I have painful memories of suffering dictation at school in the late 70s and early 80s; Mrs Chowney our geography teacher was particularly fond of this cruel sport, every week she had our class listening to her monotonous drone, making us write for what seemed hours until my hand ached from the strain. It was deliberate torture and dictation must have put many an aspiring journalist or writer off for life.
I think she had it in for me to be honest after the unfortunate banger incident; her classroom was on the first floor with large windows overlooking a path used by teachers to move between the buildings. One boring stiflingly hot summer afternoon I decided to wake up the school and throw a lit banger (petard to Francophiles) out of an open window. Of course there was no reason to check the path below first as it was lesson time and nobody would be using the path….
The banger exploded at the exact height of 5 foot 5 inches, precisely a foot to the right of Mr Fincham a senior teachers right ear. Ooops! I thought and seconds later he burst into our class absolutely red faced and shouting! Very sexistly I thought at the time all 15 of us boys were frog marched off leaving the girls behind. Of course schools honour dictates no grassing and so we were all lined up in a row outside the head masters office to wait for water boarding and a slow painful death.
The head master was proper old school and a really scary type and we all trembled awaiting his return as so luckily he was elsewhere. Lady Luck has often dealt me good hands and this time nudged me even more as the teacher naively left us alone for a few seconds giving me the opportunity to hide the rest of the bangers and the matches behind the sink in the nearby staff toilet. We stood in the hall for 2 long hours and that was punishment enough as the head master never appeared but the fear of God was instilled in us all.
Unfortunately I had previous form; the year before on another French exchange trip I had brought back the normal 2 inch ones, some chinese fire crackers and huge 4 inch bangers, they looked and sounded like sticks of dynamite and were sods for smuggling through customs as they came in packs of 4 but needs must. Back in England my friends used to pay handsomely for the contraband. My school St. Peters and Merrow Grange RC Comprehensive in Guildford had lots of open spaces and the teachers used to park under the Giant Redwoods in front of the main building, easily accessible from the playing fields.
One lunchtime, my accomplice Peter Carey and I went into commando mode, crawling from the playground, out underneath the staff room windows, creeping between the parked cars till our target was reached. Our head of year was a dour and wrinkled Scotsman called Mr Laurie Muir who now in hindsight was clearly going through a midlife crisis as he had just bought himself a brand new blue TR7. On an earlier reconnaissance trip I had checked that the exhaust pipe was the right size for my explosive device. Banger safely stowed and lit we sprinted for safety just as the proud car owner walked over his car. Flip me! What an explosion, the ground shook and people came hurtling out to see what had happened. The only reason I think of as to why I wasn’t expelled was because as Mr Laurie -Muir was suspending me up by one ear I immediately owned up saying I was the lone gunman so allowing Peter to sprint to freedom away from the grassy knoll.
This article was planned to be an explanation of the strange routes I meander each week as the inspiration for my scribblings; then as soon as my ADHD squirrels heard me mention the word dictation they took over with a vengeance. So in a roundabout way I have explained myself sort of, oh look a unicorn!