Hindsight is a wonderful thing, it really is. If I could give 15 year-old me a quick call or a WhatsApp just to tell her to step away from the cake and avoid that English Literature degree then I would, but 15 year-old me would probably just tell me to fucking do one.
Each and every year of school, like many others before me, I’d convince myself that I was wicked cool. I’d untuck my school shirt, wear offensive pink eyeshadow and hang out on the basketball courts eating the aforementioned cake with a kind of self-assurance you grow out of towards the end of your teens. In actual fact, I was part of a crew of girls who were quite cool, and as the fat funny one of the group I’d hope I wasn’t quite as hated by everyone as the popular girls tend to be, but I probably was. We were probably only popular amongst ourselves.
It’s mental how right adults actually are when they tell you that school will be the best time of your life. During the final days of year 11, I wrote a countdown on my (very sassy) uniform polo shirt just so everyone knew that I couldn’t wait to be out of that place, even though I would be staying on for sixth form (16 year-old logic is flawless). Now I look back on the hilarity of secondary school and wish I could go back and do it all again.
The ways in which the young teenage mind works are brilliant. When it came to choosing my GCSE subjects, my decisions were based entirely on the perks of the subject, and not in any way on how they would set me up for my future: “What school trips will I get to go on if I take history?” “If I do woodwork can I make a giant wooden statue of myself?”. That’s how I ended up doing a degree with no career path.
The decision between geography and history was one such decision that I made because of the school trip. All GCSE geography students were taken to the Bewerley Park Centre for Outdoor Education, which meant three nights in a sweet adventure camp, and an opportunity to take the royal piss out of our long-suffering teachers on a 24-hour basis.
Now, I’ve mentioned before that I was a little bit portly in the golden days of year 10 and 11. It wasn’t that I was huge or anything, I was just carrying some extra timber for those long winter nights (and I loved crisps). All-in-all, I wasn’t really built for “Outdoor Education” as they so aptly called it at Bewerley, but of course I went along for the days off school.
It was during a rock climbing session that it became apparent that I was not destined to be an extreme sports superstar. Poor, cranky Mr Sugden was the leader of our team of Bear Grylls-esque teenage rock climbing proteges, and boy was he excited. He told the story of any rock that he could find, and man were were surrounded by rocks. In fact, his tales got us so motivated that we couldn’t wait to begin climbing so we could get out of earshot.
Now I don’t mean to speculate but I’m pretty sure the school made our team an odd number on purpose, so that someone would end up partnered with Sugs. And of course, when it came to pairing up I was the fortunate one to find him stood to my left, looking just as pleased to be partnered with me as I was at the prospect of spotting him as he scaled the wall, but like the professional rock climbers that we were, we grinned and bared it, and I prepared to take to the sheer cliff face in front of me.
I may have mentioned before that I was not exactly athletically inclined, and it could be said that I was something of a drama queen. Having gotten about 6 foot above the ground, I made the executive decision that rock climbing was not the profession for me, and that it was futile for me to continue. So of course I did the first thing I could think of: I sat on my Sugden’s head. I mean I quite literally just free-fell and sat back onto his waiting head, while he supported me there with the climbing ropes, which he couldn’t let go of for fear of sending me flying into the depths of the mountain range below.
It was absolutely hilarious. I sat there using his head as a seat for a good three minutes (which might not seem long in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a long time to be sat on your teacher’s head). Various class members lost the ability to speak or control themselves, and so fell about laughing as hard as I was, while poor Mr Sugden had to wait for our rock climbing specialist matey to hoist me down and free him.
It’s a memory that will live on in my mind for the rest of my days, and I’m pretty sure my teacher won’t have forgotten it either, he avoided making any kind of conversation with me for the entirety of my sixth form days. Why don’t adult jobs take you on school trips?
In other news, I am so happy for Elton John and David Furnish who were officially married this weekend! This melts my heart.
Sorry once again Mr Sugden, I hope you don’t have to read this.