Get Your Laugh­ing Tackle Around this

The Victoria Standard - - Classifieds / Food - GE­ORGE SMITH

I hated school and school hated me. Th­ese were not the best days of my life. Schools were al­ways housed in crum­bling old build­ings with long dimly-lit cor­ri­dors and claus­tro­pho­bic, paint peel­ing, de­ter­gent-smelling rooms. Even one was housed in a partly-de­mol­ished, bombed-out sand­stone ed­i­fice with a group of pre­fab­ri­cated boxes next to it. There was a cup­board near the head­mas­ter’s of­fice that con­tained gas masks – one for ev­ery child in case war should sud­denly break out again. The air raid siren high above the vil­lage would oc­ca­sion­ally go off. Was this just to see if we were awake, or the ac­tion of an ex-home Guard who couldn’t let go of the past?

One day I handed in a story I had writ­ten. This was, I be­lieved, the best es­say I had ever writ­ten; and this would be re­flected by my achiev­ing a top mark with a gold star licked and placed at the top of the page. I sat there wait­ing the re­turn of my ex­er­cise book. At last it was dropped in front of me, and I quickly turned the pages. Six out of ten. “Good ef­fort.” I sat there close to tears won­der­ing what I needed to do to do bet­ter.

One boy was asked to stand and read his es­say to the class. It was sick­en­ing with its flow­ery lan­guage de­scrib­ing a walk in the woods, “the light dap­pled the ground be­neath the branches”, and the teacher praised his use of de­scrip­tive lan­guage that al­lowed the reader to vi­su­al­ize the scene and place them­selves in the wood on that sunny day.

My par­ents, re­al­iz­ing that I was in the words of one teacher, “un­able to ap­ply my­self”, took me out of school, as they had on sev­eral oc­ca­sions done with many other schools, and placed me in a board­ing school. They be­lieved I would ben­e­fit from the more struc­tured and dis­ci­plined en­vi­ron­ment.

I still wanted to write, so I bought a large ex­er­cise book at the school shop and started to write sto­ries in it. I never had any in­ten­tion of show­ing them to any­one. I kept it in the locker be­side my bed in the dor­mi­tory and would oc­ca­sion­ally either read what I had writ­ten or would quickly add a few lines be­fore lights out.

One night I opened my locker and to my great hor­ror dis­cov­ered that the book was gone. I searched amongst the jumpers, socks, and other as­sorted cloth­ing and even got out of bed and dragged the locker away from the wall to look be­hind it. There was no sign of the book!

I lay in bed with the cov­ers over my head and won­dered who had taken it. Who was read­ing it? Who, as I lay there try­ing not to cry, was laugh­ing at my poor at­tempts?

“What are you hid­ing from?” asked Terry, my best friend.

I told him my book was gone and asked if he could find it. He promised to see what he could do.

Look­ing at the oth­ers as I ate lumpy por­ridge the next morn­ing, I won­dered if one of them had my book. By sup­per­time, I was fran­tic. Hav­ing al­ready pestered Terry on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, I asked ev­ery­one at the ta­ble. They all looked at me blankly. That evening, I read a book of Dy­lan Thomas po­ems.

The shade of their trees was a word of many shades,

And a lamp of light­ning for the poor in the dark, Now my say­ing shall be my un­do­ing. Terry walked in with my book in his hand. I grabbed it and asked, “Who took it?” “I did.” The next af­ter­noon I walked up onto the moors and sat on a large rock be­side a ravine. I took the book from my pocket and tore out page af­ter page, crum­pling and pil­ing them in front of me. I struck a match and, care­fully shield­ing the flame from the wind, I set fire to my words. I watched the red-tinged em­bers float off into the heather, then stood, brushed the green moss from my pants, and walked back to school for sup­per.

I will paint to­mor­row. A ravine at sun­set.

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