A little while ago, I discovered a little stash of my old school yearbooks. My mum and dad have got all my old reports kicking about somewhere too – that’s fun for another day – but these were the end-of-year magazines that told parents about how the sporting teams had been getting on, who won what prize and things like that. They also contain little poems and short stories and things written by the pupils.
One issue was from about 1985, and I was amused to discover that it included a little short story that I’d written – aged 11. It’s probably about 500 words long, and much to my surprise, was quite interesting. It tells the story of a couple of guys walking along Hadrian’s wall (I think we’d been on holiday in Carlisle that summer). Something underfoot catches the eye of one of the walkers, and they stop to pick up a piece of rusty metal…. at which point we flash back to a Roman garrison manning the wall and see the attack by the Picts that led to the end of a sword breaking off in someone’s chest. The fragment of metal is dropped in surprise, and we’re taken back to the present day.
Not too bad, I thought…. but it’s not even the best story in the magazine: there’s another one, set in an unspecified future where a teacher is telling her class about an animal called an “abbit” that used to be common but has now disappeared entirely and has almost been forgotten. This story ends in another classroom, a little further into the future, where another teacher is telling another class about an animal called a “bbit” that used to be common but has now disappeared entirely.... This story was written by an 11 year old in 1985, but it’s so striking that it has stayed with me ever since. In fact, the environmental message it conveys is, if anything, more resonant now than it was then.
I’ll have to have a dig around and see if I can’t find it again to at least give you the name of the author to give them a bit of credit.
In 1987, I was made Head of School at this place. I often tell people that this – at age thirteen – was the peak of my maturity and that it’s been a slow decline from that high point ever since. I think that my creative writing peaked about the same time too.
mother of all relapses: the return
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