SWB on School Daze

It didn’t take long for September to pack its bags and clear off, did it? A flurry of packing lunches and backing books and sorting schoolbags.

Packing bags- that’s a whole new ball game now the older one is in ‘big school.’ As a teacher, I didn’t appreciate quite what the head-melt it was for first years. The child checks the bag in the evening and again in the morning – demented in case she doesn’t have the right folder. It’s a very thorough affair. ‘They won’t eat you if you forget something,’ I tell her. ‘It’s not like in my day.’ Flip me, but even in primary school some of our teachers were terrifying. You were dead meat if you forgot your books -fists slammed down on the desk and everything.

I had reason to pop into her school the other day and was immediately struck by the warmth of the place: an energy; an all-round air of conviviality; colour.

I’m sure the sun peeked it’s face out from behind a cloud occasionally, but when I think of school in Bangor, I think of greyness.

I’ll never forget my first ever art class. I’d entertained high hopes. Three whole periods on a Friday afternoon, just to draw! Our first ever task? Sketching an image of our hand. IN PENCIL. What a snore-fest. My disappointment was immense. And our homework? Drawing a picture of a lawnmower (again, in pencil, the greyness continued.) My dad had to cart the Flymo out of the garage so I could attempt the illustration. Unpleased with the result, I rubbed it out and my dad had a go himself. He was awarded a C+ for his efforts.

They didn’t really do ‘encouragement’ back then. Gymnastics club, for which I had signed up with excitement, was also a tremendous disappointment. Having never attended gymnastics before, I lacked the necessary flexibility and when we were immediately asked to perform the splits the only thing that hit the floor was my jaw in disbelief. As if! Imagine my humiliation when several other first formers slid effortlessly into position as though their legs weren’t made of flesh and bone but elastic. The teacher curled her lip and wrote me off. ‘I’d give you a 2 out of 10 for that,’ she said, and moved swiftly on. I didn’t go back.

Things picked up as I got older, but a prevailing sense of boredom is how I remember junior school.

LSB certainly didn’t fare much better, but times were tricky on the Falls Road in the nineties. God forbid you were late, didn’t matter whether you just slept in, or the police were raiding the house three doors down and your street was cordoned off. You still got the same bollocking.

In June he’d no chance of getting in before nine as half of West Belfast was headed to Clonard and the traffic was snarled up as far as the Glen Road with all the devoted.

‘Late again Garland?’

‘Novena Sir.’

‘That’s right Garland, blame it on Our Lady.’

And the uniform! Never get my husband started on the draconian laws they laid down on that issue. There was ice on the ground one day and he rocked up wearing a jumper. ‘NON-REGULATION!’ yelled some total jobsworth at the gate. ‘I’m ringing your mother!’ ‘

Go ahead,’ Stevey told him. The hapless teacher promptly rang up and woke my late mother-in-law after her nightshift in the Royal. Choice words were used and the subject was dropped.

And now, if it isn’t auld Kanye West himself wearing a St Mary’s hoodie! Rumour has it that it was taken off him as soon as he walked through the school doors…(distinguished alumni or not..)

(Apparently if you went to the school you’d get this reference)


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