by Tom Hawyard
My mind, full of ideas and pop tarts, and bananas
|In my youth I was rarely a trouble maker at school. Primary school that is, because at secondary school everyone gets their voice a bit and starts the rebellious journey to adulthood. The troublemakers at primary school were actors, hell bent on showing what they could achieve with a little mischief in their soul and more importantly an audience. We laughed, we often cried, because many of the occasions involved us being hurt or humiliated in some way. We can let it go now. Just.
However, there is one occasion which will forever stick with me. I have never felt haunted by the event, nor have I ever woken up screaming after reliving it in dream land, but it stays firm in my memory bank because it was so trivial, so stupid, and so sensationalised. If anybody could make a mountain range out of the tiniest mole hill, it is a 5 year old female classmate.
This is starting to sound like a defendant's opening words in some sort of assault trial. I can assure you this is not where this tale is leading and may I remind you I was also five at the time and was unaware of the bad things done by naughty men back then.
It was a summer afternoon. The sun was beautiful, and our old classrooms always seemed to make it even brighter. I think it was some sort of ploy to trick us into thinking we were out in the sunshine and not stuck at school. It worked. On this occasion the lesson was art- a lesson in the creation and expression of ourselves, all incorporated into a drawing of a bunny or Sonic the Hedgehog.
The pens were out. They wouldn't let us paint in case we went home to our parents as pieces of canvas'. This didn't stop many of us, to be perfectly honest. And it must have been something to do with the weather and the lesson and the general mood of thirty excitable five year olds, because there was the most lively and extreme element of play I have ever experienced. Suddenly the pencil sharpener was a toy. I didn't ever use a sharpener as a toy before, nor would I for several years after when creating a weapon in school (I used it on nobody by the way, it was simply a tool for cutting things open, honest). The pens were rarely separated from our hands, and this proved my downfall.
When up and about, many of us lost our bearings as to where our seats were. Many times I went and sat in the wrong chair, only to be corrected by an angry young artist trying to draw his or her bunny. So why I didn't question the next instant in this chain of events, I will never know. It was brought to my attention that there was an unnamed school garment on the back of a chair. By unnamed I mean somebody's mother had not sewn in their initials or name into their child's clobber. The person telling me, I'm sure, had no malicious intent. But he also had no real objections to telling me that the garment in question (it was a jumper- or so I thought) was mine. I waltzed over, pen in hand, and began to write my John Hancock on the label. Seconds later I hear a girl’s voice. This was rare for me in any case, let alone in a classroom and covered in red pen. However it was soon explained to me, in a high pitched and generally whiny voice, that I had written in this girl’s cardigan. Gitsticks.
This trivial act could have so easily been avoided. The clues were there. 1) It was a cardigan. 2) Why would my classmate point this out to ME if it didn’t have any indication of whose it was on it and 3) The girl was literally two feet away from what turned out to be her chair. It was laid on a plate for me. But did I eat it? Did I fuck.
I couldn’t even deny it. It had my name on her jumper. Even if she hadn’t caught me red handed, which she literally did, then I’m guessing what I’d written probably would have given me away. The only possible way I would ever get away with it was if there was a person present in the class called ‘Tom Haywa’ (I didn’t get to finish, in case you were wondering) but alas, there was no such person. Having said this, I still denied it profusely, putting my best little innocent face on coupled with a worried voice that neither singles me out for the crime nor excludes me from the investigation.
My teacher somehow saw through this (and considered the half-named cardigan evidence) and sent me to my head teacher. The ultimate punishment. They always have a door with no window, so you cannot see the evil doings inside. I’m not going to lie, I shite myself a little bit (not literally, as was the case with other boys at primary school, but you know what I mean). I heard a booming footstep- just the one, his desk must have been very close to the door- and the handle turned. I froze, awaiting his figure at the doorway. I stood hunched, waiting to receive my punishment. He stooped over me and asked me what I had done.
Now, my teacher hadn’t come with me to the office. She had a class full of thirty (minus one) children armed with coloured pens and places to lodge them, so she sent me off alone. Why I didn’t just run away to the woods I’ll never know. Maybe because that’s a little scarier than what I actually had to do, but whatever. So I was alone, and had to admit to my sin.
Admitting to my head teacher what I had done meant admitting to myself what I had done. This put everything into order. What, the actual fuck, was I doing? I wrote in bright red pen my own bloody name into a 5 year old girl’s cardigan. What exactly was I expecting, a Turner Prize? A commendation on my great handwriting skills when writing on cotton labels?
His confused face summed it up. ‘You wrote on her cardigan…?’ I nodded. I wasn’t going to explain again. Mainly because I was just as confused as him. He sighed and handed me a piece of paper, instructing me to write my name on it 100 times ‘if I like it so much’.
Wanker! What sort of smarmy comment is that- ‘if I like it so much’? Of course I fucking don’t. You don’t see me writing my name on everything I can see in my general radius do you? I didn’t write ‘Tom Hayward’ on your forehead when you opened the door to me did you, you fucking prick. At least this is what I wanted to say, however lacked the adult vocabulary to exclaim it and had to settle for a screwed up face and an ‘Awww, man…’
A fine punishment, and how terrifically ironic in the circumstances (wanker). However as I clutched the pen and paper and walked towards the desk- which was, in fact, a table for a plant which managed to shed almost every dead leaf into my hair before I returned to class- I began to wonder what sort of punishment this was. I wrote my name once, and had to write it 100 times for it. Surely writing my name 100 times now would mean then having to write it 10,000 times? And therefore mean me being stuck in a perpetual, futile, monotonous and infinite punishment forever more? At least this is what I wanted to say, however lacked the adult vocabulary to exclaim it and had to settle for stamping my feet over to the table and mumbling words not even I understood.
I began quickly. It was even a little bit fun. I should be a dick more often if this is all I have to do. Next maths lesson, go and write on the teacher’s cardigan, or coat, or shoes, or chest. In huge letters. My whole name this time, to save confusion (of which I’m sure there was none anyway). I hate maths- this is perfect. Every lesson, get ol’ red out and start signing everything in sight. Maybe I did like it after all. See by the end of the year if I could sign every leaf on this sodding plant I now share a table with (though by the state of it- and my hair- I wouldn’t exactly have long). I completed my task with ease, even if my hand was literally screaming at me by the end of it to just stop at 99 or 99- he wont ever check. As it turns out, he did. Or more he knew how many lines there were on a sheet of regular A4 paper. He cleverly deducted that all he had to do was add up the amount of full pages I’d done. Clever head master, can see how he got this job now. Wanker.
So there’s the plight, the struggle and the conclusion. As it goes, I never wrote my name on anything other than paper ever again. Sad really.