BACK TO SCHOOL
A belated Happy New Year!
So, life has been one mad rush as usual…
What with December being a busy time at work as a chef, family life, and of course the writing and all the promotional stuff that comes with it, I seem to have skipped a couple of months.
Last December, Friday the 13th in fact, saw me return to my secondary school, Harry Carlton Comprehensive, or as it is known these days, East Leake Academy. It’s strange, but more and more significant events – moving house for example – seem to keep happening to me on Friday the 13th. So much so, I no longer feel daunted by it.
That said, when I was originally invited to stand up and do a full day of workshops on creative writing in front of secondary school children, I’m not going to say the thought didn’t fill me with more than a little trepidation. What do I know about teaching school kids? I thought. What if I make a right twit out of myself? What if they throw balls of paper at me and heckle me? But there is something about pushing myself out of my comfort zone, not taking the coward’s way out, that somehow appeals to me. And I knew that once I’d committed, there would be no turning back. So I said yes!
I was both flattered and honoured to be asked, to be honest. I pictured the headlines in the Echo and Evening Post, ‘Local author returns to secondary school where it all began!’ It didn’t happen…
The day went without a hitch, however, and it was a genuine pleasure to meet and hopefully inspire a whole school years’ worth of 12 year olds to be more creative with their English language and writing. It was especially satisfying (and occasionally amusing) to hear their descriptive pieces, incorporating some of the writing tips and tricks I had tried to instil in them, being bravely read out. They were amazing! And I say ‘occasionally amusing’, as one particular student kept comparing everything to a carrot. Culminating in the use of ‘Donald Trump’s face is as orange as a carrot,’ as a surprisingly effective example of a simile!
It was also interesting seeing the teacher/student dynamic, and how much it has changed since I was at school. I left in 1991, when you still got a clip round the ear and a whack on the legs with a badminton racket if you stepped out of line, so was pretty taken aback at how different things were compared to ‘our day’. God, I sound old. It was great chatting to the teachers, too, over lunch – it was the morning after Election Day, so conversation was dominated by politics. I tried to lighten the mood somewhat by, when being asked about my time at Harry Carlton, regaling them with a short anecdote that has become widely known since as ‘The Taming of the Shrew Incident’.
OK, since you have asked, I will share it with you…
Around the age of 15 I became partial (far too early) to an alcoholic beverage or two. It was a way of bolstering my confidence, the proverbial ‘Dutch Courage’, I guess. To those of you who have read The Caterpillar Girl, this character trait might sound rather familiar! Drinking was also my way of dealing with a stressful or, in some cases, boring situation. Anyway, our GCSE English classes were to travel to the theatre by coach – I forget where to, but it was a bit of a trek – to see a play version of The Taming of the Shrew. Typical me, I proceeded to get plastered beforehand and turn up late for the bus. Therefore, the only spaces left on the coach for me and my pal were opposite a couple of teachers (clearly no one wanted to sit there!) After getting ticked off for keeping the bus waiting, I then decided – probably in retaliation, rebel that I was (Lord knows what I was thinking) – to light a cigarette. Again, I was reprimanded, told to put the cigarette out immediately, and threatened with being turfed off the bus.
Somehow, we made it to the theatre. But what with the arduous journey and the skinful of liquor I had consumed, by the time we arrived, I was feeling decidedly queasy. And I just managed to disembark hurriedly from the bus before throwing up in a kerbside bin.
By this stage, the teachers were increasingly irate, exasperated, but also a little worried, and they bundled me into the theatre. Unfortunately for them, in order to keep a close eye on me, they made the grave error of sitting me next to my English teacher at the time. Little did they know, I had a mad crush on her (I won’t mention her name), and feeling a little better now and maybe inspired by the play, decided to make a pass at her – putting my hand on hers, staring into her eyes, and from what I can remember, declaring my undying love for her! Needless to say, she spurned my drunken advances, which I don’t think fazed me at the time, merely disappointed me. I then promptly fell asleep for the rest of the performance.
I thought it best not to share this sordid tale with the students…
That’s it for now.
Keep reading and getting in touch.
And get a little bit of Eva in your life 😉