Jul 4, 2009

The awkward moment with Porky Peters.

The best nickname I've known for a teacher was Reggie Boner.

Reggie Boner. Sounds like a child molester. Something dark and Dickensian, sinister and creepy.

He was of course just a man who taught French.

Reggie Boner didn't do himself any favours though. He gesticulated in a manner that emphasised every last vowel. He waved and karate chopped the air; quite eye catching when you have thumbs like big, flat soup spoons . He said the word 'shit' quite frequently, punctuating the t with spit and venom. He also had a way of saying hello to you in the corridor which would, come to think about it, necessitate a raise of a paedophile's eyebrow. Right, yeah, maybe he did get his nickname for being a tad dodgy.

I knew a maths teacher called Porky Peters on account of his green, putrid stained armpits. I was a bit gutted because he had a son not yet in the school who looked a bit like me. I narrowly missed being called Piglet, but the poor bastard - who was actually Porky's son - certainly got his share of shit.

Being numoric meant I was shit at Maths. Proper shit. All the extra maths lessons with people who'd give me cheap orange squash and those {Nice} type biscuits, didn't even really help. I hated numbers. They're all mental-Monopoly tome. Maybe that's why I drew a pig on my maths book - as a defiant stab at Porky and his stupid subject. I drew it small and I didn't think he'd even notice but he did.

Teachers aren't supposed to know their nicknames. But Porky did. Turns out he also knew he had green armpits and a son called Piglet. It was more embarrassing than anything, being asked, "Do you think I don't know my nickname is Porky?" How do you not laugh out loud when your maths teacher says that? All I could come back with was a totally transparent excuse that pigs were my favourite animal and that I had no idea that his nickname was Porky.

There was a Pinhead - unimaginatively yet observantly concocted - due to the size difference between his turnip head and weedy body. Pudding was another, Nicky Sly another still. Nicky Sly was the computer teacher whose catchphrase was a snivelling, "Computers don't make mistakes". He'd be the teacher, along with Reggie Boner, who just loved catching kids smoking in the woods. Although Reggie Boner did just liked catching kids in the woods.

Obviously it's not just teachers who cop a lot of flack in the way of nickname Christening. Children are also children haters. There was this one kid whose name was Thomas Tucker; quite unfortunate because he was a fat little fellow and so befittingly known as Tommy Tucker the Fat Fucker. He only had one friend, whose name was Toby Brass; again unfortunate because Toby Brass had a bad brace-induced lisp and a fat tongue, so couldn't say his own name properly. He was doomed like bambi born without any legs. They were totally the odd couple those two. Tommy Tucker the Fat Fucker was friends with Toby Bath, but would turn tale and cruelly rip into him if it meant winning favour of a bully. Poor Toby Bath. Poor Tommy Tucker the Fat Fucker.

But the kids at my second school were cruel as they were weird. It was a boys boarding school school, which is an unnatural surroundings for anyone to grown up in. What added an extra layer of weird was that it was a school that had evolved from an orphanage for boys who had lost one or both of their parents. This kind of traditional and institutionalised school was Tudor-grand and filled with problem kids. Kids who'd been expelled from everywhere, rejects, bullies, the bullied, the orphaned, abused and deranged. It was a melting pot of characters and individuals, all with their own quirk.

Like Toby Bath, Saul Surrie's voice reverberated in devastating onomatopoeic brilliance. Surrie had a whining, nasal, Shmigal-like voice and a violent temper. He had puffy blond hair a lemon-sucking face that was normally screwed up, all red and spewing. He'd often fight with Daniel Forks who strangely, and again rather fittingly, liked Freddy Kruger and knives.

It was a bizarre place to live. The prefects, who were as maladjusted as the rest of them, would hang boys out of windows by their feet, or put the smaller ones in trunks and roll them down stairs. I think the most revered game, invented by some sadistic teenager, was Space Invaders.

It wasn't complicated.

All you needed was one small boy and a tennis ball.

The boy would be forced to the end of the dormitory from where he would play the space invader, moving from side to side while he was pelted with tennis balls. The rules were that you had to side step at a slow and steady pace, like a sliding star jump. You weren't allowed to dodge or refrain from your star shape, no matter what was being thrown at you. An inventive and entertaining game for ages 12 and up. Well, there was no internet back then.

The boy who stuck out the most and will be remembered by many was named Howard Smithson. He was Rainman as a posh geeky child. He had the staple black rim glasses, combed down gel-hair, and was a bonafide obsessive compulsive. He was so exceptional in his behaviour that it was nearly cruel to throw him amongst the spiteful lot of weirdos that wandered the halls in that school.

He'd get into so called 'modes', where he'd be so focused on what he was doing that he would hear nothing outside his remit. If you were standing in his route, on his way to lunch, he'd run you down. And he 'ran into' boys all the time. It was a big exciting joke to the awful lot of little fuckers in the school; all teasing him and treating him like an android in a schoolboy experiment.

Even I did it, I'm ashamed to say.

Part of you thought he was joking with the 'modes'.

Part of you wanted to test him, to see for yourself what would happen when you went, "Howard, I've got a flame thrower", and pretended to flame him.

Part of you wanted to make him whack his neat blazer down in absolute horror.

Part of you wanted to see him head butt the mirror and reprimand his comb.

In the lunch hall, he'd talk to his food. He'd sit on his own and meticulously eat everything, bit by bit, everything in the order he had done it in yesterday. If you moved a piece of cheese on his plate, it was as if evil spirits had swooped down and possessed the cheese. He'd mumble and finger wag the cheese until he was satisfied it was still, once again. If you prodded the things on his tray for long enough, he'd flip a saucer off the table, or rush off in tormented horror.

This school was populated like that bar Luke Skywalker goes into with Obi-Wan Kenobi; all full of snotty creatures and oddballs who want to kill each other.