Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Schooldays Are The Best Days Of Your Lives - Not According To My Reports

'I would expect him to be near the bottom,' wrote my English teacher, 'but he need not despair.' It makes depressing reading. I've just found my old school reports.  They were hidden down the bottom of a drawer. Obviously they were hidden for a very good reason. Perhaps they should never see the light again. They are the sort of reports which make David Brent seem like a genius.

'We all know that he is not an academic genius,' wrote my tutor. 'He has been somewhat slow to grasp the critical approach to the texts I have been trying to introduce,' said the Divinity teacher. 'Prosaic and unimaginative' said the German teacher.

It got worse in French. 'He has very little flair for linguistic work or understanding in this field: nor has he any compensating talent in English or in literary perception.'

Music: 'the standard of his written English gives considerable grounds for concern.'

'Insufficient effort ... superficial, insufficient attention having been given to careful and precise analysis,' said another teacher.

Then there was a miracle. 'I think some light has dawned,' said the Architecture teacher. 'Luckily the interesting but disconnected English which he has always written, has begun to jell, and there are signs he'll one day write quite well,' wrote my relieved tutor.


'I'd feel easier in mind,' he continued, 'if Dick Francis, say, were one of the 'A' Level English authors; he may find Jane Austen or Dickens a little finicky.'

Cancel that last alleluia.

But my tutor ended on a surprisingly optimistic note. 'He's been the nicest of pupils, gentle and considerate at all times, never making a fuss, and fully aware of his own shortcomings. With such one can achieve something - it's the ones who think they know all the answers who are so difficult.'

Two years later with three 'A'Levels and six 'O' Levels - 'if anyone had told me this' said my house master, 'I should have doubted him.'

Then I was in the wide wide world.

My 'naive wroting style' was unleashed on a variety of things and people. Writing press releases for the Tote,    short scripts for Wogan's Winner on BBC Radio 2, reports for various charities, some pages in an English learning book for Poles and various Best Man's speeches, after dinner speeches and long winded rants to whoever had the misfortune to sit next to me.

Whatever will happen next. A book perhaps. That would show those who wrote those early reports. But I must not blame them for writing nothing but the truth. I was a nightmare pupil. I hated school. Not the fun side of school, but the boredom of sitting down and learning many things parrot fashion, stifling one's unique creative skill, or so I believed. It wouldn't make any difference which school I had been at - you either are an institutional sort of person, or you are not.

So school was lifelong friends and laughter. An amazing sense of history and in some subjects a good teacher would open your eyes to the wonders of the big wide world. I absorbed as much as I could about the places of the world. In 1979 I went on a school trip to China, not so long after Mao had died. But apart from that, I gravitated to the next door town - Windsor, which at that time, because there were three major barracks situated there,  had more pubs per head than any other town in Britain - 108 or something around that number. I knew quite a few of them.

I geravitated towards the racing world - the betting shops, the Evening Standard sellers. My grandmother was my telephone credit bookie. She took my bets and sent me a monthly update. I used to win in those days more than I lost.

Well I look back at my reports and I feel relieved. Relieved that they could have been worse. I had a friend who received his which read:

'At least Nero rolled in the dust to collect his laurels. Bloggins just rolled in the dust.'

Now that is bad.  

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