Just do enough and no more

I wasn’t a great one for getting involved, never volunteered for anything, preferred anonymity to exhibitionism, my hand would stay firmly by my side when volunteers for anything were requested, I’m sure that I probably went through all five years at Leeds Modern School (six if you count the mistake that was my sixth form attendance) without any of the masters actually realising I was there at all, they’d sit at home one evening making out the end of term reports for our form of thirty boys and they’d get to my name and stop, suck on their pencil and wonder who the hell I was, then probably go back and count all of the reports on the table to check whether I was a renegade that had been wrongly included on their list.

It was fine by me, from day one I adopted the principle of just doing enough not to be noticed, don’t stand out as an excellent scholar but don’t stand out as the class dunce either, sometime during the first year a master had left the form register on his desk one lunchtime and as we browsed its contents we realised that it contained our 11 plus results, the exam that had allowed us to attend these hallowed halls of grammar school education rather than go to the thick kids school down the road like our Ned did.

I checked my 11 plus result, it was one point above the pass mark and it set the scene for my entire senior school career – just do enough and no more.

The school had lots of extra-curricular activities for us boys to get involved in, I didn’t get involved in any of them, the drama club passed me by, the guitar club seemed too difficult, the stamp collectors club was, well, just geeky, the after school swimming club I did attend once but was asked to leave after I ignored instructions not to keep throwing myself off the diving board if I wasn’t at least going to even attempt to form anything that vaguely resembled a proper dive, so I didn’t go back.

I didn’t play football for the school team, or rugby or cricket or athletics, I didn’t attend the school scout troop, I did once attend the Young Christians Society meeting with the rascal Patrick Stewart (not the Star Trek actor) only because he said that it was Phillip Mayberry who conducted the society and he was the worst geek in the whole school and the only boy more senior to us that we had the full permission from all of the senior boys to bully and plague the life out of – we pelted him with pellets of paper that we had pre-soaked in ink and got thrown out of the room by the Religious Education master who we hadn’t noticed sitting in the corner of the room.

I didn’t volunteer myself to go on the school ski-ing trip in the winter of ’68, a huge adventure in those days when most family holidays were taken in the same county that you lived in, the boys who volunteered their parents to pay £70 got to go on a bus all the way to Innsbruck in Austria and ski the Alps for seven days. Two boys from our form went, Asquith and Rowland, arriving at the hotel in late evening they both went for a walk, Asquith slipped on ice on the steps of the hotel and broke his elbow so badly that it was left in a cast for the rest of the first year at school, the next morning Rowland was walking to the hospital to visit him when he slipped on ice too and broke his leg, they spent the whole week in the hospital and came back on the bus not having even walked on snow yet.

I was press ganged into the choir of course, by mistake, my mistake being that when Weber the miserable music master was auditioning all 120 boys in the first year for soprano places I purely by chance stood after David Hay – David Hay could not sing a note in tune if a bunch of desperados had kidnapped his elderly grandmother and demanded only that he sing a note in tune in order to procure her release, they’d have had to kill the grandmother I’m afraid for singing and David Hay were two subjects that we never heard again in the same sentence, unfortunately coming straight after David Hay I sounded marvellous by comparison even though I wasn’t and I was in the choir from whence I would mime my way through several public performances.

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