It's a Guy Thing

Was I ever rumbled?

Old school reports 

The older I get the more I realize that my late dad was right in his assertion that your school days are the best days of your life. I vividly recall how, at the time, I considered how silly this was, since being a school kid was hardcore. I had to do homework, get up early, participate in physical education (to this day I still can’t climb a rope, nor have I ever had occasion to need to do so), and, amongst other horrors, sit cross-legged, arms folded on a hard wooden floor during morning assembly listening to Mr. Backhouse whittle on about some shite or other. Adults could do what they liked and had a shed full of money too. Being deluded, even at such a fragile age, is never a reason to celebrate. 

If I’m honest, I have never bought into the notion of adulthood. Sure, I have managed to fake it, and rather convincingly so, as evidenced by my rather impressive curriculum vitae – former senior police officer, a post-graduate researcher in criminology, and a local politician. But I am at my most comfortable shouting and jumping up and down at the football and speedway, licking a Mr. Whippy ice cream, saying ‘fuck’ a lot, and mucking about with my best mate Arthur (my partner’s 2-year-old grandson). So, am I unique? Or am I just irresponsible? Did my teachers get it right all those years ago? There was only one way to find out – dig out those old school reports. 

After a sweaty experience in the attic, I descended in a triumphant mood. Hidden amongst the other relics of my life – books I have never read, photo albums (who the hell uses them nowadays?), college work, and, pictures that I will never hang again – was the shoebox containing some of my school reports. 

Curled and discolored, with evidence of moisture damage making some impossible to read, the dissertation of my school days saw the light of day once again after decades of isolation. From primary school to college. A time capsule of academia, yet with compelling evidence of my personality too. Had my teachers got it right? Had they sussed me out then? And had my core attributes changed? Had I grown up? More of that later! First off, I required some context. 

My initial introduction to the psychology of human personality was during my policing days when I became a police trainer and latterly gained a certificate in education, qualifying me to teach in the further education sector. Transactional analysis (theorized by Eric Berne, a Canadian-born psychiatrist) engaged with the child ego state. In a nutshell, our propensity to act, for example, unreasonably, petulantly, disruptively, and often, without inhibition. Blimey, that’s me! 

The concept of the inner child, a notion that we all have a childish element within our unconscious mind that exists as a subpersonality that often becomes dominant in times of uncertainty, can be traced back to the early twentieth century. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung theorized that the unconscious mind was made up of layers, including one that stores our personal memories and life experiences, and another that houses behavioral patterns inherited from our ancestors. The latter observation was underpinned by the fact that babies have an immediate attachment to their mother and are fearful of the dark, and that the notion of good and evil are influential themes throughout history. He argued that these were more than just coincidences and were persuasive of shared genetic memories. This got me thinking. Was there a Court Jester hiding somewhere in my family tree? 

Latterly Emmet Fox, a protégé of the New Thought movement, labeled it the ‘wonder child,’ and in more contemporary times Vivian and Arthur Janov expanded upon the idea in the 70’s books ‘The Primal Scream’ and ‘The Feeling Child’. My delve into the history of humankind, as speculated by some of our greatest thinkers, was beginning to chime with my own experiences, although I wondered if I am blessed in being more able to reclaim this unconscious mindset with greater ease. Had age anything to do with it? Probably not I thought as most of the grown-ups I know are firmly stuck in the ‘adult’ ego state, the one that Eric Berne labeled as, logical, reasonable, unemotional, dedicated, and possibly boring! Fuck that for an existence! I want to spend more time in the sandpit with Arthur, making rude noises, laying on our backs throwing balloons into the air, and doing puzzles! 

The dexterity required to complete the Gruffalo jigsaw after being instructed by Arthur to ‘SIT!’ reminded me of the ancient wooden number puzzle based on the works of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle who, it is claimed, said, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” Was this the golden nugget? Was it really all down to childhood, and was my inner child simply more liberated, and was it a true reflection of Aristotle’s mantra? This was the juncture at which to turn to my own personal record of child development and blow the dust off those old-school reports. 

Longfields County Primary School, Bicester 

Age 8: 

Mr. Crook was my class teacher, colloquially referred to by my dad as ‘Crookie crisps’ for some unknown reason. He was, as I recall, a bit of a hippy. Well, he had long hair and that was good enough for my simplistic juvenile view of life. 

Crookie commented on my developing skills of the English Language – “Recently Ian has shown an interest in story writing.” I had also apparently, “recently written one or two good ‘poems’”. Considering how my recent journalistic career has blossomed I can relate to this observation, and even during my policing days my literary prowess was best evidenced by an enthusiastic colleague who one day remarked, “Kirkey, you write some quality bollocks!” My postgraduate work also benefitted from this flair. 

The bit I wish I had managed to retain – “He can do some very good handwriting” – has deteriorated to such a degree that Egyptian hieroglyphics are probably easier to interpret. 

Age 10: 

A somewhat surprising anecdote about my footballing skills, especially as the game has played such a significant part of my adult identity – “Ian tends to be a little timid in games, especially football, but he is adept on the fixed apparatus.” Clearly, I hadn’t been introduced to that fixed rope in the first decade of my life. To be fair, I am pretty crap at playing football. I made the Bracknell police team only because I got a great deal in a job lot of Notts County shirts from the club shop, and the boys in blue played in black and white stripes from then on. I once had my name in the local paper after recording a hat-trick. Pity, it was a skillful ringer who played under my registration! 

A year later I was still to be spared the terror of the fixed rope – “Although Ian has not shown great interest in physical activities he works well in movement and on the apparatus.” Perhaps this explains why I have a gym membership, albeit the last time I went there was during the last global pandemic (the one before COVID-19). Movement – really? Have you seen me on the dancefloor? 

Overall, Crookie I would give you an ‘A’ grade. You certainly had me nailed, even at such a tender age. Aristotle would have been proud of you. 

Cooper School, Bicester 

Age 12 

Mrs. Garnet was the first to evidence my tendency to wander – “Ian’s work in Humanities is up and down, depending on how interesting he finds his conversation to be with his neighbor! He really must settle down to his work more quickly now.” Meanwhile, in physical education it was clear that Mr Goodridge had simply written a generic prose about everyone – “Ian has made a good start to this subject, working hard to improve his standard of performance.” No mention of the rope you liar! 

A year later Mr. Hoyland (Mathematics) reinforced my often-errant communication style – “Although fairly subdued in class discussion on certain mathematical topics he is from time to time found engaging in lengthy and noisy, but nevertheless friendly, exchanges with his pals in the class!!” Who would ever have thought that I would become a police officer, politician, and trainer who once entertained a crowd of over two hundred corporate guests at an event at Alton Towers, the largest theme park in the United Kingdom? 

Age 14: 

Mrs. Andrews (English) who had the ability to write in joined-up letters and words wrote passionately, “Ian is developing well in the third year. He is attentive in class and is developing the writing techniques of the narrative essay, which I am concentrating on this year.” A 72% examination result was damned impressive too! Who knew that in the future I would be writing for some of the most iconic magazines in the World? Maybe Mrs. Andrews had a premonition. 

Mrs. Jameson (French) remarked that I was “a bit chatty at times” but alas in English only. My grasp of foreign languages is woeful. I am so fortunate that English is an international language. I do know some smutty Iranian phrases, learned in my later years at college while hanging around the rich Persian students who used to give me free Gauloises cigarettes. Surprisingly, I have yet to use these terms in a domestic setting. 

Miss Parker’s summary of me in music – “Ian has achieved a relatively poor standard and his exam result was disappointing. I think that Ian could do better if he applied himself more” – drew the wrath of Khan from my dad in the parent’s reply section: “Is it only Ian who could do better?” With due respect to Miss Parker, 18% typified my lifelong incompetent association with the music scene. Playing the fool is a lot easier than the piano. Then again, I have sung at quite a few Karaokes but can’t remember the details as I was drunk. 

Age 15: 

At last Mr. Goodridge came clean! “He hasn’t broken any records but continues to work enthusiastically.” He must have had some perverse kick in watching that rope beat me every time. 

Although this academic record year was one of the worst affected by the damp, the concluding remark from the headmaster Mr. Bellfield was one to cherish – “Very promising.” 

Age 16: 

After I had been moved up a set, Mr. Lewis, my mathematics teacher, wrote “Ian has maintained a consistently high level of effort throughout the term so that although he was tackling work of a higher standard than he had previously experienced he produced excellent work at all times, and this was reflected by a fine result in the examination.” That year I also won the school mathematics prize and legitimately appeared in the local paper. This made my dad super proud. After he died my mum told me that when my name was called out it was the closest, she had seen him come to crying for an exceptionally long time. Miss you dad. My rational brain, when I care to use it, has continued throughout my adult life and my love for numbers has never dwindled. The application of logic was the reason I attained a qualifying law degree much later in life. My love of averages, especially relating to the speedway, has never dimmed. 

Mr. Brodley, was still peddling the bollocks about what went on in the gym – “Overall a good year.” 

Mr. Rodrigues (Physics) and Mr. Lanham (Geography) were my heroes and when I blew up the microwave in Slough Custody when I was a sergeant, and later clapped eyes on my first ox-bow lake and the mighty glaciers in Iceland, fond memories of both came flooding back. 

To my Cooper School teachers, a well-earned ‘B+’ (which would have been an ‘A’ if the physical education department hadn’t been so dishonest). 

North Oxfordshire Technical College and School of Art, Banbury 

On the crest of an educational wave of seven ‘O’ Levels, I attended college to study the wonderfully easy stable of ‘A’ Levels in Pure Mathematics, Physics and, just to emphasize the agony, Applied Mathematics. My love of Geography at school, and my bromance with Mr. Lanham, was snuffed out by my dad who sold me the dream of becoming a scientist as, according to his parental logic, the country would always need experts. I was such a conformist in those days and traded my love of rock formations and coastal erosion for integration and differentiation. The academic equivalent of anal fisting eventually beat me, although the discovery of booze and woman probably didn’t help either. Exam results of 33% and 28% for the maths and 31% for physics with an attendance 

record of 64% in my second year graphically reflected this educational implosion, although my cunning was outstanding since I managed to keep this data from my parents. I never did receive a call from NASA and limped out of college with one ‘A’ level pass in combined mathematics. On the other hand, I continued to enjoy sex with women and drinking alcohol, so all was not lost. 

To my college tutors a ‘C’ grade, although to George Ware my pure mathematics teacher an ‘A+’ for honoring the bet, we had during the 1980/81 season when Notts County finished above Chelsea. In fact, to rub salt into his wounds we got promoted to the topflight too! 

As I carefully place my school archives back inside the battered cardboard box, I must put out a gleeful shout to those most brilliant teachers who overwhelming sussed me out almost immediately. I hope that in a small way my latter attainment of a teaching qualification pays homage to your perseverance and support. Aren’t teachers incredible? And to Aristotle and the other great philosophers you were, in my humble opinion, spot on. And to my chum Arthur keep the magic of childhood firmly alive from hereon in. To everyone else, if the desire is there, you can also reconnect to the best days of your life. Maybe a first step would be to locate your old school reports. If you were agile on the rope there is no need to flaunt this skill in my direction, as you know what? If it takes a rope to reach it, this guy is staying put. 

However, the best teachers in my life were my parents and even today my mum still has the ability to educate and inspire me, in between serious bouts of being wholly annoying. Then again, I have learned to be the same to my two gorgeous kids, Lucy, and Adam. 

I am at one with the late American poet James Broughton who summed it up quite perfectly – “I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.” 

© Ian Kirke 2022 / @ianjkirke