First Day Blues (Reds, Yellows and Greens)
First days at Secondary School are meant to be auspicious occasions. Mine certainly was. Apart from going to the wrong school a week late, suffering a couple of minor disasters and being sent home, I survived a colourful day.
The school I had been assigned to had a reputation somewhere between Bedlam and Borstal. In disgust my parents decided to postpone the inevitable by taking a holiday. Instead of joining the melee of my new classmates I ate ice-cream in Devon and pretended it wasn’t happening. I was sanguine about the whole business. I’d heard tales of genitals blackened with shoe polish and heads thrust down the toilet. It wasn’t inspiring.
Imagine our surprise when returning in trepidation from Devon on the Saturday my friend Mut came round and grandly announced that I had been placed in his Form. My Mum’s ears pricked up. Mut had been assigned a place at an altogether superior purveyor of knowledge. My Mum quickly surmised that a mistake had been made. I was promptly whisked into town and kitted out in new uniform – grey blazer with yellow piping, matching cap and tie and baggy shorts with a crease – all of which I was assured – I would grow into, and I was off to capitalise on the error. My future was suddenly bright – though I did not realise quite how dazzling it was to shortly become.
Mut came round early to escort me to school, to introduce me to the delights of my new institution and show me the ropes. A customary photo was taken of me standing immaculate and pristine on the doorstep, looking a little awkward and definitely diffident.
We arrived early and I was introduced to Mr Doyle my Form Tutor. He was a Technical Drawing teacher and our Form Room was the Technical Drawing room. He was less than enamoured with my arriving a week late and ordered me to my place in a surly manner. Nervously edging around a group of boys, squeezing past to get to my place, the first of my calamities occurred. I promptly snagged my blazer on a nail. Mr Doyle had little boards with sandpaper stuck to them hanging on the wall for boys to sharpen their pencils on. Apparently the nails they were hung from were of a perfect height to catch shoulders. My new blazer now had a big triangle of material hanging down. The class howled with laughter. I immediately turned a nice shade of vermillion.
My first class was Art. I liked Art. It was unfortunately taking place on the stage. Another boy and I were dispatched to the Art Block to collect the paint. These were trays of Tempora powder paint all carefully dolloped in the wells of a baking tray. There were supposedly all different colours but while in powder form they just looked like pale pink powders.
We placed ten of these trays on top of each other, which took them to chin level, and set off. We negotiated the Art Block and drive without a problem. I even managed the steps and door into the corridor leading to the stage. I was feeling pleased with myself. The trays were heavy. Unfortunately that’s when things went horribly wrong. I hadn’t noticed the sunken mat inside the door. I was much too taken with preventing the door bashing back into me, and besides, I couldn’t see the ground because of the damn trays. I tripped over the mat.
Like in a Laurel and Hardy skit the trays flew up in the air in slow motion as I sprawled on the floor aghast. Subjected to gravity they returned to ground. However the fine powder had a mind of its own. The trays hit the floor making a deafening racket. The powder took on the form of a dust-storm and, as if I was magnetic, promptly made a bee-line for me.
I climbed to my feet resembling a pale pink ghost as the entire class and startled teacher piled into the corridor to see whatever had happened.
I can clearly remember all their astonished faces as they gawped at me. I was completely coated in a layer of fine pale dust from head to foot.
As the tears began to appear, streaks of rainbows began flowing down my cheeks and uniform.
After calming me down my teacher thought it might be best for me to go home and get cleaned up. I don’t remember my Mum’s reaction. You could say that I passed with flying colours - a first day that I would never forget.