A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times



  BOYS SHORTS


         
               I was deeply embroiled in the Manchester Education Authority schooling system for a whole twelve years. And they were, by and large, in an up and downy kind of way, pretty good years: fairly happy, reasonably leafy, a bit sportier than I was in the mood for at the time, but full of good (and sometimes highly eccentric) teaching. In fact, it was only later that it dawned on me and I gradually came to fully realise, how well I had actually been taught at my schools, Victoria Park Junior and Stretford Grammar School for boys – particularly in English, and particularly in Physics. (Odd that). However, the whole twelve year experience is, for me, completely overshadowed by the memory of one terrible, mind-scarring experience. I am referring to the episode of ‘The Wrong Trousers’. Let me explain.

            I have always been absurdly, ridiculously tall. To give you an idea – when we went on school expeditions to Interesting and Improving Places, the form master wouldn’t say “Meet under the clock tower,” or “Meet under the War Memorial.” He would say “Meet under Robinson.” This was because I was at least as visible as anything else on the horizon, and could be re-positioned at will. When in physics, we were asked to repeat Galileo’s demonstration that two bodies of differing weight will fall to the ground at the same speed; I was the one who was given the task of dropping the cricket ball and the pea, because it was easily quicker than going to an upstairs window. I always towered over everybody. I found my best friend, right back at the very beginning of my school career aged seven, when I introduced myself to another new boy (Stephen Beckett) by coming up behind him and, in a spirit of experimentation, dropping a heavy text-book on his head and saying, “Hello, my name is Andy Robinson, what’s yours?” This, for Stephen Beckett, I’m sure was his one terrible, mind-scarring memory.

            In the Prep School, where I was for five years out of my twelve, we all wore short trousers: grey shorts with blazers in the summer and in the winter those pepper-and-salt tweed suits with short trousers. There is of course an extremely good reason for wearing shorts when you’re young, even in the depths of an English winter (and they were much colder then, weren’t they?). According to Wired Magazine, we can’t expect to see self repairing trousers until about the year 2030, but ever since we emerged from whatever trees or swamps we lived in five million years ago, believe it or not, we have had self repairing knees.

            So, shorts made sound commercial sense to parents throughout the land. And even though all of us kids had to wear them, it did begin to get a bit ridiculous in my case. It wasn’t towering over the other boys I minded so much, it was towering over the teachers. Wearing shorts. My mother pleaded with the principal on one occasion to please make an exception in my case and let me wear long trousers. But Mrs Challenger, ever fair but firm, said no: I was only six months away from going up into big school, whereupon I, along with everybody else, would be able to wear long trousers. I would therefore, just have to wait.

            At last I left the Prep School. And two weeks before the beginning of the Michaelmas term, my mother took me along to the school uniform shop to buy - at last - a long-trousered school uniform. And guess what? They didn’t make bloody trousers in a size long enough for me and my by then, curiously appealing inside leg. Let me just repeat that, so the full horror of the situation can settle on you as you are reading this, as it did on me that day in the summer of 1969, standing in the school shop. They didn’t have any school trousers long enough for me. They would have to go away and make them specially. That would take as long as six weeks. SIX WHOLE WEEKS! Six minus two was, as we had been so carefully and painstakingly taught, four. This obviously meant that for four whole weeks of the new term at my new school, I was going to be the ONLY boy in school, wearing shorts.

For the next two weeks I took up playing in the traffic, being careless with kitchen knives, wrestling vicious dogs and neglecting to stand clear of the doors on station platforms, but, sadly, I still led a charmed life, and I had to go through with it: four weeks of the greatest humiliation and embarrassment ever known to man or, rather, to that most easily humiliated and embarrassed of all creatures, the overgrown twelve-year-old schoolboy. We’ve all experienced those painful dreams in which we suddenly discover we are stark naked in the middle of the High Street. Believe me, this was much worse, and it wasn’t a dream either. Being stark naked in the middle of the High Street would have been a much more preferable experience to a hormone ravaged scholar.

            The story rather fizzles out around about there because a month later, of course, I got my long trousers and was readmitted back into polite society. But, believe me, I still carry the scars inside, and though I try my best to bestride the world like the Colossus I naturally am, writing best-selling books, stories, articles  and... (well that’s about it, really, I suppose). if you ever come across a maladjusted, socially isolated, sad, hunched emotional cripple, when you ever bump into me, then it’s those four weeks of having to wear the wrong trousers, in September of 1969 that are to blame.



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