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Around The Sun: A Sleeveless Blazer

Steve Harrison finds that he is not considered to be grammar school material.

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur – Whatever is said in Latin always sounds profund.

I suppose I was asked to leave school. Sort of expelled, if that is how you want to describe it. I am not ashamed of what happened. Still confused though.

I had always been a retiring lad, unwilling to pursue certain things that the system wanted me to pursue. I sat exams and got "O'' level passes. I was encouraged to take "A" levels, which meant I had to go on to Whitcliffe Mount Grammar School - a very posh school for a boy from a council estate. I ended up there because I could not think of any alternative. Some of my class mates had gone on to Art School. They were lazy, and not gifted artistically. I therefore thought that art school was not the place for me.

There was an immediate problem in going on to Whitcliffe Mount. I had to wear a school uniform. We were a poor family. There wasn't enough money to buy a new uniform. A solution was found. A boy who lived not too far away from us had just left Whitcliffe Mount. He was somewhat larger than me, and his blazer was a bit tatty, especially around the cuffs and elbows. My mother sewed leather patches on the worn parts and said the blazer looked as good as new. She was ever the optimist.

I was self-conscious wearing it. I kept my hands behind my back so that the cuffs could not be seen. There was a scuffed area on the left knee of the trousers, so I sat with my legs crossed, right over left, and I kept them like that even when they went numb.

I never felt comfortable at the grammar school. Most of the kids were toffee-nosed, looking down on me in my scruffy uniform, with my tatty shoes, falling-apart satchel and greasy hair. I was friendless. I felt as though I was a laughing stock, the brunt of jokes.

I still fantasized about life-drawing classes. I got very little work done.

By this time I had discovered music in a big way. In my final months at my previous school we had been allowed to take in record players and play the latest pop songs. I was into The Beatles, Pink Floyd, the whole nine yards... I remember Sony and Cher, not because of their great song “I got you babe” but for Sony's jacket. It made a statement which impressed itself on my mind.

I wasn't particularly rebellious. I was living in a dream world. For some reason I cut off the sleeves and collar of my school blazer. Perhaps I too was trying to make a statement, but more proabably reacting to having to wear a jacket that looked so shabby. Whatever the reason I turned up wearing a highly modified version of the regulation uniform.

What I had done was regarded as an insult to the school's traditions, a challenge to everything that it stood for. Within minutes I was whisked before the headmaster. It was the first time that I had met him face to face, and he did not impress me. In fairness I must admit that the reverse was probably also true.

He said I had been under observation, and he had concluded that in my case further grammar school education was not necessary. He suggested that I should leave school immediately and seek employment. He never used the word "expelled'' though he did say that I should not return to the school. His face was beetroot red. He gave the impression of restraining himself from giving me a good beating.

I was marched off to see the careers officer. He talked to me for all of two minutes. I was given two choices: seek work down a coal mine, or in a textile mill. The headmaster and the careers officer just wanted rid of me.

One thing was certain. I would never set foot in Whitcliffe Mount Grammar School again.


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