comics, writing the scripts as I went along. Then, when my aforementioned interest weighed more heavily towards books rather than comics I began to attempt to write books.

I still didn’t like school much, I still found it oppressive. But in the end there were things about it that gave me access to an education I wanted rather than the one they probably wanted to give me.

I always remember my father always telling me that I’d look back on my school days as being amongst the best of my life. It was a thought that rather terrified me. I considered that if my school days were going to be the best, then I was in for quite a shitty little life.

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61 comments on “6: The School Conundrum

  1. I rest my case. Shitterton is undeconstructable and hilarious. Ivy’s attempt at humour only works in her own small world and is aimed at the sort of sycophantic toffs who are too afraid not to offer up a wry smile despite the fact that the ‘joke’ clearly isn’t funny. Anyway, must dash, I’m off to Tart’s Hill for the evening.

    I’ve just realised that the village in my earlier comment was actually Shittington, which kind of takes the edge of it a bit.

  2. Ivy’s ppoint is that if you have enough cake, you can have some and eat some, thus running the gamut of experiences available to humans in relation to cake. Rationing, in other words, is the product of scarcity. Ivy’s characters, being aristocratic and wealthy, ought to be able to have their cake and eat it. But they don’t because of self imposed and societally imposed moral strictures.

    All of which has rather taken the joy out of the joke. But I bet you couldn’t deconstruct Shitterton half so well.

  3. She’s missed the point again though, hasn’t she? However much cake you have, you can’t have all of it and eat some of it. For God’s sake Ivy, give a little more thought to what you say and try to be a little less smug about it.

  4. Another zinger from Ivy which I think Fitrambler will appreciate:

    ‘You cannot have your cake and eat it.’
    ‘You can if you have enough cake.’

  5. Please note chaps that there’s an extra large e-mail coming to your in-boxes, about 8.1mb.

    It may amuse or it may frighten. I’ll leave it to you,

    Fitrambler.

  6. They’d inhibit the flow of male converstation, even then. Can you imagine discussing infringements of the off side rule or cutting a fresh cigar while a woman was present? Of course not.

  7. We could let one or two in as non-speaking members, purely as part of the decor. Stretched out on a nice leather Chesterfield with a quart pot of port in each hand and positively bubbling with emotional heat, they shouldn’t do any harm.

  8. Nothing wrong with a gentleman’s club, Blameworthy. But if you so much as once admit women, it’d be all conversations about hair styles or the X Factor or what they had for tea or how they feel about their bloody relationships or how there’s this fantastic 2 for 1 at Tesco or how their kids are really cute / clever or how some neighbour didn’t say good morning the other day and this being somehow indicative of some impossible to define something about this neighbours mental or emotional make up. Say Shitterton to them and they just look disparaginly at you, as if you’d started talking in baby talk or something.

  9. Just be careful it does not become a gentleman’s club, in the singular, with you as the only member. I doubt if I would meet your stringent eligibility conditions. God forbid that we should give off any emotional heat.

    Know thyself! … tee hee hee.

  10. Anyway, I am not sure we do want another woman commenting on this blog. Women are not men: that is their misfortune. Let us not make it ours. These comments pages have, at the best, the atmosphere of a gents club; a little stilted and formal at times, but irrlevant and free of that emotional heat womanhood would assuredly engender.

    Shitterton! Ha ha ha! Shitterton!

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