There is a room in a school. As rooms go, this one is pretty nondescript. Once upon a time, it used to be a class room, but now it’s an office. As such, it’s too big for the cheap, functional furniture inside and the décor is too bland to garner much attention. The walls boast layers upon layers of magnolia paint, slapped on over the years by disinterested painters far too jaded to bother about the job in hand. No care has been taken where the walls meet the floor. Dried globules of spilt paint pepper the edges of the regulation carpet that is threadbare in patches. A plastic bin, too small to conceal the wear, has been placed over one of the bald spots. A circular table, littered with coffee rings, discarded stationery, school books and meaningless paperwork, is jarringly placed off-centre to disguise another.
This is the table where meetings take place; where staff, parents and Sixth Formers come to be talked at, belittled and patronised. This is the table where no one likes to sit. There is a smell that hangs in the air; the aroma of years of overcooked vegetables, cheap cuts of meat in various guises and failed experimental cuisine from the canteen below have combined to permeate every cell of the room. Add to this the lingering whiff of years of unwashed parents and bedraggled teenagers who have pissed, spewed and breathed their anxiety into the fabric of the room. The lemon air freshener in the centre of the table doesn't stand a chance.
A fridge gently hums to itself in one corner. This is the sound that visitors try and zone in on when they are summoned to the room to be shouted or talked at. In the other corner, a desk has been placed diagonally to give maximum impact. Another patch of worn carpet radiates from the floor directly in front of it. X marks the spot. This is where subjects stand to be dressed down when things have gone wrong, when rules have been transgressed, when objectives and unrealistic, often impossible targets, have not been met.
A withered plant is slumped against the permanently locked windows, which partially explains the stench. Locked windows and defunct flowers symbolise something else; something intangible but understood nonetheless. There is nothing of warmth here. The picture of the trophy wife, positioned on the desk so that it is visible to everyone but the occupier of this room, exposes the real motive of its presence.
Other achievements are proudly on display but raise more questions and eyebrows than anything else: there is a glass cabinet which acts as testament to the devotion of former subjects. The rotting fruits of a twenty year teaching career are on show here: five mugs which scream 'BEST TEACHER EVER', 'NUMBER ONE TEACHER' and so on are presented in a reverse pyramid. Look closely and you'll notice that the one at the back is chipped, but what does that matter? No one drinks from these mugs anyway. This is the only shelf that is ever dusted regularly.
Scan the room and you'll notice other testaments to whimsical accomplishments. Hanging from the walls in small, inexpensive clip frames are certificates that prove that the resident-in-chief can administer minor first aid. Or at least they could three years ago. This person can direct people appropriately in the optimistic outbreak of a fire. This person once narrowed a gap, sometime, some place, somewhere. This person has an NVQ in risk and conflict management, although how he passed that course is a mystery, since aggression is what he thrives upon.
These accreditations are designed to show that the person who sits here knows their stuff. They are designed to demonstrate awareness, knowledge and therefore reinforce his questionable authority. The certificates are upstaged by a vast wall planner, spanning each day of the academic year that is about to begin. Even the wall planner shows early signs of fatigue. The whole thing has been put up at an angle, which conflicts with the uniform straightness of the certificates. The top right hand corner has come unstuck and curled over on itself, revealing a lump of overused Blu-Tak that has traces of magnolia paint attached to it. In short, the planner is unreadable and unusable in its current state.
So much is planned for this year, although you wouldn't think so to look at the chart: if you choose to push back its wilting corner you would see that it is untouched, except for one entry: The birthday of the Head of Sixth Form, the resident of the room in question. December twenty-fifth. Sharing a birthday with the saviour would be fitting if he hadn't converted away from Christianity to bag a teen bride.
Such cynical observations, it could be argued, are superfluous. Beyond the aesthetic, something deeper is happening in this room. This is a room where an internal ideology is being thrashed out.
This is a place where an ego is constructing an Empire.
This is a place where miracles happen.
Sunday, September 4th, 1994
Hello. Good day. Whatever. Ahem.
My name is Sebastian, although that’s not how I’m commonly known. My family call me Sebby or Sebs and will even run to Sebastian if they’re blaming me for something that my brother has done, which happens all the time. Spit. At Sixth Form - where I am halfway through a two year sentence for crimes against English Literature, Politics and Geography - it’s a different story. Most people are given a nickname, which is either a variation of their proper name or a tribute to an unfortunate physical attribute. For example, a lad called Justin has been renamed Jugs. However, Tabitha, the golden girl, has also been reinvented as Jugs. The universe has conspired to link them romantically, so conversations involving them can be confusing. They really ought to be called Twatty and Twitchy, but what I say doesn’t tend to go. Rubbish.
The renaming brigade haven’t neglected the teachers: we have Honey Monster (who is an exact replica of the creature that adorns the packets of Sugar Puffs); Rocket-Tits (massive boobs PHSE teacher), Flat-Baps (no boobs music teacher), Moose (unfortunately faced geography teacher), Chip Pan Charlie (sour-faced, greasy-haired chemistry teacher and Head of Sixth Form), and Slab-Cracker (obese cookery teacher, who eats more than she teaches.)
My nickname isn’t particularly endearing. At school, I’m not Sebby, Sebs or even Sebastian. Oh no. On my first day in year seven I was Christened Sebastard, but now I’m just referred to - wholesale - as Bastard. Even by some of the teachers. Who are complete bastards.
If that wasn’t bad enough, people tend to judge me because of my hair. Well, I’m sorry, but it just grows like that. Maybe one day in the future, before they invent wheel-free cars, teleporting and big brothers who don't read your private things (Harry, if you're reading this, I know where your porn is hidden. Particularly like how you keep a toilet roll next to your stash. Classy. I just hope you've washed your hands before reading this.)
Where was I? Oh yes, there I was, optimistically hoping that a new dawn will bring hair that grows conventionally, and not just out in a wiry, direct line, irrespective of the gravitational pull of the New Moon. Sharon, who does something to my Mam's barnet every third Wednesday of the month, will often tug at clumps of my hair and shout, 'Innit tufty?' to anyone who cares to listen. She once found it hilarious that her cheap and nasty clippers wouldn't cut into my hair. I sat there, looking like an embarrassed pervert as she howled with laughter and chipped away at my skull with clippers that refused to do their job. 'I need t'get some shears on this tufty head, dun’ I?' she hooted. A woman sitting next to me with baby-pink curlers in her hair laughed, although I don't know how she dared: she had no teeth. Sharon may as well have gone for the shears option. I actually think that if she used plastic cutlery on my head - and wouldn't put it past her - the end result would look the same. Pervert haircut, just shorter. No wonder I'm a virgin. Which is ridiculous. I am EIGHTEEN.
So here are a few things about me:
1. My name is Sebastian/Bastard. Call me what you like. Today is my eighteenth birthday. Happy birthday to me, tra-la-laaa! I wanted a really cool jacket for my birthday. I got a coat, but it is not cool. It’s also too big for me, so I look like a cross between a porky flasher and an ambitious shoplifter. Apparently, I’ll grow into it, according to the givers of said item (Mam and Dad.) I might accidentally lose it or spill some bleach down it. Mam could tell that I wasn’t happy and went off on one, accusing me of being ungrateful. Am I? Am I really? Either way, I blame the parents. On and on she went, like some kind of venting dervish, telling me that there are plenty of kids out there who don’t have (terrifyingly ugly) coats. In which case, I shall happily donate my clothing hideousness to them. See how they like it. Happy now, mother?
2. I have pervert hair - which my brother should've inherited, thinking about it. Sharon should really use her clippers / shears / plastic spoons on some of the women in Harry's ART magazines. Unruly bits to say the least.
3. I go to Sixth Form. It's rubbish. Well, my first year at Sixth form was. My second year starts tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes. I’m not holding out much hope that it’ll be any better, although I’m looking forward to a school trip in February. Eastern Europe, can you believe? I’ve never actually been abroad before, so I’m disproportionately excited, even though I have to go with a load of people I don’t really like apart from my two best mates, Kenny and Andy. I shall just ignore everyone else or make friends with Hungarians and Czechoslovakians. I don’t care if they’re third worldly. I’m a socialist, after all.
4. Sixth Form smells. And the Sixth Form Base is depressing. It looks like a drop in centre for social misfits, which is probably why I go there. It's okay though because I get to LEAVE at the end of this academic year. Liberation in T-minus nine months and counting. Tickity tock.
5. Things I like: Madonna, eating and the prospect of leaving Sixth Form. Actually when that day comes, I bet everyone cries and tells each other that they love each other and that they'll keep in touch when it's obvious that they won't. We'll all write nice things all over our shirts and promise to keep them forever. Yet, I give it two weeks before Mam has spotted this unused item and transforms it into one of her Blue Peter dusters, much like she did to my favourite Madonna T-shirt. At least she didn't set my shoes on fire, as she did to our Sally. It wasn't that Sally had done anything wrong; Mam had just run out of fire-lighters, spotted Sally's shoes and chucked them on her stuttering pyre. Dad went mental. Apparently the shoes were, 'plastic rammel from the frigging market,' that were highly toxic and likely to kill us all. We survived though. Hurrah. Unlike Sally's shoes.
6. As you've probably guessed, my family are made up of pyromaniacs, mental people and offenders of all descriptions. I would like to know which parent gave me this hair gene. Actually, Dad is a total slap head, so it must be Mam. Dad is still being off with me after we had an argument last night and I called him a bald headed bastard as soon as I was in running distance to the bathroom (which is the only room with a lock on the door.) In fairness to me, he is bald headed and he was being a bastard. I know he's my Dad but that does not make him KING OF EVERYTHING INCLUDING WHAT THOUGHTS I'M ALLOWED TO THINK.
7. Things I do: Er... My A levels. I watch a lot of MTV at Andy's house in between lessons. We sometimes steal his Dad's whiskey and then fill it back up with water so we don’t get found out. I think we need to start using a tea bag though, as it's starting to look like vodka. I don't like vodka. It tastes like meths and it’s a slippery slope from there: vodka -> meths -> hanging around the graveyard like a proper tramp, pervert hair all long and wild, possibly playing an instrument of some sort (triangle? Xylophone?) while hoping that a sympathetic public will toss me a few coins so that I can buy more meths or bootlegged booze that will probably send me blind. What a lovely vision of the future.
What else do I do? Oh yes, I work at a supermarket called ShitSave. It's actually called KwikSave (that took some working out, huh?) but working there is shit. And the pay is shit. And the uniform is totally degrading: a shapeless burgundy tunic that wouldn't look out of place in a 1970s Bulgarian gin-house. It's like the woman in the uniform department got her hands on a load of crusty old curtains, a knackered sewing machine and had what she thought was a brainwave. Well it wasn't a brainwave. It looks like I'm dressed in a dead person's mattered blood. What with that and the toilet brush hair... Pie Jesu, why have thou forsaken me?
I also work at a Working Man's Club at the weekends, which I like. We have a right laugh and we're allowed to drink behind the bar. It's just a shame that 99% of the customers are twats. Oh, and there is a ‘committee’ there too, who are responsible for making decisions regarding the running of the place. Personally, I think it's an excuse for the regulars to get together and pretend that they're important. People who are on the committee think they're in the effing mafia. Refusal to comply with their demands is met with a curt, 'BUT I'M ON THE COMMITTEE!' as though I'm going to hit the deck and give them ten. It's embarrassing. Get a life, me duck. It's not Ten Downing Street, it's a working man's club where the beer is cheap, the wine tastes like moonshine and the jukebox makes you want to kill yourself.
Every week, they have an artist on. These people have clearly spent lots of time thinking up a name for themselves but it ultimately ends in a cringe-fest as the posters say that tonight's act is DOUBLE TROUBLE or ACE OF SPADES or BLACK CRUSH or my own personal favourite, BIG WENDY. Whoever it is, it's usually someone who purports to being a singer. I don't know what it is that they're doing on that stage, but it's not singing. It's like they're trying to communicate with the dead by making sounds that only dogs can hear. I'd throw ice cubes at them (look at me, ever the rebel), but as the PE teacher once said to me, I throw, 'like a total spastic.' Give me a knife, Sir, and let me try aiming at you. Bet I'd hit the target then.
8. I like making lists, much like this one. It is soothing. Expect more of them.
9. Everyone is a twat today.
Monday, 5th September 1994
Day one of Sixth Form was just as I expected it to be: mundane and pretty pointless. We didn’t have to start until eleven as the first few hours were given over to the new Lower Sixth. When we arrived, we had an assembly where we (the Upper Sixth), were told to look after the newbies and give them lots of friendly help and advice. Mine would be to leave now and enrol in a proper college, before it’s too late. Kenny kept nudging me throughout the assembly which made me want to laugh. I ended up vibrating my way through the proceedings with the odd short, sharp intake of breath thrown in so that I didn’t die. I received several withering looks from Chip Pan Charlie, who clearly hasn’t discovered shampoo or a sense of humour during the summer holidays. I spent lunchtime at Andy’s house, where we toasted the new academic year with a whiskey from his Dad’s drinks cabinet and watched some MTV.
The afternoon was a bit hum-drum. First, we all had a stern talking to by Chip Pan Charlie which can be paraphrased in the following way: work until your fingers bleed or prepare for a life of destitution. Karl Marx - a personal hero of mine - harped on a lot about the impending revolution. Sorry, Karl, but I’m getting bored of waiting. Das Kapital should have had timescales included. We were given our timetables (hurrah: free period last thing on a Friday) and that was about it. Came home, argued with Dad and had pie and chips for dinner. What a thrilling existence I lead.
Saturday 10th September 1994
Hideous day at work today. Hideous. I shitting hate ShitSave. Rather than stack shelves, I had to stack refrigerators, which is just as dull as stacking normal shelves, except it’s significantly colder. I have developed strange compulsions to break delicate foodstuffs and damage things. I wonder if there is a syndrome for this? I hope not. The last thing I need is a syndrome attached to me. This morning, the chilled puddings took a bit of a hammering and I managed to successfully stick my finger through several yoghurt lids. Karl Marx (peace be upon him) would be proud. Although possibly not, if he was against waste: the yoghurts had to be chucked. Collateral damage.
During tea break, Mr Davies, my supervisor and a bit of a dwarf, it has to be said, called me boring. And why? Because when asked, I said that lesbians don't turn me on. He thinks lesbians are 'fucking brilliant' and says that he had several threesomes when he went to Ibiza. With lesbians. I highly suspect he is lying because:
1. He kept stuttering when trying to recall details and his eyes roamed all over the place, like Charlie off Casualty.
2. It seems unlikely. What self-respecting lesbian sleeps with a dwarf man? He is undeniably masculine and not in a good way. Even his fingers need a comb.
3. He has bad breath. If the penis doesn't put the lesbian off, the breath surely will. It could curdle milk, which is probably why he has put me on the fridge aisle.
Mr Davies' fandom for all things homosexual is not all-inclusive, though. While he raves (and spits a bit while he does so) about how brilliant lesbians are, he thinks that gay men are ‘wrong.’ Wrong about what, he didn't elaborate, although it doesn't take a genius to work it out, which is just as well because we were sitting in a packed ShitSave staff room. I found myself zoning in on the overflowing ashtrays as everyone seemed to look at me for a response when he said this. Don't know why.
I spent the afternoon fingering more yoghurts. How's that for lesbianism, Mr Davies? Which means your shrinkage rate will go up. Which means they'll sack you and you won't be able to afford to go on your fictitious lesbian holidays where all the lesbians aren't lesbians, but are really dwarf-man and bad breath enthusiasts.
I missed the bus home so walked over the River Peal, which always freaks me out. Not only is the path / dirt track covered in dog shit, but I'm completely convinced that I will get murdered, or someone I pass will get murdered and I'll be wrongly convicted of the crime. Fortunately, I didn't get murdered; I made it home, watched some crap telly and argued with Harry and Dad. Fascists. I bet they don't think lesbians are boring.
Started thinking about the prospect of university today. Where shall I go? London sounds pretty appealing. I used to love going on coach trips to the capital when I was younger, although my overriding memory is that of spewing up after drinking some feral orange juice. It tasted bad and had to come out of one orifice or another. Poor Mam and Sally; they had to walk around all day with a kid covered in his own amber-tinged puke. It was a good day. Definitely not boring.
While I'm having a good moan, I'm not looking forward to school on Monday. Sam is still upset with me because I lost his membership form for the Madonna fan club. He thinks I've stolen it, which I haven't. I just lost it. I only wanted to read what it said. It's not like I'm going to join. That seems a bit militant. Besides, I am still waiting for my Madonna mug to turn up. I sent off for it nine months ago. Dad told me that a fool and his money are soon parted. I called him a bald headed bastard again but it made much less of an impact. I shall have to come up with something else. I might call him a lesbian and see what happens.
Monday 12th September 1994
I knew that I should’ve gone to college not sodding Sixth Form. We’ve only been back a week and I already feel compelled to self-harm with a loaf of crusty bread. When I signed up, no one told me that it’s basically an extension of what school was like – where the lessons are so boring it often feels like time has stopped and most of the teachers still talk to you like you’re an inconvenience. Or vermin. That said, there are some good teachers. Mr Capston, my English teacher, is a good egg. He gets me. And he always gives me good marks. But there are some terrible knuckle shufflers there too.
The Head of Sixth Form - step forward, Chip Pan Charlie - is arguably the worst human I have ever come across. A couple of years ago, he taught both GCSE and A Level, but in more recent years he has gone from Deputy Head of Sixth to the overall Head of Sixth and in doing so, he appears to have lost his sense of perspective. He thinks that his job is up there with that of Head of the United Nations - although why he models himself on some kind of despotic fuckwad is anyone’s guess. Huge ego, small penis and a lonely lifetime spent with zero friends, I reckon.
Rather hilariously, he often refers to the Sixth Form as HIS Sixth Form. His mantra is never far from his thin, spiteful lips: ‘This is MY Sixth Form and in MY Sixth Form, what I say GOES.’ If someone disagrees with him, his rallying cry can be heard within a fifty mile radius: ‘No one says no to Mister Charlesworth!’ Two things about this: 1. I hope he never gets accused of sexual assault. It would be a shabby defence. 2. I have no idea why he talks about himself in the third person. He’s not a rapper. Shabba!
Not only is he intrinsically repulsive, but physically he would probably come second to the Elephant Man in a beauty contest. His hair is worse than mine and he’s always got food down his comedy tie. And to think, they let him work with children.
Throughout my six and a bit years at school/Sixth Form, I’ve had the misfortune to have a few run-ins with him. His nephew was in my year before he disappeared to go to college at the end of Year Eleven. The same nephew once spat in my face for a dare. I told Mr Charlesworth and he inferred that it was my fault, as I must have provoked him in some way. I argued my point; that I hadn’t actually done anything to him - I genuinely hadn’t. But because I argued, he kept me behind after school. When I complained to the head of year, he increased it to a week’s worth of detentions. When Dan Rollings threw a sandwich at me one day, I picked it up and threw it back. Chip Pan Charlie saw the whole thing and yet it was only me who was made to stay behind and sweep the floor of the hall. When I got my my GCSE results and applied to do A Levels, he told me that my results were a fluke and that lightning didn’t strike twice.
During the last year of my GCSEs, I had to go into his classroom to fetch a board rubber. He was teaching at the time. As I left, I shut the door and heard a slight mutter from Chip Pan Charlie, followed by laughter. Later on, I found out that he had made a reference to me having, ‘a fat arse.’ Chip Pan Charlie shouldn’t have put his telephone number in the phone book. That night, I ordered him three taxis and a pizza. I have just ordered him another one. The woman on the phone asked me if I wanted any side orders with it. I wish I could’ve ordered him a bucket of cat piss, but that’s not on the menu. So in addition to the family-sized pepperoni pizza, he’s getting garlic bread and chicken wings. Bet he eats it. Hope so. Then his arse can get fatter than mine.
Told Harry about my plan to annoy / fatten up Chip Pan Charlie. He’s in. He even offered to put a brick through his car windscreen. Where can I get bricks from? Wish they sold them at ShitSave. He even suggested that we order him a ton of coal and request that it be tipped straight on his driveway. Brilliant idea.
This is how the Sixth Form social strata is made up: there are two year groups - lower and upper sixth. You have the Cool Clan, who spend their time being hilarious and right on. They wear the right clothes, have non-pervert hair and quote comedy programmes to compensate for their terrifying lack of personality. Ugh.
In addition to the Cool Clan, you have the God Squad, who sit around talking about Jesus and how great the Bible is; how Madonna is a hell-bound whore and how they are pleased that they’re all virgins, which is a LIE. Who, aged seventeen or eighteen is PLEASED that they’re a virgin? I’m not. The God Squad are mortally offended by the Couples Clan, who spend all their time groping each other and trying to conceal erections and pointy nipples. When they’re not snogging, they talk about all the sex that they’re having. This seems dreadfully unfair. And then in various corners, you have the drifters, who take music very seriously, refuse to use soap, and grow their greasy hair to ridiculous lengths. I don’t fit in with any of them. When I have a free period, I tend to float towards Andy’s house where we pilfer his dad’s booze and dissect music videos.
Chip Pan Charlie pulled me and Andy into the office today to bollock us. Apparently there was a fire alarm and we weren’t in school, so they all panicked because we may have been inside, burning to death. Except it was a practise alarm, so there was no chance of being involuntarily cremated. He didn’t like this when I pointed it out. He exhaled a laboured sigh and told me not to give him any lip. Then Andy hiccoughed and Chip Pan Charlie shouted at us to GET OUT of his office. With pleasure. Why do they tease us with practice fire alarms? Why can’t the place just do us a favour and burn down? I am going to wish on a star for the place to perish.
For God’s sake, I am eighteen years old. I have legal rights. I have two jobs. I have two friends, three if you count Carol, the fifty nine year old librarian. People think she’s scary but she’s not. She’s funny and she thinks the Cool Clan are arseholes too. When I dropped the school camcorder and it smashed into smithereens last year, she covered for me. A true mate. She once told me that I had come to bed eyes, which was nice of her, but the moment was ruined by Tracey who overheard her and said that I didn’t; that I actually had scary eyes. Great. Pervert hair and scary eyes. I am counting the days until I leave. Until then, I will continue to order pizzas, taxis and coal for those who cross me.
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