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A life in optics part 2

Updated: Feb 20

The teenage years

Back in school we were introduced to “streaming” where the brightest kids were put in stream one and so on down, there was none of this namby pamby modern thinking, if you were thick you went in the bottom stream and that was your lot.

I never at any point from then on until we reached 6th form when we were all bunged in together rose above stream 2.

Dad didn’t take this well, he’d always been top of his school and never really came to terms with the fact that he’d sired a drongo.

Fortunately the brains, having skipped a generation, chose to remanifest in the kids who’ve done quite well for themselves.

11 plus came and went and I found myself in the newfangled comprehensive school, the very first year they had got rid of the older Grammer and Secondary modern schools, a small but unsuccessful nod to a more inclusive system.

All that happened was the thicko’s now found themselves in stream 11 rather than stream 4. My chums who found themselves in this predicament were somewhat and rather understandably a bit miffed at this turn of events.

It was in this environment that I continued to set records, only one of which I’d include on any sane CV, I briefly held the school long jump record before being usurped by some lanky pod.

I earned the dubious distinction of being kicked out of the Scouts aged 12 although in my defence by then the fishing bug had well and truly bitten and to me anything that didn’t involve fishing was well, just not fishing.

Discipline went up a notch and as Mum & Dad were keen for me to progress.

Biffa (the headteacher and maths master) was given carte blanche to do what he deemed necessary, I was sat right at the front of the class within easy reach.

 I well remember one day when we were marking our homework, a bunch of maths problems, I’d done nothing wrong apart from working out the answers on a scrap of paper and only showing the final solution. He simply reached over the desk and grabbing a handful of hair lifted me bodily right up in the air and over the desk.

Worst was I also got grief when I got home as I’d obviously done something wrong.

At this point it would be incumbent to introduce some of my fishing buddies to the narrative Phil, Buggeritt, Jimmy and Buckethead were the main protagonists.

Phil was my best friend through school and also instrumental in christening Buckethead although we tended to refer to him as “Bucket” so as not to confuse him with Spongehead who we’ll briefly meet later.

Bucket was the sort of lad the more fluffy parents would have described as a “bit of a dreamer”  which amazed us as we all thought he was just a bit tŵp. 

One day during class Bucket was absent mindedly looking out the window making “Pfft” noises.       “Pfft”…      “Pfft”The class fell silent as Biffa stalked his pray.

Moving amazingly lightly on his feet for such a big bloke biffa approached downwind then with a swift twist of the ear dragged Bucket to the front where a green metal waste bin stood waiting.

Bucket was “invited” to kneel with his head in said bin as if he were paying homage to some ancient deity. Picking up the chalkboard ruler, a hefty metre long chunk of hardwood Biffa quietly invited bucket to “Do it again boy

What happened next was pure Tom & Jerry, we all leant forward expecting the predictable ruler meets bum scenario but Biffa had other idea’s, lining up like Arnold Palmer for a tee shot he took aim at the bin, you could hear a pin drop…

A barely audible    “Do it again boy”    

Not being the quickest on the uptake Bucket duly obliged 

A tinny  “pfft”    and           BAM   ! ! ! !  

when he could eventually stand up his head was visibly wobbling on his shoulders.

Now no doubt at this point some of our younger readers are quite rightly appalled and I must admit I have to agree with them.

Yes kids we have to face that elephant in the room, what about Bucket’s pronoun’s? 

I mean no one ASKED him if he wanted to be called “Bucket”,

maybe he secretly identified as a bin?

There again “Wastebin head” simply wouldn’t have had the same “ring” to it, and certainly not as much as bucket was experiencing at that precise moment in time.

My formative years seem to have been mainly spent writing lines.

In the early days it was 100x I must not talk in class this was later supplanted by “50 verbs Rees” said in a nasal twang by "Nasty Norris" the French teacher.

For all of you who haven’t experienced the pleasure a French verb looks something like this:

Je suis         Nous Sommes

Tu es  Vous Etes

il est  Ils sont

Which had to be written out the proscribed number of times, these punishments were interspersed with casual acts of violence which would have certainly led to the guilty teachers getting their collars felt these days

And dodging the brickbats from parents when various school reports invariably concluded with “Can do better” or “Must try harder”

My second and third records were set coming up to O levels

I was, at least at the time I left the highest qualified left handed script writer (Calligrapher) ever to come out of Wales by virtue of being the only

LH Calligrapher to come out of Wales.

My Calligraphy qualification also came at some cost,

The art teacher was ex army so i'll call him "Sarge" to avoid causing any of his descendants embarrassment.

if you think of Windsor Davies in “It ain’t half hot mum” as a kind of woke version of Sarge then you’ve got the picture

Sarge wasn’t one to hide his light under a bushel,  he reckoned anyone who couldn’t draw a circle free hand was a retard and when he rapidly concluded how severely artistically challenged our group was he had an idea

Right you lot, you’re doing Calligraphy it’s never been done before (as an O level subject) but I can teach you, in fact I once taught a left handed and they’re as close as you’ll get to a sp_s _ ic,"

I cautiously raised my (left) hand.

I often wonder how Sarge would have fared in the modern world.

For anyone who doesn’t know Calligraphy is best pictured as those medieval scripts with a whopping great T covered in flowers (or whatever the first letter of the first word was)

followed by neatly ordered lines of what you could call Ye Olde Englishe Scripte.

On one memorable occasion Alby Hobbs was tasked with writing out the Lords Prayer and asked me to dictate it to him. We all knew it well enough having had it drummed in from an early age but meticulously forming each word a letter at a time it was easy to lose track.

I soon got bored and started changing the order of the words,

Alby didn't notice until after half an hour of tongue exposed concentration and near the bottom of the page before the penny finally dropped.

The subsequent trip to the headmasters office netted me a bit of a wigging and a school record number of verbs, but like Andy playing Sull’aria in the Shawshank redemption the punishment was almost worth it.

O levels loomed at which point I fell quite ill, like couldn't get out of bed ill, mum and dad weren't going to let a bit of malingering ruin their big day and off they went to their chum the local doctor and procured some "special" medicine with heavy emphasis on the "special"

mum would tell me no more but hinted that he'd had to take it from his "restricted" (said soto voce) cabinet

To this day I've no idea what it was, I turned up pretty spaced out and the exams passed in a blur, it also didn't go unnoticed that the local racehorses rather underperformed at the next big meeting but I'm sure that was just a coincidence.

I just needed to do well enough to carry on into the 6th form, Maths and Physics I was OK with, English literature and History I was good at as I enjoyed reading

English Language was a potential banana skin being somewhat "examiner" depend. I'd long since perfected the art of writing a good essay by using the simple tactic of plagiarising the work of my favourite fishing author, the magnificently monikered Negley Farson

(real life inspiration for the more famous but totally fictitious JRR Hartley)

Every essay I wrote was about fishing no matter it invariably had bugger all to do with the topic that was required

My English teacher had long since twigged on to this particular wheeze but the examiner had no such luxury of familiarity.

The topic was 500 words on "Travelling into the sunset"

470 words of wonderfully crafted (and totally nicked) text describing a fishing trip to the river bank ended with..

.... cycling home I basked in the magnificent rays of the setting sun.

The examiner probably concluded that I was maybe just a bit "special" and awarded me a grade 6 (borderline pass)

Having finished my O levels I faced the dilemma of what subjects to choose for A level, the aforementioned punishments had left me with an anathema towards anything that involved a lot of writing which ruled out History (A subject I actually enjoyed) and English literature (again I enjoyed reading) English language was out for the aforementioned plus the fact I’d barely scraped a bottom end pass.

(Ah, that explains a lot I can almost hear a lot of you thinking)


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