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Friday, 23 November 2012

Losing Touch, the Comprehensive School Way

Hiya! Still waffling about my school days. Have a read, if you like. I don't really care to be honest; if you're seeing this I've already got the view statistic, so you've exhausted your usefulness to me. Mwahahahahaha.


Last week, I spoke of my induction trip to my future Comprehensive School, from my final year of Primary. I focused on the embarrassment of being locked in a confined space with a bunch of people with only me knowing that I had burglarised said enclosed space a few scant weeks earlier. There was another aspect to that trip though, that I never talked of. The sadness factor.

I started at Chapel Street Primary in the second year of Juniors (Year 4 to you modern types) after my mother left my father and blah blah blah; read about it here if you like; and when I did there was a lad in 4th year (Year 6, and that's the last time I'm doing the conversion for you) who was, to put it bluntly, fat. Does that seem unduly harsh? Well, that's because it is. It's true though, and though it brings me no pleasure to say it, we made much mockery of him.

The mockery was meant, however, in good humour. We liked him; in large part because he was pretty much the only one of the untouchable 4th years who would give us the time of day. Admittedly, the time of day he gave us was usually filled with us attacking him and attempting to wrestle him to the ground. Because he was large. Do you see? Of course you do.

I've often wondered, looking back on this big boned fellow who made such an impact on my life as a youngster but whose name I can no longer recall; let us call him Buckshot George, for 'tis a good name; whether it's more likely that he enjoyed our company, and the constant wrestling matches at every break and lunchtime, or that he just took it because he felt he had no choice and was crying on the inside. Who knows?

Of course it's also possible that he knew we weren't being deliberately malicious, and chose to accept our 'friendly' mockery because the people in his own year were not quite so well meaning in their treatment of him. I certainly think that had he had many friends his own age, he'd probably not have been so willing to spend all his time with us.

Anyway, regardless of whether he genuinely liked us or he hated the very bones of us, the fact was that when we came back for 3rd year and he was gone; whisked off to the dreaded Big School, we were gutted. Now what would we do with our breaktimes? So when the time came for us to go on this trip to aforementioned Big School, I got all excited. I would see Buckshot George. Yippee!

You know where this is going right? We got there, we did our tour, I served my sentence in the interrogation chamber/made some cupcakes in the Home Ec. labs, and when it came time for lunch in the big fancy cafeteria I saw him sitting at one of the tables and made sure to catch his eye as we went past and... he looked at me like I was, well, it wasn't distaste or disdain in his eyes, it was incomprehension and confusion. Basically, he didn't have a fucking clue who I was.

That, my friends, will rip your guts out.

Of course, we all know that that's what happens when you go from Primary to Secondary education. It's the line from Stand By Me, about (and I'm paraphrasing) your best friends become just faces in the halls. Sad but inevitable.

I don't know if you can tell, but I'm quite reluctant to move on to my secondary years on this blog. It's because I genuinely don't want to leave the Appleton Crescent/ Chapel Street Primary/ Brancepeth Boys years behind. They don't sound like much when I describe them on here, but they really were the best years of my life, and remembering them for these posts has brought many a smile to my face.

So in that vein, next week I'll tell you a tale of another friend of mine from Primary. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Guilty Conscience

I don't know how it is in your country; he says, in a blatant attempt to have an excuse to mention his mahoosive* audience in the US, Germany, and the Ukraine; but in the UK, when you near the end of Primary School (age 11), you are taken on what is called an induction visit to the school you will be attending for next, and final, five years of compulsory education.

Or at least, that's what happened when I was a lad. It's probably all changed now, most things have. Anyway, this is the tale of what happened when I went on my induction trip. Enjoy. Or at least do your best to fake a fair approximation of enjoyment. For me, yeah?

It had been decided, via whatever arcane sorcery is used to decide these things, that the school I would attend would be a little place called Parkside Comprehensive School. Now Parkside was a little bit unique (I KNOW THAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE DON'T SHOUT AT ME) as Comprehensive schools go, in that it was split over two separate locations; not a few streets away or even on opposite sides of town, but in two separate towns.

The first two years would attend classes in one town and then years 3-5, or 9-11 as we were constantly told we must refer to them; this being just about the time that that whole new numbering system was being implemented; would attend classes in the larger complex in the other town.

Now you would think that since the point of an induction visit is to get you acquainted with the world you're about to enter, we would visit the complex that took first years. However, the teachers were boxing a bit clever, and in what I'm sure was just an attempt to save on bus fuel it was decided that all of the local Primary schools would take their pupils to whichever complex was nearest. Which meant my class would go to the larger complex. Which meant I shat my pants.

Now, the idea of going somewhere I'd never been, to meet people I'd never met, who would essentially be controlling my life for the next 5 years, would have been anxiety inducing enough to have me waking up in the night in a cold sweat for weeks in advance; which meant I really didn't need anything else to worry about on top. I had it though, in the shape of a little thing called 'oh shit, what if I give the game away paranoia.

You see, the school we were about to visit was this school, and the events in question were still very much fresh in my mind. The whole thing was doing my anxiety no good at all.

The big day arrived and we all trooped from one school to the other; single file, teacher at either end of the train, hold hands to cross the road, stop sniggering back there boy; and when we arrived we were met by one of the most intimidating figures I've ever known. He was the Head, whom I shall call Mr J, and I can't tell you why we all felt such instant fear when we met him. He was tall, dressed really smartly, had a head of silver hair, and was incredibly well spoken, so perhaps we thought he was a Bond villain, but I don't recall him doing anything particularly nasty or strict. In fact, I don't recall much of anything about him, because he was always a big fan of delegation, leaving his Department heads and heads of year to do all that awful 'dealing with kids' malarkey.

We were split up into groups and told that each group would only be touring a fraction of the school. This boosted my spirits somewhat; what were the chances that I would be in the group that...oh, home economics you say? And that', right. So the kitchens then? Brilliant.
They've knocked down and rebuilt huge swathes! Didn't recognise the place. That's the spot though.
My arse has never been clenched so tight in all my days. We went through the doors and my eyes went straight to the spot where we'd taken the microwave (it had been replaced) before swiveling to the window we'd come in through (it had been repaired) and then, in a fit of panic, to the teacher doing the tour to make sure he wasn't looking at me (he wasn't).

You see, in my head, this was all too much of a coincidence. The fact that we had come to this school rather than the one we'd actually be attending, the fact that I just happened to be on the group that came to this particular section of the school; I was convinced it was some weird, elaborate sting operation to out me as the great microwave thief of Olde Willington Towne. Nonsense, obviously, but the mind will play tricks.

We spent half a day in those bloody kitchens, baking cupcakes. Now I liked cupcakes as much as the next pre-pubescent boy but I couldn't quite get into the spirit of the exercise. Can't think why.

And that's the tale of what happened to me when I went on an induction visit to a school I wasn't even due to start at for another two years. I hope it wasn't too boring. And if it was, keep it to yourself, yeah? There's no need to hurt anyone's feelings. Tata for now.

*Given that non-English speaking readers are probably relying on google translate or similar, I should probably tone down the made up words, eh? Although when you think about it, aren't all words 'made up'? If they weren't, we'd all be pointing at trees and saying Ug, am I right?

The Beginning of the End

As much as I enjoyed the bulk of our time in the worlds friendliest street there were, of course, occasional bad times, due perhaps to the rest of the world being jealous of our idyllic lives and conspiring to ruin our fun, out of pure spiteful malice.

One such occasion was when the wasteland which acted as our playground, and which we so cherished, was cruelly ripped from us by the Dread Lords of property Development Hell. Yes, it was sold. To be built on!

Outraged, we were. Outraged, and vocal about said outrage. Also, 10. Apparently the desire of a bunch of delinquent youths to play on some condemned waste ground did not trump a development deal worth hundreds of thousands. I know, I was shocked too. Still, whining made us feel better.

May possibly have had a more worthwhile cause than us. Slightly.
Of course, as anyone who was ever a mischievous imp (badly behaved little shit) will tell you, there are other ways than verbal to register disgust. Like, and I'm just brainstorming here, wholesale vandalism. As the nights drew in we would sneak from our homes (say we were going out), approach the building site with all due stealth (run across the road) and bring down the mighty wrath of the righteous (tear open a few bags of cement before getting bored and playing Somme in the foundation trenches). Oh, as covert resistance went, the Maquis had nothing on us. Of course we didn't couch it in those terms, being uneducated louts.

Besides, The Next Generation hadn't even started on BBC2 yet.*

After a while a night security guard was assigned to the site. I'd like to tell you that it was because of us, but since we did about as much damage as a gnat trying to bring down Chessington World of Adventure, it seems far more likely to have been something to do with the older kids getting drunk and trying to hot-wire a jcb.


Our resistance movement had failed; the building work continued apace and soon enough, the wasteground was gone.

It may seem a small thing, but looking back at that time now, it's obvious to me that that construction project was the beginning of the end for that sense of community we all loved so much; the friendliest street in the world was doomed.

*Eh? Eh? Because Maquis. Oh, suit yourself.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Please make it go away

I'm not sure when it happened, but there came a time in my life when I found that I could go days, weeks, even months, without any kind of major emotional meltdown or panic attack. I wasn't cured of my various neuroses and hang-ups; I doubt I ever will be, in truth; but I had, at least, managed to settle into a routine that meant I could avoid all those things that were wont to trigger them.

Unfortunately, no good thing lasts forever and last week I was brought crashing down to Earth when my cosy little bubble of trigger avoidance and a well honed fake personality was popped by unavoidable work related issues.

Exactly one week ago today I was scheduled on what's known as a 'refresher' course; something which you are required to undertake every 3 years or so, if you wish your license to operate a forklift truck (FLT) to remain valid. Since my employment pretty much hinges on my being able to drive a FLT, there was no way out of this.

Now, as anyone who regularly operates these miraculous machines will tell you, there is nothing simpler. Let's face it, a one man vehicle whose gears are no more complicated than Forward/Neutral/Reverse, has a top speed of about 15 miles an hour and is primarily (always, in my case) driven on private land with a minimum of traffic to worry about, is never going to require NASA levels of expertise to drive. So the problem wasn't so much proving that I was capable in order to get my renewal rubber stamped; it was the accompanying drama that was messing with my head. Allow me to take you through the many ways I hated last Monday.

Short Notice

The course was on Monday; I was informed about it on the previous Friday. Since I wasn't working on the intervening Saturday, that meant I had zero days to piss about on the trucks practicing all those little things that you do to pass the test, then never do again until you have another test. Don't be shaking your heads; I don't drive, but I bet there are plenty of examples of that kind of thing with you car lot.

As I say, the test isn't all that hard regardless, but someone with my anxiety levels need  all the help I can get to be prepared, and this wasn't. Help, that is.


As in, anywhere I haven't been before. Every previous time that I've done this, it's been at my home branch, with people I knew. What this means is that they're people I'm relatively comfortable faking a certain level of friendship with, or at the very least a kind of low level 'jokey' enmity.

This time though, thanks to branch closures, openings, redundancies and re-hirings and high staff turnovers, the staff at our branch no longer have synchronised licenses, and no-one else was due. So off I was shipped to another branch, to interact with strangers for a day. Helpful.

Everything about the day itself

On arriving at work I was immediately bundled into the managers car and whisked off on my way. Now, being stuck in a car with anyone gets me jittery after too long; I only have a limited supply of 'small talk' in me. And of course, this being early morning, and the branch we were headed to being in the middle of a busy retail area, the traffic was horrendous; you'd think people had jobs to get to or something; so that added a good while to the journey.

As people go, my current manager is less problematic to speak to than some, on account of how he started shortly after me when we were both essentially kids and I've known him all the way through his climb up the ranks, so he's kind of 'one of the lads'. If this had been any other manager I've ever worked for I'd have been clawing at the door to get out.

Even so, the bulk of our conversations; just like the bulk of my conversations with everyone; are very 'hit and run'; I like the freedom to leave a room when I'm out of material. And yes, I do practice off the cuff remarks ahead of time, and keep a store of them for future use. Being spontaneously witty doesn't just happen you know.

He steered the conversation to music, television, politics, sport... some of those things I know a little about, others I know nothing about, but none of them are things I'm willing to express an opinion on to someone without first knowing their opinion, so I can gauge what I think the level of... look, I can't explain this, but suffice to say I overthink everything and I wouldn't make a very good dinner party guest. Eventually I got the talk back onto work, which is pretty much the only thing I feel truly comfortable talking about, and since he; for reasons unknown, but it may be down to heavy drug use in his formative years; seems to actually respect my opinions and agree with my ideas when it comes to how to run a branch, I was on steady ground.

Until we arrived at the branch...

First impressions I had were that the staff were all numpties and the place was a shithole. Of course, even I am not so oblivious to social niceties as to think that those would be acceptable conversation starters, so I was knackered.

We (myself and the two people also doing the course) were locked in an office with the instructor, but not before he had found time to announce that this would be an all day thing, rather than half a day, which was what we had been told. What this meant was that my managers business in the area would be concluded and he would be leaving earlier than me. He said that he would come back for me at the end of the day, but then the instructor said that he lived...somewhere...I don't know, places I don't live in are all the same to me... but the gist was, he would bring me half way so my manager wouldn't have to brave the tea time rush hour.

Unbelievable. So I now had that to look forward to.

The session began and I thought I would be safe for a while; these things usually consist of a bit of a lecture and some safety videos made in 1972 in which a bunch of stuntmen die horribly. No call for small talk there. Unfortunately, our instructor had other ideas; we were going to listen to his stories about meeting famous footballers (number I'd heard of: 0), look at pictures of his grandson (how many times can you say 'yeah, cute' and seem genuine?), hear stories about all the many businesses he'd owned/co-owned/founded as a favour to a friend (quantity of bullshit detected in said stories: a hell of a fucking lot), and so on and so forth. The others, both fully rounded individuals capable of holding down a conversation without gagging on their words, were fine. Myself, not so much.

At one point, and I can't believe I did it, I joined in the conversation. It had turned toward fireworks, and they were all agreeing with each other about how much they hated them and I thought, hang on, I have something I could say here that is actually relevant! So I told the tale of someone I know having been scared by a dud firework hitting her window. On topic, and vaguely interesting, I thought.

Maybe it was just my paranoia; it was almost certainly my paranoia; but they seemed to listen politely enough then get back to their own chatter as soon as politeness allowed. I spent the next hour sitting there, stewing over my words and trying to figure out what I'd said wrong, counting how many different ways I'd embarrassed myself, and working out how much longer this hell could go on for. They, for their part, went back to talking about football.

Lunchtime arrived and after I inquired as to the nearest shop that I could get some food from, since I hadn't brought any, since we had been told this would be OVER BY FUCKING LUNCHTIME, I set off. Only to be stopped by instructor man, who offered me as lift. LEAVE ME ALONE!! I wanted to scream at him, but of course I didn't. I'm too afraid of confrontation for that. So my blessed relief; my little bit of alone time that was going to be my walk out to the shop; was taken from me.

What is the 'done thing' when someone you don't know gives you a lift to the shop and then needs to use the cashpoint? Do you stand and wait with him? Or do you head in ahead of him? If you stand and wait, are you being too clingy? Are you saying that you can't go to the shop by yourself? If you do stand and wait, you have to then walk round the shop with them, making smalltalk, feeling self conscious if it takes you longer to find something than them. But if you go in alone, are you being rude? Are you saying you don't want to be seen with them?

Welcome to my head. In the end, not knowing which was the 'correct' response, I went with the one that required me to speak the least, and headed straight in alone.

After lunch was a load more waffle about getting shirts signed by football players etc... before we finally, well after 2pm, went out to the trucks. Then we spent another hour standing in the cold while he made various phone calls.

Someone: It's a bit chilly eh?
Me: Just a bit, aye.
(Repeat) (Repeat Again) (And Again) (And Again...)

That was the conversation for the afternoon. Riveting stuff.

When we finally rated his attention again, he told us a tale about a man 'in his fucking 30's, a fucking grown man' who upon making the same simple mistake several times, was chastised by the instructor. 'In the end I grabbed his fucking leg and dragged it off the pedal. Then he burst into tears, I couldn't believe it!!!'

Here's the thing, if you'd pulled me up for making the same mistake over and over again, and then grabbed my leg, I wouldn't have started crying; I'd have told you to fuck off; but only because I'm a better actor than that other guy. You can bet the house I'd have been close to tears.

The practical tests themselves were over in about 5 minutes once they actually started. Then it was back indoors for a written test based on information we should have covered on the morning but didn't because he was too busy name dropping and then home. With him. In his car. I was genuinely terrified. I have this knee twitching thing that happens when I'm uncomfortable and it was going a mile a fucking minute the whole way home. He kept talking about stuff, and I kept ignoring him; literally, I was beyond the point of caring what he thought anymore. I practically jumped out of his car when he got me where we were going.

And do you know what? When I got in my manager's car for the second leg of the journey, my mood being immediately apparent to him, he asked how the day had gone and I told him. He found my torture, and it was torture for me, every second of it, funny. Not because he's an unpleasant person; he isn't. But because we come from a background, and work in an industry, that simply doesn't take that kind of thing seriously.

Which is why, after a few minutes, I switched on fake me and laughed along. I should have known better than to do anything else.

It's been a long one this week, even by my standards; I apologise. I'm not sure I've fully gotten across how upsetting the day was, either; I read it back and everything seems so petty. Either way, I've gotten it off my chest and I can go back into my bubble, until the next time.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Things wot I do

I post internet twaddle 5 days a week. I mean, I post to twitter pretty much every hour of every day, ever, but I post actual, worked at, pre-planned, 'content' to the internet 5 days a week. I know!

I've become pretty adept at sticking to a regular schedule; I know I missed one last week but it was the first time in ages and I only missed it because I have a li... hahah joke, I only missed because while I had written something it just seemed rubbish to me, no matter how many times I rewrote it, so I gave up. It'll be up this week, for definite. Probably still rubbish, but you know...

Anyway, the current schedule is as follows:


This blog. This one here. Musings of a Nobody. MoaN. Interesting fact (not really), but I didn't make the connection between the initials of the blog title, and the act of complaining, until long after I chose said title; wasn't planned at all. I'm pretty sure it was some kind of lesser deity; most likely the God of Meaningless Coincidences, I should think; playing silly beggars with my head. Yeah, that's definitely what happened.

The main focus of MoaN is, ostensibly, my life. More specifically, the story of my life, from my very earliest memories, to the present day, in roughly chronological order. It's proven cathartic, but also really really difficult, on account of how my memory is really really shit. I persevere though.

Of course it's not just about my past. This is where I come when I feel compelled to post a knee jerk, irrational rant about something I'm completely unqualified to have an opinion on; it's where I come on the rare occasions I want to join in a short lived internet meme; and now, it's where I come when I want to make people, who may read one or two things of mine, aware of exactly what I do and when. Because I'm a view-whore.


Tuesday is my day for making not very funny jokes about soap operas on an episode by episode basis. I say soap operas, it's just the one; Dark Shadows is it's name, and it's actually pretty good (but don't tell anyone I said that).

The plan was to do two soaps, and alternate between them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is still the plan, but it won't happen until the new year, and it won't be originally announced Prisoner: Cell Block H. It seems that there are considerably more fantasy/sci-fi tinged soap operas than I had first thought, so in sticking with them I'll be adding either Strange Paradise or Passions to the blog on Thursdays. I haven't decided which yet; if you have a preference feel free to let me know.

For now though, it's just Dark Shadows, and it's just Tuesday.


Wednesday is the day I talk about sci-fi and fantasy television mostly, and occasionally about my relationship with it.

Full of spoilers, doesn't know whether it wants to be serious or piss-takey and can't decide between being a discussion of the behind the scenes aspects, straight reviews, or just waffle. Some would call it wildly inconsistent, I call it providing something for everyone. And if nothing else, there's usually a picture of a hot actor or actress.


I write about stories I've read on my untitled blog about stories I've read.

Here I attempt to analyse books and comics in my own instantly recognisable style, which blends a desire to seem intelligent and an air of pretension with a limited vocabulary and insights gleaned from one chapter of a 'how to write' book that I vaguely remember skimming in 1987.

And that just leaves Saturday

On Saturday I post grainy videos made on an incredibly cheap camera to youtube. Often they are my thoughts on having watched a shit show for month, other times they are of me reading Mr Men books, and still other times they are of me just waffling rubbish. I call those last, my all conquering assault on the interwebs. Because I'm deluded.

So there you have it. My internet schedule. I'd say I hope you check out all the stuff I mentioned, but I'm not a totally deluded fool and I know you have lives to lead, so I'll just say I'd love it if you could give one new thing a try. These things take a lot of time, and while I mostly do it for the love of it I'm not gonna lie to you,  a few more readers/viewers would be nice too. (I'm well aware there's much better stuff out there than mine, so I'm not holding out much hope, but allow me the fantasy that this might work, ok? Cheers)

Next week on here it'll be back to me talking about my real life. And when that happens, you'll be wishing I was still waffling about the internet.