Sausages and School Days
|This has got to be the weirdest news story of the week. A chap is driving along with his window open when a car passes coming the other way and he feels a sudden pain in his nose. When he looks down there is a frozen sausage and a whole lot of blood in his lap. His nose has been broken by a frozen sausage that flew through his open car window. Explain that.|
Last night I had a dream in which it didn’t hurt and I didn’t need the wheelchair so long as I ran everywhere I wanted to go. It was only when I slowed up that it hurt and I had to sit down or else collapse. I run a lot in my dreams. Before I was ill I used to love running. Sometimes I would do it just for the hell of it, in any open space I came to. I was never fast but I could go for a long way. That was me and all physical activity; not much speed, loads of stamina. My co-ordination was never very good either but being tall I was expected to be good at tennis and netball (netball, my American friends is a sort of sexually repressed basketball; you can’t bounce the ball, you must stand still keeping one foot flat on the ground when the ball is in your possession and only girls in pleated skirts and knee-high socks are allowed to play. We even had garters as compulsory uniform to hold our socks up. And grey flannel gym knickers which we called baggies. There is nothing sexy about grey flannel gym knickers.)
Cross country running at school was great because we were surrounded by real countryside, so we would run down to the River Orwell (after which George Orwell took his name), along the bank a bit, up through the fields and back onto the school grounds. Yeah, I did go to a bit of a posh school, but I had an assisted place, a sort of scholarship for bright kids living in terrace houses.
Being a little socialist, I didn’t want to go. But on balance, it was fun, I’m glad I did just because it expanded my horizons so much. I felt like a freak that didn’t fit in but I imagine I would have felt that way wherever I was and at least at this school I had lots of excuses for being on the edges; I was working-class, I didn’t have a pony and I was proud of the fact. But what a place like that does for the imagination…
The building was a eighteenth century mansion which sat on a hill above the river, with landscaped gardens, a stable-block, chapel and a bit of a wood where there was a stone headstone to a pet dog that had belonged to the family when this had been a stately home. There were some modern school buildings and a massive theatre and sports-hall that had was brand new the year I got there. There were eighty acres of grounds to wander round (and navigate in between lessons). And it was so very easy to find somewhere to be alone indoors or out. And as soon as you were alone, especially in the old buildings, you had the feeling that you weren’t.
The education was also very good, I can’t fault it even though I haven’t managed to do anything with it. And I did have good friends and I did have a lot of fun. And I continued to rebel against the widespread, deep-seated snobbery, both individual and institutional. I think all that fighting back prepared me to deal with crippledom. Ah well, I really am rambling today so I best shut up and go do something useful.