Thinks: " I've got to do 'Jack' Hurley's maths homework
in a minute. Oh, I'll do it tomorrow, or maybe the day after... Balls to it! I won't do it at all. I can't be bloody bothered!
I know. I'll tell him I left it at home... Hang on, I think I used that excuse last week, and the week before that, and the
week before that... Oh, God. Looks like I'll be doing another of his detentions... Could be worse, I suppose. At least Jack
doesn't send anyone to the head for 'six of the best' (i.e. a beating!) for not doing their homework... Bloody hell! I hate homework, unlike some of my mates. A lot of them tell me they spend two or three hours a night
- every blinkin' night!!! - doing it. Must be mad! Stuff that for a bunch of conkers! I'm in school long enough as it is,
and I'm buggered if I'm taking work home with me as well! Besides, who wants to go to University anyway. Not me, that's for
sure. There's plenty of good jobs out there for someone with five O' Levels. That'll do me, although I'm finding even that
a bit of a strain. I wonder if I'm old enough to join the French Foreign Legion? But come to think of it, the extent of my
French is limited to "Oui"; "Non"; a number you wouldn't mention in mixed company (not a clue what it meant then, even in
English!) and "Vivre le Quebec Libre!"
This is me relaxing in the 'grounds' of my dad's 'country estate'.
I seem to be engaging in my favourite activity at this time - eating pie and chips (from the newspaper they were wrapped in. Well,
they tasted better that way.)
But like most young adolescent boys, it wasn't to remain my favourite
activity for much longer, and like the rest, I ignored the dire warnings issued to me by various people around this time about
me going blind if I kept on doing 'it'!
I was three months past my 14th birthday when this photo was
taken, and still every inch a boy (no 'play on words' intended, but that was just about the size of it at the time
- and that was on a good day too!) 'Hairless' as well, if you get my meaning (but that was soon to change - and like a rocket!).
Puberty, when it came, was very quick for me. Would you believe 'boy' to 'man' during the seven weeks of the summer holidays
that year? At school, it made being naked again in the communal showers after my first games lesson of the following term
almost as unnerving for me as the first time I did it in my pre-pubescent state when I was 12. I soon got over my fresh embarrassment
though, when I noticed I wasn't the only boy that had 'grown' in this way over the holidays. So had most of my friends too!
I was also relieved to see that my diminutive size and slight build wasn't delaying that part of my 'development
' compared to the other boys!
Unlike me and most of my friends in the 1960s, boys just 14 these
days aren't 'boys' at all, but already young men. But that is only to be expected when they stuff themselves full of steroid
impregnated McBurgers (Muckburgers?) from almost the day their milk teeth come through.
Long trousers at last! And not for want of trying either. Boy, was
I proud of them! During the summer holidays after form 1, my mum and I went from shop to shop in Cardiff to try to find a
pair to fit me. I wanted them so badly, as only 'little boys' wore short trousers to school. But no luck. It was with a heavy
heart I arrived back at school after the summer holidays ready to start in form 2 still wearing the (increasingly) despised
short trousers, although I wasn't the only one still wearing them in my year. Most of the remaining, now small, number of
the 'bare knees' brigade managed to get a pair during the Christmas break, so that in January of that second year (1965),
I was one of only three left out of almost one hundred boys in our year still wearing them. (One of my mates, Phillip Cameron
was another, but who was the third?).
The following summer arrived. Would I now be able to get a pair?
Surely I could? I must have grown a bit during the year since that last abortive attempt. And so must have the other two boys,
and they were bigger than me. Would I be the only one left still wearing shorts when I went back? Please God, no!
Well, as they say, good things come to he who waits. I got them
at last! I couldn't wait to go back to school at the beginning of that third year and show them off. For some adolescent
boys in the mid 1960s, wearing your first pair of long trousers was almost as good as your first 'snog'!
If you look in the top left hand corner of this photo, you
can just see a tin bath hanging up on the wall. Until I was about 10, me and my brother used to have our weekly bath in it
(me first, 'cos I was older) whether we needed one or not, on Saturday nights after 'Cheyenne' (a popular cowboy drama
on the TV at the time) had finished, in front of the living room fire and the rest of the family, which sometimes included
a visiting elderly aunt of mine, or our lodger. Our enforced public nudity here never bothered either of us, since
it was within the family setting, and that somehow didn't count or matter. In fact, ever the 'show-off', sometimes I would
try to amuse these various onlookers with my "Look at me! I'm a fountain!" routine. (Don't say you don't know what I'm talking
about, or never did it yourself, either!)
My brother sometimes copied me, although just after he had started
in his own secondary school, he once demonstrated to me a trick he had just been shown in the school showers by some
other boys there - piss bombs! I daresay you probably know it - maybe performed it yourself. Amazing! I'd never
realised until then a foreskin could expand like that. Having already been circumcised, I was a little jealous,
but I soon got over that when my brother released his bloated foreskin, now bigger than a tennis ball, the piss exploding
all over the front of his shorts. Messy! I think he saved this trick for his school showers after that.
This photo was taken one afternoon by my dad, on one of those rare
free Tuesday or Thursday afternoons when I wasn't in school detention. I remember him coming out of the house with
his box brownie and asking to photograph me. He probably did so on this occasion as I was wearing my school uniform (sans
blazer), as you can see, and wanted a record of me wearing it. My dad felt so proud that "number one son" as he often
affectionately referred to me as, got into the most prestigious grammar school in Cardiff, where the middle-class boys went. Not
bad for a plumber's son.
In my dad's day, boys from his social class could only dream about
going to a school like Cardiff High School, and it's a bit like that now, since they got rid of the 11+. Now, Cardiff, like
most other cities, operates a strict 'zoning' policy for secondary education - you can only get into the school near where
you live - and if that happens to be in a middle-class area, so much the better. 'Local schools for local kids' is the official
mantra from the City Hall. Bollocks! 'Social Apartheid' by geography is what I'd call it! We can't have 'underclass' kids
from Ely or Grangetown sitting alongside the 'toffs' from Cyncoed, now can we!
Not like in my day. Cardiff High School may well have been 'selective'
in the 50's and 60's, but it was 'selection' on perceived academic ability, not on social class lines like it
is now. My schoolmates there came from every part of Cardiff, and from every social class too. That's why
the long-time headmaster of Cardiff High School, George Diamond, was so opposed to 'zoning' and argued against it at every
opportunity. He believed in an 'elite' all right, but it was an 'intellectual' one, not a 'social class' one. He'd be spinning
in his grave if he knew what was going on now, where a bright kid from a 'sink' estate is condemned to the local
'sink' school 'cos all the places at the 'best' schools are already filled by the 'rich kids', who can afford the exorbitant
prices of houses within those schools' catchment areas. (Houses in Llandennis Road, where the 'new' Cardiff High School
is located, currently start off at a million quid! DSS claimants need not apply!)
My dad himself was brought up by a single parent in the
'twenties' in a family so poor he contracted rickets, and his (three?) elder sisters died shortly after they were born apparently.
He was often given second hand boots by the teachers at his school to wear, as his mother couldn't afford
to buy him new ones. My dad had to leave school as soon as he was 14, although he once attempted to run away
to sea when he was 12, lying about his age when he 'signed on', but was 'shopped' by his mum and taken off the ship by
the Barry Pilot, then frogmarched by a burly policeman to the arms of his weeping mother waiting
on the quayside of Barry docks!
There are many other memories of my wonderful dad on these
pages. He passed away many years ago now, but I still miss him... God bless you, dad.
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