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.
Hannah was a new arrival at school, and everyone raised their hand when asked who would like to look after for her first few days, to help her settle in. She looked like a lovely girl on the face of it, all immaculate and clean, hair in perfect bunches, and a sickly sweet smile on her face. But there was something too sweet about her, and a bit of a glint in her eye. I didn't raise my hand, nor did the boys, but the teachers favourites did and of course one of them would be chosen.
Unfortunately there wasn't much space at the top table, where the best children of the class were chosen to sit, so Hannah and her chosen buddy had to come and sit on our table, and that meant we all had to move seats.
Hannah had to sit next to me and I had to squish up in a tiny space that would make writing my book of what we did at the weekend difficult, and I knew that I was going to get in trouble, no matter what happened. I just had a sense of foreboding. I tried really hard to welcome her and to be nice, but over the next few months Hannah quickly began to show her true colours.
In front of the teacher, Hannah was always lovely and pleasant and perfect, but as soon as the teacher turned her back, Hannah was devious and evil. She was especially nasty to the boys who I was friends with, the loveliest, softest, and kindest of boys, and she started to pick on my friend Ben, putting pencil shavings on a page he had spent all lesson labouring over, then 'accidently' bumping him with her elbow so he had to start his writing again. All things that she could say were accidents but which we knew were not because she smiled and looked the boys in the eye when she did it.
Poor Ben started to get tears in his eyes as I saw his beautiful work ruined, and I was annoyed at how life was so unfair. If we told the teacher it would be us that got told off for being babies, and the teacher already thought new girl Hannah was a perfect little girl, someone who should be a role model to us council estate kids who were never as clever as the rich kids on the teacher's top table.
Before long Hannah had raised the stakes, determined now to make the boys cry so that they would get in trouble and be shouted at in front of everyone and everyone would see them cry.
Hannah had a secret weapon that the boys did not have. She had long, bony fingers, with sharp nails. She started off by pinching the boys, and I warned the boys not to pinch her back because I knew that they would get in a lot of trouble with the teacher and then Hannah would be all smug because she had won. If that happened, we knew that Hannah's behaviour would just get worse. We had to beat her somehow.
It wasn't long before Hannah's pinching caused the boys to develop bruises and she began to pinch them more and more. I being the stubborn idiot I was, decided to take matters into my own hands, especially given that I was sat closer to her and could be more discrete. Even Hannah's buddy had quickly gotten herself moved back to the top table with the good kids, and it seemed we would be stuck with Horrible Hannah for good.
Being a generally kind hearted and fair person, I was not someone who had ever pinched or injured another child before, so I hoped that I could pinch Hannah hard once, so she would think better of it, and that even if she did tell, the teacher would be so surprised that she would see that I really must have been defending myself. So I told Hannah to stop it, because if she didn't I would have no choice but to pinch her back. It was a bit of advice I had picked up from overhearing some mums talking at the mother and toddler group my baby brother went to. One of the older ladies said that the best way to teach a baby not to bite, was to gently bite it so that it realised it hurt and learnt not to bite the other children. Perhaps this same theory would work with Hannah? It was certainly worth a try and I had nothing else as an idea to stop her from hurting my friends.
But it didn't work, and Hannah didn't stop pinching the boys. Instead she turned her attentions to me and not only was she now pinching me, but she was digging her fingernails into my hands and arms so much so that she drew blood.
At one point I feared that she might make a hole in the vein on my hand, and then I would slowly and quietly bleed to death without the teacher even noticing and when I was dead no one would be any the wiser and everyone would be so afraid of her that no one would tell the truth. Hannah would probably let the boys take the blame, and they would be too scared to stand up to her.
It was very painful, but I was tough, and I sure as hell wouldn't show pain on my face or cry. Soon enough Hannah would get bored I thought, but she didn't.
I just sat there and pretended to go about my work, leaving my bare arm exposed and next to Hannah, pretending like nothing was happening. But Hannah wasn't satisfied and began trying to give me a 'Chinese burn', grabbing my arm, twisting the skin in opposite directions until I had a very red mark along my forearm.
It hurt quite a lot, but the ludicrousy of the situation and seeing Hannah all red faced and annoyed trying to pull my arm one way and another made me and the boys start to giggle.
I laughed through the pain. 'What are you trying to do? Stop tickling me, I'm really ticklish".
Hannah was angry, annoyed that her efforts were having the opposite effect, surely she would give up now and get on with her work.
Hannah took out a lead pencil from her perfect and clean pencil case, went to the teacher's desk and sharpened it on a special sharpener attached to the teacher's desk, that you put your pencil in and then turned a handle. It made pencils perfectly sharp.
Had we won, had Hannah given up? Maybe she would get on with her work now and stop being horrible to everyone? Or maybe she was going to tell the teacher lies and say that we had been horrible to her, when all we had done was stand up for ourselves because we were fed up of her getting us in trouble all the time.
We were all looking nervously at the desk, but the teacher smiled and Hannah smiled back, and as soon as Hannah turned to walk back to the table, we all pretended to be busy with our work, so she wouldn't see that we were watching her or that we had any care about her at all.
Hannah sat back down, looked across to check the teacher was not looking our way, and the next thing I knew she jabbed her very sharp pencil on the back of my hand, in such a way that I could feel the point pierce the skin and slide along the edge of the tendon. It hurt so much and I had a big swollen bump and a purple bruise on my hand immediately.
I was in shock, and I was angry now. But I wasn't going to get into trouble. The boys looked really scared. I hadn't come this far in standing my ground to give in to nasty Hannah, so I pretended that I was just brushing my hair back and that was why I had moved my hand, nothing to do with it stinging like mad.
In the process of stabbing me with her pencil, the lead had of course broken off, and now her pencil was just wood on the end and would probably be broken for ever. If she went back to the teacher's desk to sharpen it again, the teacher would tell her off, so the pencil was no longer an option. What could she possibly do now. Surely she would have no option but to give up.
But she didn't. And the next thing I knew, she had taken a metal drawing pin from the display board, so that a child's work was now flapping in the breeze on one corner, and was dragging it along the skin on the back of my arm, drawing blood, and creating deep scratches. This girl really was strange, and I was starting to get very scared for the fact that she was causing me serious hurt, and that the teacher had not even noticed. I still have scars on my arm even to this day.
One of the boys was so upset that he wet himself, something he never did, but was really embarrassing as it meant you had to go to the school nurse, and then you would have to wear either your PE kit, or something from the lost property cupboard and everyone would know you'd had an accident, and then your parents would have to wash those items and bring them to the school reception the next day so they could go back in the lost property. It was humiliating on so many levels. I felt bad for him and I hated Hannah even more for causing all this trouble.
There was nothing for it, I would have to hurt her, even if it meant getting into trouble and being expelled from school forever, and my mother disowning me. My mind was made up. There was nothing to lose. Getting into trouble was my only way out of this stalemate with horrid Hannah.
So I pinched her, good and hard. Just once, but she immediately burst into tears, ran crying to the teacher, and I climbed under the table. I felt like I sat there forever. Amongst the dust on the floor, and I put my hands together and I prayed to God that he would forgive me because I hadn't wanted to hurt Hannah and I really wasn't a bad person.
I sat there waiting and waiting, but the teacher never came over, and I never got told off. That made things even more frightening because there was no closure, and the uncertainty was awful. For the rest of that term, every time our classroom door opened, I imagined that it would be one of the students, summoning me to the head mistress's office, ready for my beating. But it never came.
And as for Hannah, she did go to the teacher's desk, and the teacher simply told her that she must have deserved it, and asked why I pinched her, and what did she do to me. At which point Hannah went very quiet and was told to sit at a desk on her own and to think about her behaviour. Hannah never bothered me, or the boys ever again after that but we would remain silent enemies for the rest of primary school.