Get Your Laughing Tackle Around this
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.