That 1st day at school feeling? ...
It was early September 1966. England had just won the World Cup. We all lived in a Yellow Submarine. We'd had more than one Sunny Afternoon with The Kinks that summer. The industrial landscape was grey and the streets cobbled, but for me, the skies had been blue and our cheeks had been rosy since time began. My father resembled an Irish James Dean and my mother was a double for Petula Clark. I was Robin to my brother's Batman. He was a cowboy and I was an Indian (tied to a tree). We sat in a tin bath in front of the fire. I believed him when he told me that Eleanor Rigby had just moved in next door to the sweet-shop.
The schoolyard. Aged 4. Short pants. Tarmac, trepidation and snot. I remember the obligatory boy with the white patch of sticking plaster over one eye. His hideous black-framed NHS spectacles sat upon his lop-sided ears. My new shoes were rubbing already. The older kids in the corner mischievously sang that summer's bizarre novelty hit, "There Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Haa!" Mum had cut my hair around a basin and I had a lop-sided fringe. I smelled of camomile lotion following the recent spotty Chicken Pox affair. 2 lemon bon-bons gathered lint in my pocket.
The teachers looked about 55; looking back, they were probably 27. 'Maybe they'll teach me how to become a real Thunderbird?' (I had imagination - what more would I need in life?) And the girls. Lots of girls. Mostly pig-tailed, missing their front teeth and ugly as sin; but one or 2 were pretty. Handstands against the wall with knickers on display. It was all too much! I'd never considered that girls existed before. I had football, a dog and a tortoise - girls had never been necessary.
The bell clanged. This was it. ''You're a big boy now. These are the best days of your life''. (Had I known about God then, I'd have asked him to help me). I desparately wanted to cry when my mother said goodbye. That wretched stomach through a mangle feeling. She spat on a handkerchief and wiped my grubby face one last time and she was gone. I noticed a pile of freshly steaming sick was being covered by a man with a shovel and a bucket of sawdust. Some boys were still sobbing into their mothers' aprons. My bottom lip wobbled precariously - but I must've somehow realised that future playground pecking order and classroom kudos could not be gained by wailing like a 'puff'. Besides, I'd previously learnt how to be 'mummy's brave soldier' when TV's Andy Pandy show ended, and the heart-wrenching signature tune had played .. ''Time to go home, time to go home .. Andy is waving goodbye''.
On that very first morning I remember learning 2 important things. Lesson 1: 'If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands'. Lesson 2: Don't sit next to the boy who's shit himself.