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Back to school: Team Weekend share their playground tales

By Andy Richardson | Features | Published:

Pity the class of 2020.

Back to school

As if things weren’t bad enough when you ascend to The Big School, this year’s intake have had five months of This Morning, Loose Women and Escape to the Country to contend with.

There’s been little learning, no preparation and zero time to forge alliances so the bullies go and pick on some other poor unfortunate.

It’s not just the new intake who will suffer.

Those who are heading into their final year find themselves between three-and-four-months behind, those without access to a laptop at home are even worse off while teachers have been spending their summer learning about hand sanitisers, micro droplets and false negatives, rather than sunning themselves in France.

Fear not. Now is not the time for dismay. Getting the kids out of the house means parents have the living room to themselves again.

The kitchen is no longer a faux classroom and there’s no longer any need to juggle processing the annual accounts with teaching your kid the capitals of the world.

Belmopan, my friends, is the capital of Belize and Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the capital of Sri Lanka, NOT Colombo.

The worst start to a school term ever need not set you back.

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With our handy guide to being back to school, you too can learn how to raid the Christmas fund and spend the money on beer, chat up Louise Mansell – don’t worry, there’s a Louise Mansell in every school, so look away now, Mr and Mrs Mansell – while steering clear of reprobates who are from the wrong side of the tracks.

Gainful employment awaits even if your breakfast is Dairylea and chocolate and you will one day be able to buy your own house, even if you wanted to be a dinosaur at the age of six.

Just promise our three contributors who won’t track down their old teachers to tell them what they really got up to, back in the day.

Back to school

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Andy Richardson: Not a happy time!

What was your first day at school like?

C’mon. It was – cough – years ago. You don’t really expect me to remember that, do you? I recollect primary school being okay and the first three years of secondary school being full of bullies, humiliation and horror. Going to school in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in the region when you’re the brightest in your year is a recipe for being punched in the face, as I found to my cost.

Who was your first crush?

The woman who wore silver hotpants on Buck Rogers. She was a bit like Wonder Woman and caused biological reactions that were a whole new world. Louise Mansell – nickname ‘Lav’, though I’ve no idea why – was an early recipient of my affections. I think we may have done the: ‘Will you be my girlfriend?’ thing, though it fizzled within a fortnight.

What is your funniest memory of school?

There are no funniest memories of school. It was hell. There were memorable scenes, however. Wearing pink and black check trousers and John Lennon mirrored sunglasses in defiance of the uniform – and, yes, I was sent straight home. Sixth Form was a different matter. The Christmas Tree fund may have been spent on pints of under-age lager at The Coach and Horses, in Hateley Heath. And I distinctly remember snogging Joanne in front of my then-girlfriend Sarah while waiting for the number 78 bus. It was Christmas, I told Sarah, and she seemed not to mind.

What is your happiest memory?

Leaving.

What was your most embarrassing moment at school?

Probably being punched in the face by the school bully, for refusing to ask Louise Mansell whether she had a new boyfriend. Weird stuff happened at my school. Many years later, working in a good job in London, my then-Editor asked his top table what they’d learned from school. Some said leadership, friendship, empathy or academia – I said this: survival.

Did you ever get into trouble? If so what for? Fess up!

There were two years, 13 to 14, when I was Damien, the anti-Christ, who was forever getting into trouble. Smashing the taillight of the school minibus while a group of us were passing round whisky on a trip back from North Wales was probably the worst. We tried to conceal our Hooch in a can of Coke, then foolishly passed it to the biology teacher, Mr Brady, to sip. My house master muttered darkly about ‘final nail in the coffin’ at the end of that episode.

What was in your lunchbox?

Jam sandwiches. Curly. No butter.

Did you have a nickname? What was it?

Spot. I had freckles. My school wasn’t a place for those you might describe as bright, imaginative or creative – or, indeed, accurate.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer.

If you could go back and give your 15-year-old self some advice what would it be?

Get the hell out of here. My parents did, in fact, subsequently get me into a different school. When I hit 16, they sent me on a bus ride to another school. They were two of the happiest years of my life – an antidote to the hateful, hate-filled place I’d previously endured.

Dan and Superted

Dan Morris: Orange pants and Dairylea

What was your first day at school like?

Awesome. Knee-high socks at the ready and a stuffed ‘Superted’ (old school) under my arm, I strolled up to the gates as smart and shiny as a new pin. By the time my mum picked me up at 3.30pm my tie was round my head, my shirt was well and truly ragged, and my knee-highs looked like they’d been on safari.

Who was your first crush?

Nicola Wood. She was the apple of my eye until I was at least eight, and a good family friend. Pretty, blonde and smiley, she was every four-year-old boy’s dream. When I was about six she told me she wanted to marry me. I was a very proud chap indeed.

What is your funniest memory of school?

In my first nativity, I played one of the sheep (two years later I got to play God – talk about climbing the career ladder!) and my best friend was cast the same. On our opening night we entered the stage as proud as punch, our costumes having been lovingly made by our mothers. We did our bit and did it well, but, alas, the exhilaration of the world of acting proved too much for my pal. When it came time to exit stage right, the fine fellow sheep beside me had decided now was the time to catch forty winks. I could hardly leave him on his own – he was my buddy. So I stubbornly refused to depart the spotlight until my little chum’s mum and a teacher had arrived to rouse him. The sheep were definitely a favourite that year.

What is your happiest memory?

The look on my dad’s face when I made my speech as Head Boy at my secondary school leavers’ ceremony. He’s always been the most supportive bloke who ever lived. No one could have asked for a better father, and I was really proud to make him proud that day.

What was your most embarrassing moment at school?

Busting my arm at sports day and the whole school getting a good look at my bright orange pants while I was lying helpless on the running track. Not a winning start to adolescence.

Did you ever get into trouble? If so what for? Fess up!

Many times – that’s the job of a little boy! Never anything monstrous when at primary or secondary school really, but I did once throw a cup of milk over my nursery teacher after she quite rightly told me off for something else. Sorry Mrs Poole!

What was in your lunchbox?

Chocolate and Dairylea. Breakfast of champions.

Did you have a nickname? What was it?

Boris. They were an inventive bunch, my classmates... At the time there weren’t really that many other famous Borises other than Yeltzin and the chap from the James Bond flick, Goldeneye. It’d certainly be a different experience having that nickname these days.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A dinosaur. Then a mad scientist... then an artist, and then, a journalist!

If you could go back and give your 15-year-old self some advice what would it be?

The lottery numbers for Saturday, July 20, 2008 will be 05, 18, 43, 22, 30 and 44. The bonus ball will be 12. Other than that mate, work hard, do your best and look after your pals. If you crack that, you’re doing fine.

Heather's first day at primary school

Heather Large: Iceland trip and a duck that didn't need saving

What was your first day at school like?

I remember my first day at secondary school more vividly than my first day in reception class - although I've seen the photos of me posing with my Postman Pat satchel, Care Bears lunch box and PE bag. But the first day of Year 7 I recall being a whirlwind experience. After catching the scary school bus with the older kids for the first time, getting lost while trying to find different classrooms and generally feeling more than a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information being thrown at us, I was utterly exhausted by the end of it and not really sure I wanted to go back for another day.

Who was your first crush? And did you have a crush on a teacher? Name names.

A lady never tells... I realise that's a bit of a cop out but I think the classmate in question may still live in the area and I'm blushing at just the thought of him reading this so my lips are remaining sealed. I can honestly say that I never had a crush on a teacher. Like most people I had some favourite teachers- and some downright terrifying ones - but never any that I fancied. One of my friends was besotted with one of the history teachers and would often be caught writing her first name alongside his surname on her exercise books and never seemed to mind that he must have seen it when he marked her work. Maybe I'm just easily embarrassed.

What is your funniest memory of school?

Trying to rescue a duck from the bank of the River Severn during a free period in sixth form. I don't think the duck, which we thought might have an injured leg, appreciated us trying to save it. It certainly didn't make it easy for us and we just ended up completely covered in mud as we chased it up and down the river bank to catch it. Looking back I'm sure what we were going to do if we managed to catch it because we hadn't gone prepared for a rescue, there wasn't a box to put it safely inside. We would have had an awkward 15 minutes walk to the nearest veterinary practice with a wriggly, ungrateful duck. After the duck had gotten away from us yet again and we had to admit defeat, we saw it walking a further down the river bank, no longer with a limp. I don't think it even needed rescuing in the first place.

What is your happiest memory?

This is an easy one - a trip to Iceland in Year 12 which may be the only reason I chose to study A-level geography. From all of the stunning scenery to witnessing the Northern Lights and taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon, it was an incredible experience from start to finish. We also saw Iceland taken on Northern Ireland in a World Cup qualifier. I remember upsetting some Irish fans sitting behind us when I jumped up as Iceland scored, but it was purely because it was -10c and I was absolutely freezing cold!

What was your most embarrassing moment at school?

At primary school, it would have to be the annual Christmas productions because I hated being in the spotlight and participation was compulsory. At secondary school, there are far too many to mention, sadly. But fainting during a chemistry class must be near the top of the list. I also had a disagreement with a rock while abseiling during a week at Arthog, resulting in me going to hospital for x-rays on my arm. Thankfully no serious damage was done. But being the only person in my class to go down with chicken pox at the same time as one of the science teachers caused no end of teasing. Even though it wasn't scientifically possible for to have caught it from him or vice-versa because we were ill at the same time - proven by my brother contracting a full two weeks after me, no one would listen. Still cringing now.

Did you ever get into trouble? If so what for? Fess up!

Mainly for talking in class, unlike my best friend who seemed to be able to turn to the desks behind us and chat away without being caught, whenever I did it, the teacher seemed to have a sixth sense. My friends and I did get into some trouble for sneaking out of sixth form to visit another mate in hospital but I think the teacher telling us off knew we had done it for a good reason so it was a gentle reprimand.

What was in your lunchbox?

Sandwiches, two pieces of fruit and a flapjack.

Did you have a nickname? What was it?

I didn't have one at school, my name tended to just get shortened to Hev by my friends and the occasional teacher.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A vet until I realised I was far too squeamish- thanks to watching episodes of the BBC's Vets in Practice and seeing some rather gory operations. When I was 15 I did two weeks' work experience at Bridgnorth Journal and was bitten by the journalism bug. The rest is history.

If you could go back and give your 15-year-old self some advice what would it be?

Don't forget to revise tectonic plates for your GCSE geology exam! And try not to worry too much because everything will work out in the end.

Andy Richardson

By Andy Richardson
Feature Writer - @andyrichardson1

Feature writer and food critic Andy Richardson interviews celebrities, writes columns and hangs out with chefs for stories that appear across all group titles.

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