School Years: Part I – Starting Out

Lemme tell you a little bit about the school which had a huge influence on who I am today; as it turned an 11-year old socially awkward lad who liked maths and sport into an 18-year old socially awkward lad who liked maths and sport. St. Wilfrid’s, Featherstone.

I guess I should describe Featherstone to those of you who are alien to all things north of Watford Gap (there are people up here, y’know!). First of all, we call it Fev – much less of a mouthful, and much more Yorkshire. It’s an ex-coal-mining town, so most of the people there either worked ‘darn t’pit’ or are descendants of those who did, so them in Fev dunt ‘alf know meaning of ‘ard work! Unfortunately, the coal mining retirees are now plagued with a fair proportion of chavs, who make up the other significant part of the population. There are lots of crap shops on the terraced high-street, along with about a one-to-one pub to resident ratio. I’m trying to think of something to gloss over all this, but I really can’t. Luckily I live in the next town over! Anyway, here’s a picture of the ‘high street’:

Featherstone

See. It’s well busy. But not very glamourous; I think that’s the queue to get out of Fev.

Now, onto St. Wilfrid’s – my school! Where to start. Year 7?

I vividly remember the first day of school. First call of duty was: get dropped off by parents and follow signs for ‘Bruynseels Hall’ (named after first headmaster, I think) where we were herded together like clueless bovines into our forms – 10 sections of the year group each containing 29 others that we would be stuck with for most of the first 2 years. Second point of call was to find absolutely anybody I knew from junior school and avoid meeting anyone new at all costs. Didn’t quite succeed there; found a guy I knew from football and sat awkwardly next to him while he talked to his mate. Standard set up for the next 7 years. But anyway, found my form – Clitheroe – in which were two of my best mates from junior school going by the names of Reeves and Haynes (cue relief, I don’t think we found out who would be in our forms until that day!). I think we were then whisked away to do some cringy get-to-know-each-other exercises like ‘let’s go around the room’ or ‘catch the ball and say something about yourself’ or ‘who can make up the best story about themselves to make them instantly popular and interesting’. Oh and our tutor was nice. Apparently she looked like someone’s Mum which for a bunch of 11 year-olds became a hilarious running gag for a good 3 years.

At some point in the day we probably got a talk from our head of year, Mr Wass, who was the kind of guy you feel you could approach, but not after sunset. He had a disturbing Chuckle Brothers moustache thing going on and a tendency to wear ‘cat’s died’ suit trousers, but he was cool at heart.

So yeah, that was day uno. Not sure if I made any new friends that day. Probably didn’t; probably just wanted to get it over with without doing something that would subject me to ridicule me for the next 7 years.

I remember our first P.E. lesson. We did a ‘shuttle run’ fitness test to group us into ability sets. Doesn’t really make that much sense, our primary sport was rugby league and since when have they been the pinnacle of fitness?! But anyway, it’s the method they used and thankfully I did enough to get in the top set, which would play a huge part in defining social status in school. That’s just how it worked – if you didn’t play football or rugby to a decent level, you would have to have unbelievable banter to be in the ‘cool’ group. It can be a bit of a shame how that happens, and what’s more we were separated into two halves of the year until year 9. As a result it can take years to meet some great friends who just happened to be in the other half or who didn’t have time to eat their breakfast on the day of the first P.E. lesson.

Thus, came the birth of break/lunchtime football/rugby. Absolute highlight of school no doubt. There’s something about blasting a ball at a fence as hard as you can that forms an unbreakable bond between lads. You don’t even have to speak to each other, a casual ‘oof’ or ‘chuffin ‘ell’ would do and you’re friends for life. I will talk more about these times in later posts – as there are many-a-story to tell – but for now we’ll just say ‘spiralling’ and a guy called Wimpo played a big part.

So yeah, that was the start of a pretty awesome 7-year journey I will take you through in this series of blogs. Hope I’ve intrigued you enough to want to see what the next chapter entailed, and hope some of my friends will find this vaguely reminiscent!

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