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Thursday, 17 March 2011

First day at a new school.

While moving away from the village I'd lived in all my life and the separation of my parents meant that things were a little bit up in the air I was coping pretty well, thanks to my sociopathic inability to give a toss about anything. Which was just as well, because things would get a whole lot more messed up before much longer. Indeed, from this point on, my life and the lives of my family would come to resemble more and more a bizarre soap opera, thanks in large part to my Mothers love life. In fact, scrap that; her sex life.

That was all still to come though. (Something for you to look forward to.) In the meantime, first order of business in our new environment, was to get us signed up in a new school.

Now, you know how, in todays modern urban sprawl lots of little villages are kind of melding together thanks to new estates being tacked onto the boundaries so the gap between gets smaller and smaller until eventually they meet in the middle and no-one really knows where one ends and the other begins anymore? Well, that was the case with the little village we'd moved to. Sunnybrow, it was called, and it had about 9 streets to it's name. It was conjoined (I've never used that word in any other context than bad taste jokes about genetic deformities. This felt like the time.) with a slightly larger but still pretty insignificant village called Willington. I say was; it still is. Probably more so now than then. The fact that I haven't been there in years doesn't mean it's ceased to exist. Unless the voices are telling the truth and the world really is all about me. That seems unlikely though, so I'll go with the theory that it's still there.

Anyway, Sunnybrow and Willington. There was much talk between my Mother and the dynamic duo of Mickie and Maurice as to where the best school was. It was decided that we (me and my Sis) would be sent to Sunnybrow Primary. Makes sense right? So the new week rolled around and Monday morning dawned and off we went. Along the old train track past the woods, over the road and hey presto, school.

Not Sunnybrow Primary though. Once again the random whims of my Mother would trip me up because after the hours of debate that led to the decision, she had apparently changed her mind and enrolled us in Chapel Street Primary, situated in Willington. Without telling us.

Chapel Steet. Seats are after my time.

So on my first day I get into a very embarrassing argument wherein I adamantly insist that we were in Sunnybrow, to the mockery of all the other kids who knew they were in Willington. Teacher interference was required before I'd accept defeat.

But that's not the story I planned to tell today. Just as well really because it was bloody dull, wasn't it? The point of this post is how the smallest of decisions can shape and/or change your life. You see, Chapel Street, like my previous school, Hogwarts and a good proportion of other schools in Britain, had a House system. They assigned all pupils to a House at the start of their Junior school careers but as a latecomer I got to choose my own. Such an honour. Of course, having been put on the spot I just blurted out that I'd be in 'Brancepeth' because that was the one I'd been in at my last school. (The Houses were all named after local-ish Castles. Brancepeth and Durham were common choices for schools in my area. I think Raby was another one. Drawing a blank on the 4th.)

What I had not been told however, probably because the teachers weren't supposed to do it and certainly wouldn't tell the kids even if they were, was that at this particular school, Brancepeth was used as the - I don't want to say dumping ground but you get the idea - for all the kids who had failed to impress in the Infant school. The thickos, if you will.*

Now, without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I'm not. A thicko that is. Or at least, I can do a passable enough imitation of someone with half a brain that I excelled at school, at least when I wanted to and could be bothered. How much I retained is up for debate and 'real world' or 'street' smarts have never been my strong suit but on the day I could answer most questions and pass any test. Proper little swot I was. All of which made me a bit of a novelty (and a bit of a mascot I suppose) in good old Brancepeth House.

So I was placed in a group of under achievers. Houses did everything together. Sport and academic competitions alike were decided by House. You couldn't escape them and you didn't want to. That first day I formed friendships in minutes that would endure for years. They were my mates. End of.

Brancepeth Castle. Arbitrary symbol of my youthful loyalty.

It wasn't until years later, during the GCSE / A Level period of my life, that I realised what that decision had really meant. My friends, the people I'd grown up with, the only people I was truly comfortable around, were never going to be a part of school life. They weren't going to be in top tier classes and planning University careers. If I was to follow my ambitions and achieve my dreams I would have to separate from them even more than Secondary education had already mandated. I would have to leave them behind.

In the end, I couldn't do it. I couldn't function amongst academics and 'swots'. They weren't my people. I was lost in that world. So I left it and never looked back. Until now.

I didn't know any of that though, on that first day at my new school. I may not have known what town I was in, but I knew what House. It was the House with my friends.


* I have no proof of this assertion. There was never any controversy; no big expose in the local rag or anything like that. It just seems like one hell of a big coincidence to me that all of the pupils who might conceivably have been labeled as troublemakers or under-achievers would all end up in the same House. Unless there was 2 or 3 and the rest all synchronised like a bunch of women in an office. Yeah, could have been that I suppose.

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