As part of National Novel Writing Month, (#NaNoWriMo) I've set myself the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel (1700 words a day), consisting of short stories about my memories of primary school. Just so that you know, all names of people have been changed unless they are publically known. Each story is based on my own memory, so may not be an exact representation of events, especially since I am writing this over 40 years after things happened! But I hope you will enjoy each story all the same, and that perhaps it will spark your own memories of life at primary school.
My teacher Mrs D's favourite game in primary school seemed to be 'top tables', for maths. I don't exactly remember the rules now, but where the rest of the class seemed to delight in any opportunity to play this game, I hated it.
It was like torture. It involved her reading out a times table '2x4' and everyone would raise hands as quickly as they could, and if you were chosen and you got the answer right, you could go and sit at the top table, with the teacher's favourite students.
I had previously loved doing maths, and before my dad had gone off to live with his new wife and my parents got divorced, I would love nothing more than sitting down snuggled up with him as he wrote on some scrappy paper in his spidery ink writing, a maths problem for me to do, one around me, and another arm clutched onto his cigarette. I got such a buzz from being able to get the answers to those questions, and I felt like I was the champion of the world.
But maths in school was hell, and it was always wrapped up in silly games or put into long winded questions about imaginary children who always seemed to be buying or giving away their sweets.
It wasn't real life maths, that was what I liked. But top tables was the worst of all. I never got chosen, even if I knew the answer, and before long I would just keep my hand in the air, and eventually I stopped raising it entirely and took myself off into my imagination, dreaming of the next Roald Dahl book I would read, or plotting my next adventure to the common behind our house and what kinds of animals I would find, like adders and slow worms, or a trick I would do on my bike.
Now if we had top tables for spellings then I might enjoy that because I was very advanced when it came to spellings and reading, but nope, it was always stupid maths questions, and I had no chance of ever getting to the top table, nor did I want to sit next to those boring girls with the pigtails, when I was quite content sat at the back of the class where I was.
Friends were the best thing about being at school, and moving tables would take all the fun out of being stuck in boring class.
One day Mrs D caught me unawares. I was deep in thought and even though everyone else had their hands up to answer the latest maths question, she instead asked me, in front of everyone.
Of course I hadn't been paying any attention at all, so I had no idea what the question was, so I just made up a number, and of course it was wrong. And the kids with their hands about to fall off their shoulders because they couldn't contain their excitement just looked at me and rolled their eyes and sighed, well I think they did, I don't really remember now, but that's probably what they did.
I was caught off guard and I couldn't believe the teacher had asked me. All those weeks and months of raising my arm with the answer in my mind, and never had I been chosen, and the time that I no longer cared and didn't even raise my hand, she asked me. What was that all about.
Grown ups were so complicated to understand. No matter what you did or how well you behaved and tried your best, it was like you just couldn't please them, and they were constantly changing the rules.
I returned to my day dreaming, with a heavy heart and now feeling as if I was an idiot. Why couldn't the teacher just let me be. I wasn't chatting to friends, or making a noise, or distracting people from the game, why wasn't I allowed to sit in silence, and why make me speak in front of everyone.