by Gaz Coward
This is how and why I started college....
| There I am, laying in bed reading a book filled with stories about all our favourite Urban Legends until I sit up and look at the clock, in just under three hours time, I would be leaving for my first day at Blackpool & Fylde Technology College....
It was about six am, the reason I was up so early was because I was absolutely shitting myself, here I am, just turned sixteen and I was about to start college with a load of kids who were either a year, two years, in some cases three years older than myself. With the trouble from school put behind me, I was looking forward to finishing off my school year in college but on this particular day as mentioned, I was shitting myself. I remember my alarm going off, jumping off my bed and quickly turning it off, getting undressed, getting into bed and pulling the sheets over my head, for some reason I believed that by making it look like I was asleep my mum would let me stay home. Only a few minutes had passed and my stomach starting churning as my mum shouted me from the downstairs hallway, her shout sounding a lot louder than usual, not just because my bedroom was downstairs but because I was as scared for the day ahead as Laurie Strode being chased by Michael Myers. Characters played by Jamie Lee-Curtis and Nick Castle in the 1978 horror film Halloween created by the master of horror and suspense John Carpenter. As I climbed out of bed, I just kept hoping that instead of leaving my room and being greeted by my mum smiling and wishing me luck on my first day, she would instead tell me the storm of the century had taken over and there was no way we could get the car out of the driveway, then again "AS IF" this would happen, today was happening no matter what.
Grabbing my bag from the floor by the radiator we stepped outside the house, it was a great day. The sun beamed down and the birds chirped a cheery song as they flew over-head. Just as I was about to get into the car, I heard Iain call my name as he exited his driveway, his bag strapped over his shoulder and wearing his black jumper and dark trousers, the secondary uniform most year elevens wore at St. Aiden's. I was surprised to notice that he had already sparked up a cigarette, I found this very weird because my mum could clearly see him chuffing away as he met me at the end of my own driveway. We stood there exchanging a few words as my mum rushed back inside the house as she had forgotten her purse. At that quick moment I grabbed the cigarette from Iain and took three speedy drags.... Suddenly it hit me, how the hell was I going to get in the car without my mum smelling the smoke on my clothes and breath because the fact is, the smell really carries. As my mum exited the house again my worries were over as she had just lit up while inside, now I knew she wouldn't be able to smell my dirty little secret due to the fact that her own cigarette would smell much more. Saying bye to Iain, I jumped in the car as....
"I'll see you tonight mate" Iain said.
Jumping in the car my mum started the engine and we set off on the short journey to college. The thing that started fuelling my nerves even more was the fact that, as we pulled out of our street and onto the main road, the college bus had just pulled away from the local bus stop. At that time in the morning there weren't many cars on the road, so the journey to follow meant the college bus was right in front of us. I remember the teenagers sitting on the back seat of the bus had managed to pry open some windows so they could have sneaky cigarettes, that moment in seeing them having cheeky cigarettes made me laugh because I remember doing the exact same thing with a few of my mates when going into town to do some shopping.
Arriving at college, we didn't go in via the student entrance we actually pulled into the staff parking, with it being my first day we had arranged to meet with my course tutor so she could explain some information on how the year would unfold with me being a bit younger than my fellow students. Walking into the main reception, we walked up to the main desk. We didn't have to give my name as they already had me on file. I guess the tutor was excited to be introducing a new student to her class. The funny thing was, by this time my nerves had kind of disappeared as while waiting in the main reception there was loads of much older girls walking around. Thoughts started rushing through my mind; it was like I had been thrown into a brand new soap opera!
oWow, she has an amazingly nice arse.
oOh my god! She's wearing skin tight leather pants.
oNo way, how can she get away with pushing her breasts so far up so they are almost touching her chin.
oI can't believe it; I honestly think I'm going to enjoy this place after all.
No word of a lie, the girls I was seeing, I could have sworn belonged in a strip club. I don't mean that in a nasty, "they're slutty" type of way, I mean it in a way that they were gorgeous! Being a youngster the stuff going through my mind would be classed as illegal if I was to shout at the top of my voice about those girls. You've got to take into account, I had just turned 16, and my hormones were going through the roof. It must not have been longer than ten minutes before I finally laid eyes on my tutor as she entered reception from a door on the far side of the lobby. To be honest I was expecting a young thirty-something tutor but this lady was in her, I better be careful here because she might be reading so I think I'll go with... Early 40's or something like that, knowing my luck she could have been younger but I'll stick with that age range. She walked over to us and formerly put her hand out to introduce herself. I can't for the life of me remember her second name.
"Hi, nice to meet you Garry, I'm Barbara" She said.
The way she introduced herself really baffled me, the reason being, in high school you are always taught to call the teacher as Sir, Miss or Mrs, Barbara introduced herself as, well... As Barbara.
"Hi, nice to meet you B...." I was interrupted.
"Go on, say it as you know it" she insisted.
"Huh"? I replied.
"Put it this way... You may call me either Barbara or Babb's" She replied.
Babb's? I almost pissed myself with laughter as Babb's sounded like a chip barm I'd order from the local chippy with my mates. I really didn't know how to reply to what she insisted but I do remember sticking with Barbara as my mum had brought me up to be respectful to my elders. So Barbara was what I was going to stick with no matter what anyone told me to say. With the introductions out of the way, it was time for me to join my new class, but not before Barbara had introduced me to a second new student, who if I remember correctly was called Dean. Barbara led me away from my mum and took me through the same door she had first entered and down a long winding corridor. Forget walking down a school corridor this one was like walking through an office building, you'd think that it was a private college where all the good kids studied because this place had carpets instead of tiled floors and wallpaper instead of plaster, it was the best looking place of study I'd ever seen, the proper word for it was like "Home", I felt really at ease and comfortable for the first time ever.
Leaving the corridor and entering a side room, it was weird because the room being used to introduce us had an "Isolation Room" plaque nailed to the door. To this day, it would have been a little bit cooler if they'd used a different one but oh well, I guess that's just the way the cookie crumbles or should I say that was the way Dean's cookie crumbled as he was munching on what looked like his breakfast, making a right mess of the floor. As soon as I entered the room and laid eyes on Dean I guessed straight away why he was ending his school year at college, he even explained why he was doing so as well.
"Hey" Dean said as I sat down and Barbara left the room.
"Hey" I replied back.
"I guess you're finishing your school year here, like me then huh"? He asked.
"Yeah, I guess I am. What's the reason for you doing it"? I replied.
"You know how it goes, fights start and someone has to end them" he insisted.
Straight away it became clear that he and I were two completely different people, he was an instigator and someone who enjoyed fighting and I was a walker, someone who always tried walking away from fights because I just wanted to enjoy my life. The mess he was making on the floor also told me that he had no respect for someone else's property as he threw the empty biscuit wrapper on the floor at the same time as Barbara re-entered the room. Instantly, looking at Dean she requested he picked up the wrapper and put it in the bin, I'll give you one guess as to what his reply was....
"It's not mine, it's his"! He insisted.
Clearly it was not mine because I didn't enter the room eating and Barbara knew exactly whose wrapper it was. Picking up the wrapper he walked over to the bin and carelessly dropped it hoping for it to land inside but unfortunately missing and landing on the floor next to it. As he was about to turn and leave the room, Barbara gave him a certain look and he turned once again to put it in the bin properly. From that moment on, I knew that Dean was going to be one of those problem students. Please don't think I was being big headed when I say tthis, it's just that in the past my friends had told me I've had a good sense in who I should and shouldn't be friends with, he clearly came across as one of those that I shouldn't, simple as that.
Finally, the time had come for us to be introduced to our new class mates. As we approached the large wooden door, we peered through the small glass window and at first glance the first student I laid eyes on was a lad with a skin head. I swear he looked a hell of a lot like Derek Vinyard.... You know who I'm talking about, that very built up and rough looking character played by Edward Norton in American History X. Describing the lad as Derek Vinyard is probably the wrong way of doing so because even though he looked like him, he was nothing at all like him in terms of attitude. The moment we walked through the door and into the classroom, we were greeted with an amazing sense of friendship, everyone was joking around with each other, some sarcastic and joking comments towards Dean and I but nothing too over the top. The skin headed lad was called Andy, he pulled out an empty chair and invited me to sit down and introduce myself. As I sat down, the other lad I'd entered the room with instantly decided to sit down next to a couple of girls, his cocky swagger used in a way I'd seen many times before, getting straight into the chat up lines and jokes. I was asked a few random questions by Andy, Barbara smiling and knowing that by allowing us into her class we was sure to get along with the other students. Her plan was working, she was loving every moment of it. Take into account though it wasn't a huge class, there must have only been eight of us, that's including Dean and I. We must have spent the best part of an hour or so getting to know each other while Barbara had other things to tend to like paperwork and assignments to grade. Andy introduced me to his long term girlfriend Stacey, she was gorgeous, very petite with her red lips, she had a great smile, I wished she was my girlfriend, Andy was very lucky and they were a really good couple. Stacey on the other hand introduced me to her closest class mate Emmy, a very nice girl, short shoulder length hair, cute smile and freckled face, the only problem being she wasn't as forward as both Andy and Stacey, she was very quiet, she struck me as a goody, goody two shoes type of girl, then came another introduction....
Emmy spoke very gently but still a little nervously as she introduced me to her friend Laura. Now listen, at this point I'd just like to say to anyone reading this that is from my home town of Blackpool. You guys/girls really need to calm down on the whole nasty comments and so called bad reputational conversations concerning the council estate known as Grange Park. You know the conversations I'm talking about, the ones about cars being stolen, houses getting smashed up, windows broken, drugs being pushed to almost every kid that steps foot out of their own front door. The girl, Laura was her name that Emmy had introduced me too, on getting to know her she told me how she had moved up from down south to live here in Blackpool and she just so happened to buy a house with her boyfriend on the Grange Park estate. I know that most of the houses on the estate are owned by the council but seriously, I don't get it, why the hell do people slag off people who live in council houses? I've been in many council houses because I have many friends who live on council estates. Would you still be slagging those people off if I told you that they are probably some of the cleanest and spacious housing I've ever stepped foot in? Seriously.... Some council houses that I've been in have two bathrooms, three bedrooms, a modern up-to-date kitchen, living room, front and back garden. I don't live in a council house and I have one bathroom, three bedrooms, a modern up-to-date kitchen, spacious living room, front and back garden. What's the big difference? Exactly, there isn't one, so all this bullshit about council houses being very different to our own houses is pointless and on top of that the people living in the so called council houses have just the same jobs as we do! Being totally honest I was attracted to Laura, but knowing she had a boyfriend I wasn't a home wrecker so the thought of hooking up with her was best left untouched.
After a great morning of classes, it was time for lunch. Being new, it was best that I stuck close to my new found friends as we made our way down to the cafeteria. Walking in it was packed, me being a smoker along with Laura, Stacey and Andy we headed into the smoking room on the far side of the room. Thinking back, the smoker's room looked more like a prison cell, pretty messy in it's own right, tables over turned and litter all over the floor, it wasn't exactly the cleanest room in the college which baffled me as to why it was situated so close to the cafeteria. Every time the door opened and more students entered for a smoke, you could see the none smokers pulling faces as they would get a huge draft of polluted air surrounding them. Emmy was a none smoker but she didn't seem to mind joining us is the smoking room, there were times when the plumes of smoke got a little too much for her. Thinking back I kind of liked the fact that she kept herself to herself and left the room every so often because I managed a few weeks later on one occasion to use this to my advantage.
Emmy left the room on this certain day after only being inside for a few moments, I had only smoked a quarter of my cigarette, I'd noticed that she'd been even more quieter than usual. She actually looked like she wanted to burst into tears and I felt sorry for her in my own kind of way. Taking my final puff I gave my cigarette to Laura and made an excuse as to why I had to leave and meet them a bit later in class. Leaving the smoking room and cafeteria I rushed down the adjoining corridor and noticed she was heading towards the library. Take into account I wasn't a member of the library because the truth is, I didn't understand how someone could sit at a table for hours on end reading a book that always seemed to end the same way. Either a bad boy turns good, someone deals with a life changing situation, you know the drill. Then again, it's Emmy who introduced me into reading my favourite all time book. Before we even get to that conversation I'll explain what lead us up to it and how we made our first connection....
Following Emmy into the library, I watched carefully as she made her way towards the far end of the room, towards the drama section. I still remember she walked slowly, her bag comfortably over her shoulder rubbing against her tight leather jacket and a gentle wiggle of her butt in some very tight jeans. My first impression: "For a quiet none threatening girl, she looks pretty damn sexy" At this point, I didn't know what to do as staring at her butt had completely taken over my mind. I thought that maybe I could sneak up behind her, slap her butt and hope she'd take it as a warm hearted friendly giggle but then again I've also seen a lot of guys get a hard slap when doing such a thing. The thought of gently placing my arm around her waist and whispering something sexy also came to mind, and when I say mind I mean literally mind as no matter who the girl was, I would never have the guts to do that unless you had poured a few beers and shots down me neck first.
After a few moments, I started heading in the same direction as Emmy towards the back of the library, this is where my film sense and imagination came into play. By this point in my teenage years I was really into my films due to my uncle and aunty owning the local film store in Hambleton as well as a computer shop where I would get all the latest computer systems and cheaper than usual electronic equipment. Hopefully you remember the classic 1999 teen comedy "Ten Things I Hate About You" starring the late Heath Ledger as edgy and very cocky Patrick Verona who is given the task of securing a date with Katarina "Kat" Stratford the self confessed bitch of the school played by Julia Stiles. That film is what helped me make conversation with Emmy; well in fact it was a certain scene about halfway through the film that helped. There's a scene where Patrick & Kat are in a book store, Patrick trying to get her attention grabs the exact same book off the shelf forcing the two to fight over who should get it. I thought maybe I could use the same technique right there in the library. I wondered if I could pull a movie scene into reality, and so I called action in my head and went for it. There I am trying to be as sneaky as I possibly could, I enter into one of the drama isles and walk down glancing over the books and through the shelf at Emmy on the opposite side as she searched for a book until....
"Do you usually enjoy creeping someone out"? I hear Emmy ask.
"Er... Er.... Er...." I stutter until she stops and looks directly at me.
"Well"!? She asks.
"Er.... Er.... Er...." I just continued stuttering.
My plan blown completely out the window, I really didn't know what to say. Did she want me to be honest or did she expect me to make up some lame excuse as to why I was trailing her through the library? At that moment I turned my back on her and ran as fast as I possibly could towards the exit. Everyone in the building must have thought I was a freak or something because the looks on their faces were of total confusion.
I swear to god, I must have spent the rest of the day shitting myself thinking Emmy was going to end up telling someone that I had been stalking her or something but I was very surprised to find that she never said a word, keeping our library incident a secret. It wasn't until the very end of the day when classes ended and right before leaving key skills class (An extra curriculum which is there to help you get as good marks as you possibly can) Emmy grabbed my arm by the door a moment where Stacey, Andy and Laura all got a little bit confused as to what was going on. Emmy pulled me back making sure she could be alone with me for a short while, that's when she reached into her bag and pulled out a book. The front cover was that of autumn trees with a long road running through them. The book was by Nicholas Sparks "A Walk to Remember" The book was first released in October 1999, in January 2002 it became a movie starring both Shane West & Mandy Moore, my favourite story by book and now my favourite EVER film. It's a story about two North Carolina teenagers, Landon Carter and Jamie Sullivan, who are thrown together after Landon gets himself in trouble and is made to do some community service to payback the town, ultimately meeting Jamie. If you haven't seen the film then make sure it's on your to-do list before you die, also read the book for that extra moment of emotion.
"Read this, maybe next time you'll have something to say" Emmy said as she handed me the old damaged book.
"Excuse me"? I replied with a confused feeling inside.
"Read the book and then try asking me what you wanted to ask me in the library" she insisted.
I think it's time I confessed something, even though Emmy handed me that book I never actually read it, well I did I just went straight to the video store and rented the movie first. I know I cheated but I really never was much of a reader, it wasn't until after watching the movie that I reached for the book and started turning the pages. Being as honest as I possibly can, I really do wish I'd read the book first because the film doesn't really do it justice. There's so much more emotion in the written pages than the spoken scenes. Handing the book back to Emmy a couple of weeks after a two week spring break from college she asked me what I thought of it.
"It wasn't too bad, not really my type of book but it was okay" I insisted.
As I mentioned above, I absolutely loved both the film and book but thought I was best to play down that fact to Emmy because I didn't want her thinking I was some old soppy git who was into the whole romance and seduction stuff. Shrugging her shoulders she walked off with the book in hand, walking past Andy as he entered the room.
"What did you say to her"? He asked.
"What do you mean, what did I say"? I replied.
"Well, she just walked away with one hell of a smile; you must be doing something right. You asked her out yet or not"? He asked.
"Wait, what"? I replied.
"Have you asked her out yet"? He asked again.
"Nah mate, we're just friends" I explained.
That's when I decided to leave before he could ask anymore questions. It's not that I didn't like the girl because I did, and I mean I really liked her. I liked her smile, the way she walked, the way her eyes lit up when talking to me and I even liked how when she was in class listening to Barbara explaining certain stuff she would bite her lower lip with a hint of curiousness in bright blue water coloured eyes. This whole college affair felt like the classic tale of two love struck teenagers that was slowly unfolding before my eyes, only I couldn't come to grips with it. I didn't know if she liked me and I hadn't managed to actually say that I liked her. The question was.... "What should I do"? I must have spent an average of about two - three weeks trying to figure her out but every time I tried making conversation on something that would lead up to asking if she was single or in a relationship, she would always start talking about some other guy she was either interested in or had just split up from. In all honesty, it struck me that she was playing hard to get. After all, she was a couple of years older but what could I possibly do to convince her that I was as mature as she was? I did find out what she wanted to hear but I had to wait a couple of months before that night even arrived by which time I was starting to give up on her.
There we were, sitting in class on yet another really nice sunny day. All we really wanted to do was skip class and enjoy the weather. While on the subject of skipping class, remember Dean? The lad that started college at the same time as myself, by this point in the year he had already dropped out, that's what we were told anyway. The exact reason, we actually know because the final day he was seen was in our IT class about a month earlier. The IT room was packed full of students from loads of other classes catching up on course work in each of their key skills groups, in strolls Dean, he was over an hour late for class, his excuse....
"I had to go home and grab my bag, I forgot it"
That was absolute bullshit, as he sat down the stench of alcohol was as clear as the sun beaming through the blinds, he stank like he'd had an amazing night out, Barbara wasn't very impressed.
"Are you being serious? Is that your bottom of the line excuse"? She requested.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Did I mention this was also the first time he'd been seen since the first day of college? I'm not joking; he had literally got away with skipping almost the whole term. Personally, I think the only reason he was kept on record and allowed to enter college that day was so Barbara could have the pleasure of kicking him out herself. Before Dean could think of another excuse to his lateness he was escorted out of class by security and the head of our year, which was the last time we ever saw of him, but most recently from an old friend I was told he actually became a Nurse and has now really excelled in the world, at least something good came from him being so bad all those years prior. So anyway, there we are sitting in class, one row of windows, the sun beaming in and heating up the back of our necks. Andy and Stacey were listening to some music on his trusted iPod; it was so loud we could hear it, he should have actually tried turning it down because he was paying much more attention to falling asleep as he pulled his baseball cap down over his eyes and leant back in his chair. At this point, Laura stands and walks towards the front of the class, asking permission from our tutor she starts explaining away.
"As you all know we are desperately trying to secure the rights to throw a middle of term type of prom slash party and we still really need some ideas, you got any"? She asked.
"Yeah, Make sure there's somewhere with plenty of ventilation!" He insisted as everyone burst into laughter. The reason we was laughing is because what Andy meant by that was that he wanted to make sure he had somewhere to smoke a joint. Luckily I had never touched weed because I didn't like messing with my mind but it was still an easy situation to find the funny side. Even though Andy smoked weed, I still respected him because of the fact he never tried forcing the stuff on me although I remember one lad trying to do it and Andy kicking off with him. It was a rainy afternoon and we decided to go down to the colleges second but smaller full smoking cafeteria where we could enjoy a few games of pool and hang out. While enjoying a game a couple of lads entered the cafeteria via a side exit, I recognised them straight away as my past almost caught up with me, they were from my old school, turns out they were just visiting some older brothers who attended the collage. Trying not to be recognized I just carried on playing pool until one of them approached Andy and tapped him on the shoulder. Obviously they knew Andy had some weed on him, that being the ultimate reason they approached him, that and because he knew their brother. Before the two young lads could be caught by college tutors for not being students, Andy led them back out the fire exit, at which point their brother also joined them. Andy waved me over because he wanted a cigarette so he could roll a joint using the tobacco, custom for most weed smokers. I agreed and followed them outside as I fancied a normal cigarette away from the confines of the already smoke clouded cafeteria, that and being able to have a conversation with a friend because at this time in my life I was happy to make as many new friends as possible. I actually accquired two friends from the ones I mentioned above, the reason being, before starting college I changed my image a little by shaving off my hair to the trusted 0.5 length, yes, I know, the skin head look, really?
Yes really, it was much easier, I could wake up for college and not have bed hair, it was the perfect style for the days ahead. The only reason I accquired the friends above is because even after thinking they would recognize me they didn't have a clue who I was and thinking back on it, why would I even be attending college in the first place? That part of my life had been kept a secret from my old school friends for so many reasons. College was my new start and the unveiling of the new me. Even on the colleges morning register Barbara would call my name as Gaz instead of Garry, Barbara treated me as a student and I treated her as an amazingly good tutor.
While outside, Andy lit up his joint and started sharing it with some friends but also being a mature and not allowing the young visiting lads to smoke as they passed it round in a sharing style known as taxi. You'd take quick puffs, hold the fumes in until it finally got back to you and the process would start again, now you see why a large group was better than him smoking on his own, he could get stoned faster. It was the large group that brought Andy into sticking up for me... As the group passed the joint round it reached this older lad, he was very tall and built like a tower block, as he took his puffs he held the joint out to me which I shrugged off, he then passed it back to Andy. As the joint continued round the group the lad started asking if I wanted some and why I didn't take it from him when he offered it because it was only respectful to share. I kept insisting I didn't smoke weed, it didn't do anything for me but the lad continued preaching that it would make me feel much more relaxed and passionate about concentrating when we went back to class. I continued again and again insisting I didn't want any of the weed until suddenly Andy made his presence known.
"WILL YOU LEAVE HIM ALONE FOR FUCK SAKE!?" He shouted.
The lad finally shut up and backed away from me. From that moment on Andy had my up most respect; he knew I didn't smoke the hard stuff so he didn't agree with someone trying to force it on me, that's what a true friend does. If I remember correctly, that was also the only time I had ever seen Andy get angry about something and raise his voice.
A few weeks later, the middle of term slash prom had arrived. I remember the day right down to every last second because it would be my very first party, and I mean literally very first party. I was only sixteen and the party was booked to take place at a nightclub in the centre of Blackpool, the thing that made it much scarier was that everyone would be consuming alcohol and I wasn't even old enough to be drinking let alone get served at the bar. Laura had made it very clear that even though most of the party had been organised by the students with tutors overseeing the smaller details, if I didn't get past the doormen/bouncers then I WAS NOT getting in the club. End of.