Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Edward Woodwardstock

A carton of milk just aint what it used to be - so I'm standing in my least favourite corporate bakery milling around the sandwich department with limited change in my hand, pondering my existence, stepping away from the surly teenagers with the sunken eyes sitting around a table picking from their rich stock of homosexual insults that they direct at customers (I think they looked like it was a "Nerferkinpoofta" day), and at this point, an old boy, big of gut and flannel, decides to announce to everyone that a carton of milk just aint what it used to be. Why this is is never explained - taste, texture, size, price, drought affected cows - but his wife decisively and instinctively agrees. My rough age guestimate has them being young in the 40s, when there was a war on and milk was surely powdered and rationed? I can't see that being something they will be saying too loudly - although of course, it's never about milk, it's about my day was better than your day no matter how many buzzbombs, rickets or rations were inflicted, and even though he's clearly free to digest entire cakes and buy flannel from the clearly unaffected by the drought flannel sheep (who must be working overtime to clad him in his tent), times are tough in his world, a world that's passed him by, for he references the front page of the Mercury, where a nightclub has been closed down due to (alleged) violence. Ah, I think, in between a mental calculation of my favourite Pussycat Doll (probably Kimberley), now we get to it, any minute now, lousy punk kids who don't appreciate the price of milk will be referenced, and the any minute only takes two seconds - he sprays, then pays, weighed down by the fading quality of his days, enormous nostalgic yearnings for 2c milk, and of course, by the giant chip on his shoulder that he will eat later. As he leaves 20 seconds before his arse does, his wife dutifully muttering her agreements, one of the sunken eyed teens calls him a "gaywad" - hmmm, that's a new one I think, partially curious to hear them go through their entire repetoire. I tell this to the girl at my work, the impossibly young one who still believes in the fantastic vibes of Isobar (for it was the club that is no more) and she says he's, quote, a "gay dick"...young people today, so verbose, so cutting...

It's a minor bugbear of mine - the notion that my day was better than you day. No, I often find myself saying, even as I proudly wear my Kim Wilde T-shirt, you were just young, of course it was better. A lot of "my day" was rubbish, wasted in shell suit wearing anxiety that I wasn't cool enough, a lot of go nowhere parties and time spent worrying or talking things of absolutely no consequence. And then - there was woodwork. More importantly, woodwork was just a concept around which the pointlessness would rotate. The single greatest argument I can mount that my day was largely rubbish (should I feel the need, after all, in my day I got to pash Vicki, and there was no debate The KLF were the greatest band in the world, so that's my up) is that I must have spent hour upon hour in school woodwork. Now, I know that woodwork of itself isn't pointless, after all, if you need a nice round thing to put the kettle on made of wood, it's brilliant. But it was such a pointless hour in my life, since what possible reason could a skinny Scot have to ever do woowork, especially as I was so rubbish at it I chiselled my finger about four times, and particularly since our second year teacher, all moustache and pencil, was really into his woodwork and there was nothing I could do to get out of it, I actually had to make something, rendering the time even more pointless. For my Mum, I made a jewellery box - our next door neighbours son was really good at woodwork (not so good at knowing when to shush up) and he made a fantastic jewellery box with split levels, a fancy lid and a tiny midget helper who would hand the jewels over. My Mum though, she was sure to put the neighbours gas at a peep, and she did, proudly showing my jewellery box and saying it had a special security system...that was her way of saying one end was glued and the other end was nailed down and so you couldn't actually open it. I spent a year chiselling and handcrafting a varnished block of wood. To do this, I chiselled my finger four times, stood in a draughty open plan hall freezing my woodblock off, and when I wasn't creating the worlds most ornate block of wood, I was being groped by a psycho girl called Kerri-Anne with teeth the size of skis...ah, my day, how glorious thy were...

Essentially though, the pointlessness boils down to first year woodwork, and my teacher from the wilds of Ayrshire Mr Donald. Mr Donald looked like Roy Kinnear with glasses, a portly gentleman in love with his camel coat and his pipe. On day one of woodwork, he pretty much decided that we were all hopeless cases and completely worthless and so he and his camel coat and his pipe would leave us after about ten minutes, sometimes three. Sometimes if we were lucky, he would leave us a wordsearch (usually on woodwork, but sometimes on pipes) or put on a nominal video and call it a lesson plan. In the whole year I suggest we saw him for a good ten minutes in total. Certainly didn't make any small boxes. At first, this was fantastic, a great way to relax, throw things, read a book, maybe set up a small market stall and sell some dodgy videos - in truth, for first year kids coming up from Primary school, such freedom was amazing. However like all people powered systems of government and responsibility, it was actually horrible. Entire classes were free to isolate and pick on one kid at a time for an entire hour free of adult supervision - and what can 24 kids do for an hour anyway? By the time we had persuaded the smallest kid in the class that it would be hilariously fun to throw him over a table, dwarf tossing style, disquiet around the back blocks suggested we had gone too far. The smarter and cooler kids (and me) began to back away from the anarchy, keeping our heads down for fear of isolation. It also wasn't long though before someone actually realised that not only were we young, dumb and full of sugar, but unsupervised, we could do so much more than actually throw dwarves across a table and play "what did Jamie steal for us today" - no, unsupervised, we could, as a group, take off, go and explore our surroundings, maybe go to the shops, or maybe go to the forbidden pub and try out laughably fake ID while real hard man who hadn't had a job since the miners strike called us rude names. And nothing says "of age" in a pub like school uniform anyway. Or, said a particularly plucky youth who's name escapes me...we could go...he whispered conspiritorally...we could...he gave it a big, big build up...go and get chips from the fish and chip shop. No, it wasn't worth the build up, so we just headed for the shopping centre instead.

The one thing you most need to know about Scotland is that a lot of our time is spent being Catholic or Protestant. That's not to say that you have to go to church, but once you have picked a religion, that's pretty much it, you are on "a side" and will spend your life fighting that corner. So there we were, twenty early teened Catholics (we lost a few who were too keen to find "hatrack" in the wordsearch) in clearly visible school uniform milling around one of the most psychopathic anti Catholic towns in Ayrshire eating chips and looking incredibly unmenacing. If we were a posse we were S Club 7. Naturally, we attracted verbal disquiet as we loitered from dole bludging elderly denim alcoholics waving their fingers and calling us names that all seemed to contain the word Pope. We thanked them for their support in kind, and continued eating our chips. It was such a pointless thing to do, posturing rebellion instead of doing something active, but at the time, I mean, we had skipped school, well, skipped a wordsearch and a video that starred Edward Woodward (the videos had the vaguest tie ins with wood), and now instead of scoring drugs and playing pinball, as a group we were eating chips and watching a girl called Margaret demonstrate that she could do a handstand without showing her knickers (she failed). As we devoured the last stringy piece of haddock, we finally got confronted by a Protestant, a boy who's name was Neil. Neil was fourteen going on 50, he had a craggy stubbly face, and eyes that touched in the middle. He was clearly distressed about something in the world...oh, it was us. "Yafuckacafflicfuckabastards" he said, taking only one second to say it. There were enough of us to take on one Neil, but he was big of bicep and aggressive of spittle, so we were wary of his temper. Especially when he pulled out a knife (my "that's not a knife" reference had lost some juice by 1991) and repeated his insult. Now, I don't know if you've ever had a knife pulled on you, but even with a 19-1 (we had lost Margaret to a tailor at this point since she needed her skirt mended) advantage we still felt very, very uneasy as Neil stood, knife in one hand, finger raised on the other, one eye going to the shops, the other coming home with the change. And then, with lightning speed and vision, I...did nothing, but out of the bookies came Neils Mum, who gave him a swift clip round the ear, told him to get in the car, and told us to take no notice of him. Despite our flicking him the finger behind his back and abusing him as he was dragged off, we hurried a little shaken back to woodwork, just in time to see one of those left behind yell "Bingo" as he completed his wordsearch...it was good to be home. Incidentally, we did so little work in year 1, the year 2 teacher read us a list of 142 things we should have done in year 1, we had done 3...our answer to most of his list was "probably did a wordsearch on it".

As I finish telling this story to the girl at my work, she tells me Neil is a "gay stabber"...in my day, we'd have come up for far more imaginative insults...kids today...no appreciation for milk or the early 90s...

15 comments:

Kath Lockett said...

I reckon your Scottish woodwork teacher was married to my year 8 art teacher who taught at Kincorth Academy, Aberdeen Scotland. For some reason she'd see fit to reorganise the art supply room and let the charming little year 8s dance on the desks.

Miles McClagan said...

Ah, see I haven't even got to my art teacher yet - a chronic alkie who tried to pass off a collection of empty vodka bottles as an installation...

Maybe one day

Jannie Funster said...

Did you grow up in Scotland and are now in Taz?

Milk varies from grass to grass, cow to cow, season to season. I find. Spring grass will not taste anything like winter day milk.

"Impossibly young," weren't we all at one time?

I made a jewelry box that loaded the dishwasher and ate the fleas off the shiz-tsu. (sorry, never can spell shits-soo right.)

Mr Donald, out smoking pot all hour?

My days are just starting. And yours?

Miladysa said...

Your know I think we are related... have I said that before?

Things were different in my day... not :D

I reckon you could get three generations all telling tales of their school days and the only thing that would be different would be the names and years - if you took the video out that is.

My father was born in the 1920s, spent the 1940s fighting in WWII, joined up aged 16 and always told us how bloody horrible it was in his day and how lucky we were in ours.

"all moustache and pencil" - made my day :D

Walker said...

Isn't that what we make life about in the end spilt milk.
The question is, is the cow a Protestant or Catholic, unless it's kosher.

Megan said...

The idea of the knife terrifies me. As Peter Wimsey says, "A bullet may go anywhere, but steel's almost bound to go somewhere."

Mrs Slocombe said...

you had me at 'Edward Woodwardstock'........

ut si said...

Opera nutter (grade 7) brought a pine key holder thingy home last week that he'd made in woodwork (now known as MDT...I have NO idea what MTD stands for...neither does nutter!) So aware was he of its hideousness that he insisted that it not be installed in the house ...so it sits abandoned in the pot plant outside the front door. His school week this week consists of a three day athletics carnival. WTF!
He is a slightly strange yet lovely kid for whom high school will be a mostly pointless exercise.

Miladysa said...

Did blogger eat my comment of has the government censorship started early?

Miles McClagan said...

Yeah, I was born in Scotland, I've had two stints there and two stints in Tassie. I remember being impossibly young, I had no idea the milk could be so varied, I take it back! And yeah, he was definitely a pot smoker, no question. Oh, and my day is still just about going! The nights are bit earlier though!

I think if you fought in a war, I find it weird when you say my day was great - I think the notion of your day vs my day is always flawed as you say - it's like when people say London was great when the Krays were running it. Oh, and your comment just wasn't moderated, I was out last night!

If you asked my uncle, the cow was a catholic if the milk was tasty, but if it wasn't...he blames Protestants for all the bad or spilt milk...

Yeah, knifes absolutely terrify me...it was not a great moment, and as much as we all talked about how brave we were, we were packing it...

Miles McClagan said...

Ah, Edwardwoodwardstock - what happens when you need a title for a post at about 11 at night, and the references are swirling!

When I was in Burnie, they rather pretensiously called woodwork "technical drawing"...I have no idea what MDT is either? My jewellery box was only brought out to poke fun at it so I completely relate...and high school athletics was just an excuse to hit on the javelin throwers. High school, such memories!

Mad Cat Lady said...

Technical drawing was the name they called Graphics when I was young. all drafting perspective and houses. my teacher liked me but hated my handwriting and i always had smudge marks all over the paper because the ink would come off the cheap tacky romance novels I read.

Miles McClagan said...

Technical drawing was about 10 different subjects in one at Burnie - woodwork, metalwork, drawing plans, banging a car with a hammer...I was rubbish at them all, and after about a week, the teacher, who looked like Barry the Cougar, gave up and educated the 4 people who were interested. I don't think he liked me though...or my handwriting or drawing...

Ann O'Dyne said...

this is a damn fine blog.
Megan commenting above is quoting Dorothy L Sayers.
Judge a blog by it's Commentors I say!
look out Megan here I come.
(god I hope her surname isn't McLagan too - Megan McLagan would be miles to alliterative)

Miles McClagan said...

I love all my commenters, even the ones using this blog to media monitor their company! The McClagan family are hopefully very proud of my work (Mum, Mick, Michael, Megan, Milly...)