So many years ago I went St Andrews, Bloemfontein, like my father, in the hope that it would sort out my asthma and 'ruck-my-reg'. I was suffering from a bad dose of puberty, being brighter than I was mature, being tiny, detesting school. I went from being tiny to being merely small, but as Saints was very much old style boarding school of Stalky and Co. and puberty makes most boys (and probably girls too) that extra special pain in the nether end it did little else. Well, it did do my lungs some good. It certainly did nothing much for my education (other than teach me a whole of extra-curricular things, which I probably didn't really need to know, but got out of the way before I was 18 whereas a lot of my peers still seemed to working on discovering them at 30). Not that I blame the teachers particularly. I must have been on the list of the 10 kids you would least like to teach. A bit too smart-mouthed, with a habit of reading and remembering the awkward bits, and zero, or less, interest in class-work. Forever reading in class. Somehow, on minimal sleep(I don't think I had more than 5 hours a night for about three years - much of which was spent prowling around in the dark, pinching fruit, climbing buildings... or reading) and no schoolwork somehow passing exams, getting up whatever antisocial devilry with the other misfits (I was never one of the cool kids at school. Sneered at them for being dumb and envied them for their success with the girls:-)), or alone as often as not. How I stayed out of reform school let alone not getting expelled for being nothing but trouble amazes me. With teen hormones and boredom, and fact that I hated ball-sports (and typical SA school of the time, only ball-sport excellence could make you a cool-kid if you weren't tall (and preferably good at ball-sports)) and that I had decided the only way to overcome being tiny was to be hyper-aggressive and downright nasty, it was a horrible set of years. It would probably have been worse, elsewhere. But it was in the middle of a city in the middle of the Free State which is dryish thorn-scrub and rocks on the only non-built up areas, and tussocky veldt in between... and houses. This was just death for a kid that loved the bush, real, thick coastal bush, and only felt the equal to any other kid in the sea, diving, where with a pair of fins and a lot of water time on the reefs, I was fairly competent, and a lot longer-necked than most other people. I really was trying to drown myself or kill myself back then... Must have given my guardian angel conniptions about twice a day. It's no wonder I worried (and still do) so much about my own kids. The 24 hour train trips back to school where a sort journey into despair, which only retreating into books and a kind of alter ego kept me from running away. My mother said much later (I must have been about 45) that she felt terrible guilt about the fact that I wouldn't write or communicate from school. They thought that this would keep me alive--my health was not good--and had to be done. She thought I hated her for it. I was stunned. Not true at all. I was coping by being someone else, but _I_ hated me, at that stage. It never even occurred to me to resent being sent. Kids just accept things parents agonize about sometimes. I was an inconsiderate, revolting brat, mind, body, all out of synch, and school merely stopped them having to have that at home.) Trips home of course were inevitably blurred by alcohol and desperate attempts to make out with the Eunice girls going home too. The only other time I went on a train was as conscript. To this day I find them disturbing, which is very sad, because Barbs loves train travel.
So what brought up this lot? Well, one of the few guys I got on reasonably with at school introduced me into a facebook thingy where all the Old Andreans are indulging in an orgy of nostalgia (and a few of the girls from our two favourite schools for talent). Vast seas of reminiscences are being poured out. And one thing people keep saying is 'the best years of my life'.
Holy macaroni! Not for me. I do suspect it did me more good than staying in Durban would have, but for me, even the army was better. And I hated that with a passion (I do not take orders from idiots well, and at that time SA army was remarkably like the army in Rats Bats and Vats. There were of course some people that earned my respect, and those I had no problem with orders from, but that wasn't how it worked.). But I did learn a lot and my body finally started be only about half a mile out of synch. I was rock-climbing seriously and that got my mind right, or at least my self-esteem. Then I got out, met Barbs, and things just improved from there. Uni (where, um, I was leader of the pack of sorts, which was an odd experience. I'd started on suddenly finding I was the guy you could rely on(and finding I liked being that, rather than the opposite)in the army, because I was a little brighter than the average bear (medics were tested, and I was interested and challenged, worked for the first time in my life), and fairly tough and boarding-school conditioned to all the garbage, and actually did fine when faced with real problems not make-work rubbish). I learned to give orders too, which was a bit of a shock to a kid who resisted them all his life. Uni... I really wanted to be there, and wanted to succeed, so teaching finally got to me :-) But even the worst since then-low patches-were better than school at its best! And I'm still hoping the best years of my life will be here on the island.
Working on it.