Friday 1 September 2023

Fave Friday

Five favourite back-to-school memories

In honour of the new term...

1. Buying the new school bag. Nanny Hand took me round many shops looking for the perfect item, some time towards the end of August, before I went into (I think) Year 9. I have a dim memory of some kind of half-covered precinct that was probably near where they lived in Redditch, and being my usual unbelievably picky teen self. In the end I picked some hideous canvas shoulder bag that was beige and had camels or some kind of Aztec print on it. Heavy 90s vibe. Mother Hand was suitably disappointed that I got something that was (a) so easily dirtied and (b) relatively impractical for carrying large amounts of school-related items with me. 

2. The smell of WHSmith. It is common for everybody to bang on about the stench of a Lush shop but I think all shops have their own scent and WHSmith is a particularly evocative one for me. What is it? Books, pens, cards, magazines. The smell of choosing a new pencil case, and wheedling for wholly impractical rubbers shaped like ice cream cones and wholly unnecessary highlighter pens. Towers of colourful lever arch files that I never needed because there were always second-hand ones available from Mother Hand's work and, anyway, who needs more than one lever arch folder when you're at school. Doing pocket money maths so you could sneak a CD single in and still afford everything you needed. 

3. On my first day of my first teaching job, I went to the toilets and put my heavily-loaded handbag on top of the cistern. As I turned away from it, it promptly upended directly into the toilet. The main casualties were my camera (I don't know why I felt this was an essential item for an inset day) which happily survived, and a whole tube of new gold and black striped pencils. I still have one of those pencils (naturally I washed it off) to remind me of this humbling experience. My main takeaway, on that nervous day, was that it couldn't get much worse. I was right. 

4. More bags (so many bags) - I fondly remember the time when I got the school bag right by buying a denim backpack from River Island. It was the best bag ever. It was a drawstring, flap over backpack but it had a full length zip down the side so you didn't have to faff. In my memory, it saw me all the way through sixth form, being toted around on one shoulder while I carried my lever arch file ostentatiously, on account of how I was so learned now, all my learning couldn't even fit in a bag. 

5. The weighing and measuring. A funny favourite memory this but it sticks with me and serves as a constant reminder that throwaway comments are not throwaway comments to teenagers. At the start of every new year, everyone in the class was weighed and measured in the first PE lesson. I cannot fathom what the school did with this information and, come to reflect on it, I wonder if they just did it for something to do in the first lesson of the year. Anyway, as a fat teenager this was mortifying for me and I had a horror about anybody seeing how much I weighed. The one I remember the most was going forward to the scale and (what has formed in my mind but is undoubtedly an exaggeration of the actual event) the entire popular clique craning forwards as I gingerly hovered, unwilling to step on. 

'Don't worry Sally,' chirped my ever-cheerful games teacher, 'the scales are probably wrong.'

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