It’ll be fine!

The day we got our GCSE results was one of the most exciting days of my teenage years, though possibly for the wrong reasons.

The exams themselves had been full of stress and complications. Being entered for the wrong IT exam and not knowing until actually in the exam hall, failing at Geography because I couldn’t think straight for “womanly cramps” (there should be something in the rules to deal with that sort of stuff) and forgetting my calculator for the Maths exam that I’d forgotten about until 20 minutes before start time all helped to convince me that the results would be nothing spectacular (and I was right).

None of that mattered however because, pass or fail, our results were going to be overshadowed by the fact that we were setting off after collecting them to attend our first ever rock festival. It was Reading 2000, and we’d been planning it for months.

The night before had been somewhat of a panic, since my boyfriend at the time (codename: Beef Gnome) rang me at around 10pm to say he’d somehow managed to lose the ticket that should have been safely filed away for the past 6 months. This was the origin of my tactic of blutacking important documents to my walls until they’re needed. I turned up at his house to ineffectually flail around in drawers and on shelves but after a few hours we realised that, wherever the ticket had got to, it didn’t want to come back.

“Come anyway, you can probably buy a ticket there, it’ll be fine” I uttered.

So there we are, after inadvertantly insulting teachers with our lack of enthusiasm and hiding behind the school bins to avoid having our resident genius friend’s picture taken, in a minibus on our way to Reading. Beef Gnome is understandably freaking out about his lack of ticket, which leads me to voice my Theory of Things Being Fine for the first time in human history. It goes a little something like this:

Sometimes, bad things happen. These things could lead to getting arrested, or death, or getting stranded in the middle of Reading city centre but that never happens to me or people I know, because I always believe firmly that everything will be fine. No matter how bleak the situation, it’s always fine in the end, so there’s no need to worry too much.

Beef Gnome is understandably dubious, but he has to keep up the illusion of trusting me or he won’t get any action all weekend, so once in a traffic jam on a main Reading street he confidently leaps out to go and argue with a ticket tout. Despite the fact our bus hasn’t been able to move at all for at least 10 minutes, while Beef Gnome is being threatened with a knife for asking for a discount the traffic surges forward and we have no choice but to abandon him to his fate.

We spend some time driving aimlessly about,getting lost and passing the festival site without noticing before finally finding our way in, by which time we’re rather concerned about our missing member and his ability to find us again. I had a mobile phone, for I was cool, but he did not. Sitting in the endless queue of cars waiting to be herded into a parking space, we were pretty much clueless about how to find him before driving back in 4 days time. We shouldn’t have worried.

While our van is parked in the ridiculous queue of traffic, unmoving but looking exactly the same as all the other white hire vans in the vicinity, Beef Gnome comes striding confidently across a field towards us. Apparently he claimbed through a hole in a fence, or something, and by some sort of it’ll be fine magic just happened to walk down the row of cars that would take him directly to us.


And that is why I always insist, in any situation, it’ll be fine. It drives people mad, hooray!

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The Accusing Shelf!

Our school was, in the manner of all the best things in this world, symmetrical, and in the very middle of the back wall was the library. The room was a weird shape, with a sort of semicircle sticking out of the back wall, all conservatory-like. It was by far the coolest room in the school (apart from the boiler room, but that was more terrifying than “cool”). ¬†You could hide pointlessly in the flowerbeds outside and then jump up and terrify anyone who took a seat near the window! I’ve illustrated this in case you’re having trouble following the plot.

At around age 10 or 11, because we were so trustworthy, our little group of friends were given the position of school librarians. Now, I don’t actually remember what this officially involved; there was no signing out procedure for books and there were no computers to be supervised so we basically just used the place as our own awesome hangout.

One day, I remember being shown a magic pen by my dad. It wrote on things in invisible ink, which would only show up under a “magic light”. My dad bought this pen to mark all of our belongings in a pre-emptive and paranoid strike against any would-be burglars.

This pen was amazing, I was enthralled. If you wrote on a surface and tilted it just right, so it caught the sunlight, you could just see the vague, shiny text. Otherwise it was completely invisible. I began immediately to plot the various uses of this pen, not least of which were marking every single thing in my bedroom against theft (even down to tiny, crappy, worthless ornaments on my windowsill that I hated and would no doubt be smashed if anyone ever broke through the window anyway).

So there I am writing “Michelle” on everything I can get my hands on in curiously neat writing, when suddenly a thought occurs to me. Not only is everything in my room worth protecting, the school library is my responsibility to protect too!

I knew stealing was wrong, especially stealing something magical like the pen, but those shelves weren’t going to protect themselves! I slipped the pen into my schoolbag and spent an industrious lunchtime surreptitiously covering the red metal shelves with “Michelle” safe in the knowledge that I was doing a good deed. I was basically a superhero, shelf-theft-wise.

Later that day it became apparent that in my haste to protect the vulnerable shelves, I had forgotten about the magic pen’s Achilles Heel. One of the shelves near the window, one of those upright ones intended for artful displays of one or two books only, was in direct sunlight all afternoon every afternoon, and of course my vandalism was soon exposed.

Seeing the anger on my teacher’s face I decided to adopt a political approach, ie deny everything and blame it on someone else.

As luck would have it another of our little group of friends was also a Michelle, and I have very clear memories of the two of us being asked to write our name in large writing while under the careful scrutiny of two teachers and the headmaster. I knew that I must disguise my writing at all costs, but…for some reason still poorly understood 15 years later…decided that changing the way I wrote my h would be good enough.

It was desperately obvious that my writing was almost identical to that found on the shelf, but nevertheless I fought my corner.

“The h is different! The h is different!”

I¬†literally screeched my denials as I took the walk of shame along to the headmaster’s office and spent the next hour resolutely refusing to admit to anything. It was an approach that would serve me well in future life, when dealing with landlords and ticket inspectors and anyone else who expected me to take any sort of responsibility for myself.

On the bright side, I don’t think they ever noticed the other 10 or so shelves.

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A foolproof way to escape your school

It’s a curse, being 7 years old with the mental processes of an adult. It meant I was capable of thinking logically and following trains of thought to their obvious conclusion, a feat that many of my friends struggled with. Unfortunately these logical thoughts were still in the brain of a 7 year old, and at no time was this more apparent than the day myself and my best friend Melinda attempted to escape our school yard.

The reasons for wanting to leave are, alas, lost in the mists of time. We weren’t old enough to be doing anything particularly difficult in lessons and playtime was just that, free time to play on the slide and dig muddy holes in the school field. Of course hindsight sees this clearly but to my 7 year old self school was dull that day and there were endless rainbow-related adventures waiting for us just beyond the school gate…if only we could get there.

The idea started well enough, and our initial plan went a bit like this:

  • To leave school without being arrested (yes, we thought we’d be arrested) we need a good and believable reason for doing so
  • The teachers supervising the school yard must know in advance about this reason, otherwise they’d think we were just running away
  • We must have permission from a member of staff
  • We must look confident at all times, and not like we’re doing something naughty

See? Logic in action, right there.

So part one was trying to think of a good reason that would involve both of us leaving together and involve no parents. Sadly, this was an impossible task and we soon gave up on the fine detail altogether. It’s tempting to blame this for our subsequent downfall, but somehow I doubt that was the only problem with the final plan.

Next I decided that if a teacher had already given us permission to leave it would be a bit strange for us still to be hanging around in the yard, so we needed to act out a permission-getting scenario. To our minds this basically meant disappearing from view for a little while so that if questioned later we could say that we’d been inside talking to the teacher.

Problem – kids weren’t allowed inside during playtime except to use the toilets, which were in a totally different direction to the classrooms.

Solution – talking loudly about our bladder situation until inside the door, then running in the opposite direction and hiding behind a bookcase just outside one of the classrooms.

This was a tense time, if a teacher or caretaker happened upon us suspiciously crouched behind the bookcase the game would be up, but after about 10 minutes we figured that was long enough and crept back outside, no doubt looking extremely shifty.

Now that we had what I considered an alibi, it was time to inform the supervising teachers in the yard. Rather than talk to them directly, which was scary and opened the way for too many questions, I came up with what is still, to this very day, the worst plan I have ever come up with to achieve anything in my entire life ever.

Linking arms, we proceeded to skip around the yard in a large circle, repeating in unison and in an annoying singsong voice:

“We don’t know why, but when we went to see Mrs. Barrington she said we could go home early today.”

Nobody said a thing to us, and we must have looked truly ridiculous, but we saw lack of adult intervention as a sign that our message was heard and they believed us completely! It was time. We knew that we had to leave before the whistle went for end of playtime, and we had to walk confidently rather than running down the path. Actually, I think if we did run we’d have made it to the main road (where no doubt we’d have celebrated by being run over).

We exited the gate from the yard and walked swiftly down the path to the road, somehow forgetting that not only was our plan crap, we were also in plain sight of the school office. We made it approximately 10 steps before a hand on my shoulder suggested we were in trouble.

Unfortunately, my memory after that point is hazy. Almost certainly we got into a lot of trouble, and most likely parents were informed, but all that remains in my mind from this glorious day is the curiously adult-like thought process that went into creating the most abysmal plan ever conceived.

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