Saturday, September 12, 2009

No one here but us chickens

My daughter is rapidly approaching five-years old, and she often asks when she is going to start school. This has made me cast my own mind back to by first primary school, Fraser Cresent, where I spend a few years before my family moved a few hundred miles away. I only have a few hazy memories of that school.

I remember being shown a sex education film that confused me a bit. It was an explicit film, but only at the microscopic level. Macro details were all rather coy, but under a microscope they showed a sperm fusing with an egg. However, it was chicken sperms and egg, and I was certain for years afterward that sex between humans somehow involved chickens.

Perhaps even more confusing for a young lad was the schools house system, modeled on those great english schools, and now famously used in Hogwarts. I was in Snell House, which meant that sometimes I had to wear something really stupid. So did everyone else. There were sporting events, and a points system. Snell House did not do well. I wasn't sure how I was meant to feel about that.

Walking to and from school had its moments. There were a couple of nesting magpies in the pines of the field that led to the schoolyard. You quickly learnt to avoid having anything shiny on your person.

Playtimes seemed to consist of a large free-for-all brawl where dozens of kids would get together, boys and girls, and wrestle and sucker punch each other until the bell rang. I remember that when one kid discovered the bamboo bushes out the back the whole thing deteriorated into mock sword fights followed by dizzy spells. I'm guessing the teachers weren't worried by their young charges beating each other senseless on a daily basis. Maybe it made for quite, compliant students in the afternoons?

I remember being one of the few boys that was friends with girls. I was often invited to the house of a girl named Gail, where we would play board games such as Which Witch. Then one day I was walking home hand-in-hand with a girl named Robin. We were accosted by some older boys who forced us to kiss. There, in the alley, next to the flowering honeysuckle, I discovered that even bullies can be useful.

Robin and I spent a lot of time together after that. She was my first girlfriend. Robin's father seemed to hate me. He would always keep a close eye on us. I believe he even suggested to my parents that it would be best if the two of us stopped playing together.

He was right to be worried. I may have been young, but I was already trying to figure out where I could get my hands on a live chicken.

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