John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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The “mock O-levels”

1965, the year that changed my life
I go back to school

video
Since I recorded the above narration, I have found
out that Blade’s first name is Norman.

From Thursday 28th January 1965

Fleetwood Grammar School in the 1950s
 1. The large hall at Fleetwood Grammar School, where each morning we had Assembly and where once a week we also had Physical Education (P.E.), had been transformed into an examination hall by the erection of folding desks in rows and columns throughout its floor space. Of the perhaps 120 or more pupils who gathered there to sit their “mock O-levels” on Thursday 28th January 1965 (and for a number of days afterwards), thirty or so, including me, were from Form 5X. Although this class had a five in its name, most of its members were in fact in their fourth year at the Grammar School, having come up in the “express” stream of Forms 2A and 3A, and would take their GCE O-levels at age fifteen. The rest of the examination candidates were true fifth-formers, were thus a year older than we 5X pupils, and would take their O-levels at sixteen. However, about half a dozen of our number in 5X were in the older age group, having already taken O-levels the previous year in the “express” stream; but they had joined our class at the start of the school year to improve their examination grades or gain more passes. Two of these were boys: the stocky, heavy-jowled Frank Shipway (who, by virtue of these traits, one assumes, was later chosen to play King Henry VIII in the school play); and of slighter, though well-muscled, physique, there was red-haired Norman Blade.

The large hall at Fleetwood Grammar School, where each morning we had Assembly and where once a week we also had Physical Education (P.E.),—


—had been transformed into an examination hall by the erection of folding desks—


—in rows—


—and columns throughout its floor space.


"Frank Shipway", "Norman Blade", and me — from a 1965 class photo
 2. I seem to remember that in the hall I sat near Blade; I have the impression of being in the next-but-one column of desks to the corridor from which one entered the hall, in a row between the two double entrance doors, which were to my left — nearer to the left door, as I looked at it, than the right. It was here that, while waiting for exam papers to be handed out, or between exams, I doodled on scrap paper or wrote nonsense stories in the misspelled, mispronounced style of John Lennon’s In His Own Write; I had received this book as a present from my Mum and Dad the previous Christmas.

I have the impression of being in the next-but-one column of desks to the corridor from which one entered the hall,


—in a row between the two double entrance doors,—


—which were to my left:


—nearer to the left door, as I looked at it,—


— than the right.
[I forgot, when I wrote this, that there was a third entrance-door near the corner of the hall.]


"I doodled on scrap paper or wrote nonsense stories in the misspelled, mispronounced style of John Lennon’s In His Own Write" — I quote as an example "Sad Michael":
There was no reason for Michael to be sad that morning, (the little wretch): everyone liked him, (the scab). He'd had a hard day's night that day, for Michael was a Cocky Watchtower. His wife Bernie, who was well controlled, had wrabbed his norman lunch but he was still sad. It was strange for a man who have everything and a wife to boot. At 4 o'clock when his fire was burking bridelly a Poleaseman had clubbed in to parse the time around. 'Goddeven Michael,' the Poleaseman speeg, but Michael did not answer for he was debb and duff and could not speeg…
 Despite my newly acquired assurance of the reality of God and in particular of the truth of New Testament miracles, I was still evidently unaware of the prohibitions in scripture about misuse of the divine name, for in one of my silly stories, immediately before one of the characters suffered a fatal accident which ushered him into, as I put it, “Huvin”, I put into his mouth the exclamation: “Je-e-e-e-zus Kerrri-i-i-i-st!!!” I seem to remember passing round the piece of paper it was written on in a partially successful attempt to share my amusement with the boys near me, including Blade — and perhaps Shipway, too.

Tom Bennett’s letter


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