THOSE DEVIL-MAY-CARE SCHOOLDAYS

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The whole class had to stay late. Someone let off a stink bomb, so the whole class had to suffer a detention because the culprit wouldn't own up.

Harvey, Jade's grandson, is afraid the record of this crime will ruin his career. That is one serious and thoughtful lad.

'I've had plenty of detentions, don't worry about it,' I told him. 'In my day if it wasn't a detention it would be a pink paper.'

I remember Ron Keeley looking miserable on the school bus.

'What's wrong?'

'Mitchell gave me a pinkie. Six sides on why I am a juvenile menace.'

'Well, just tell it like it is. But you have to watch your content with him, you know. No repetition or anything like that.'

Some teachers didn't care what you wrote so long as you wrote something and covered the paper. Others carefully studied your composition, and it had to make sense.

I didn't have too bad a record at school, though I filled out one or two pink papers.

Plessey, a new boy who had initially scored well in exams but then dropped down in the lists, was told by Mitchell: 'You've been seen hanging around with the wrong types, people like Dersley.'

Naturally, I was flattered, but on the other hand shocked. I considered I had kept all the major school rules and edicts and was close to being exemplary. Maybe I came over as being somewhat 'cavalier'.

Looking back, we gave too much credit to what the masters were instilling into us. The idea they had was: don't be too flash, boys, patient merit always succeeds (after all, look at us).

Oh yeah? If it always succeeds, how patient are you supposed to be? Are you supposed to wait fifty years, hoping for a tangible kickback? It was this kind of modesty and optimism that kept me labouring in the small press salt mine for more than forty years.

As for being a rebel in school, most of the masters must have been every bit as bad as us back in the day. They were probably half-ready to dismiss our pranks as simple high spirits.

Old Mitchell for one did not subscribe to that line, though.