I have been very fortunate because due to the generosity of a stranger I am able to attend a five week writing course entitled “Turning Your Life Into Story”.
I would like to thank Ragan, whose generosity made this possible.
It means that I will be practising, not just poetry but life writing. This is my first attempt. I have entitled it “Going Out” but it could equally be called the “Consequences of the Second First Day of School”
Sometimes I hate going out! It’s working out what to wear. I know; I’m a bloke and it should be easy. The one pair of jeans rescued from the wash; the designer T shirt I bought for a bargain in the sales two years ago and for those cold nights the jacket that was bought on the same shopping expedition. But it isn’t that simple. Firstly I have to work out whether the occasion is casual, semi-casual or good casual. That determines whether I wear a T shirt or a shirt. Then I have to decide what shirt or T shirt I feel like wearing – yes I have a few. Then the shirt or T shirt has to be co-ordinated with the jeans; the black tight jeans or denim jeans and what colour denim – the blue or the faded blue look.
I admit, sometimes I have up to three changes before I’m ready to go out! It really is much easier to slouch on the couch in trakkie daks, ugg boots and in my case a glass of wine. After all somewhere in the world it is time for a drink! My partner thinks I’m a tad neurotic; well those are my words, in reality he thinks I’m just neurotic. Some of you may think I am vain, after all men aren’t supposed to be too worried about their clothes.
Yet whether you agree with my partner or think I am vain, you are not me, or to be more precise, you are not the nine year old boy who was me who one day opened the class room door to hell.
It was my first day at school. Actually, it was my second, first day at school. My first day at school at occurred 4 years earlier in another country, but that is another story! This second first day at school was a chance to redeem myself, a chance to move up the pecking order in the school yard. In the previous school, I ranked plus one above zero in school yard stakes. There was a railway line at the back of the school and the cool kids, the brave kids, the kids who were ‘someone’ would during morning recess and lunch jump over the fence, race down to the railway line and place pennies on the line just before the train roared by. It was the proverbial game of chicken before occupational health and safety rules came to apply. Those flattened pennies were medallions to the upper echelons of the school yard society. Of course, being a chicken I had no need to play that game and so had no medallions that provided entry to that secret society of cool kids.
Here, in a new land, on a new day I had a new opportunity. I figured I would at least get to a plus 5. I mean, I was the new kid, I was a novelty, I came from a strange land, the other kids would be interested in me. I was right and so wrong.
The day started with family devotions. This consisted of a reading from the Bible. My father being a minister was most anxious his son could read from the Bible and a slap or a lecture on my uselessness when I mispronounced a Biblical name or missed “the” greatly increased my reading accuracy. After the reading there was prayer when my father would commit to God the family, the family back in the home country, the missionaries, the politicians, the church and those within the church who didn’t agree with my father! I think this day God had turned down the dial on my father’s prayers because He obviously didn’t hear my father praying for my first day at school.
Then it was off to get dressed, grey short, grey shirt, pretty simple uniform really. My mother was most concerned I wear a singlet – white chesty bond singlets! Did I mention I have some phobia’s? White chesty bond singlets are one of them. Then off course there were the socks and sandals.
Here I was, nine years old, in smart attire of grey and white thinking God was by my side about to start my new adventure!
After meeting the Head Master and a dignified good bye to my parents I was marched down the school corridor with that peculiar smell of sour milk, vomit, bleach and sawdust that seemed to pervade the school, across the grey bitumen marked with netball courts, up the wooden steps and the door opened to my class room.
It was one of those pivotal moments when time seems to stand still. I looked out at a sea of about 28 children the boys were bare foot, not a sandal in sight; their grey shirts untucked and unbuttoned, messy and crumpled. I stared, they stared and I re-calculated my score on the school yard Richter school yard scale back down to plus 1.
It was the details, darling, details!
It’s always in the details. The grey shirt tucked into shorts pulled too high up, giving the effect of a baby rooster being choked. The white socks pulled up to just below the knee and carefully turned down and the sandals – sensible brown sandals. Everything too precise, too “pulled up”, too up-tight! This was the era where bare feet were not a sign of poverty it was a sign of pride. Those feet where nut brown, toughened with callouses that would do a rhino proud!
Oh, I was interesting all right! Children are very good at reading blank stares and I read every unmoving muscle switch and unseen sneer. I read every glint in those blank stares of the new kid too bully! I heard every sigh of the other kids who had been on number one knowing that suddenly God and had just moved them up to number 2 and 3 because there was a new kid on the block who would be number one.
Hell began with socks and sandals, tucked in shirt and chesty bond singlets!
So you see, I may seem vain and I may be neurotic but I’m really just that nine year old kid trying to make sure when I go out, I don’t stand out and can blend.
Now I must go, I have to meet my partner and friend tonight for drinks – so that’s casual clothes right?! But the pub is up-market and pretentious so perhaps it’s good casual? They say there could be showers so – oh, I think I might just stay home in trakkies and have a glass of wine!