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TASTER 1: An extract from my latest book: So What! Stories or Whatever!
… A paper dart flew across the room and hit the left ear of a boy who was arm-wrestling a girl. It did not hurt his ear but he lost concentration for a second, and the momentary weakness helped Amethyst to win the contest.
‘Whoo! I win! I win!’ she yelled. ‘Told ya! - Girls are just as strong as boys! Stronger, stronger! Whoo! I win! I win!’
Fraser was not happy with this. ‘That’s not fair!’ he moaned. He stood up to look round the classroom for the dart-thrower. But there were several pupils launching paper missiles in all directions. ‘Uh!’ he grunted and pushed Amethyst’s books to the floor as he sat down again. Three boys and a girl were sat round a desk in the corner of the room that was farthest from the door to the corridor. They were writing furiously about Heat: Conduction and Convection and argued frequently about whose turn it was to borrow the split-and-scratched ruler. This was somewhat pathetic since none of their diagrams did justice to the two diagrams they were copying. All of their accounts were identical, allowing for the crossings-out and the occasional dirty
smudge. Adam had pocketed eighty pence but was now starting to panic.
‘Come on,’ he urged them. ‘I don’t wanna get done for lendin’ you my homework. Hurry up! She’ll be here soon!’
‘Shurrup!’ said Darrell, ‘I can’t concentrate with you rabbitin’ on. Anyway you’ve bin paid ’aven’t ya!’
‘You still owe me twenty pee,’ said Adam.
‘Finished!’ said the girl, named Tracy. She added, ‘Miss isn’t here. She’s gone ’ome sick. Annabel told me at lunchtime.’
Annabel had also gone home sick, but had omitted to tell any teachers since the hole in the link-wire fencing was conveniently nearer to Annabel than the school Reception office, who always seemed to insist on getting a teacher’s
permission first! Sometimes Tracy sat next to Annabel but usually she sat next to Amethyst, which was not often as Amethyst regularly truanted from school. Annabel usually sat next to Pete, but this afternoon he had palled-up with Tracy. Pete confirmed Tracy’s declaration, ‘Yeah, Dolan’s not ’ere!’ He grinned at his listeners and then became more thoughtful.
They all stopped writing and looked apprehensively at each other.
‘Wonder who we’ll get?’ whined Pete as he tried, unsuccessfully, to erase a dayglow-green graph line with a damp and grubby thumb.
In the opposite corner of the room a pair of girls shared the compact earphones of their equally compact personal stereo player. Fortunately recent technical advances in such devices meant that they could easily conceal them in their incredibly small school bags. To the uninitiated these school bags looked like fashionable handbags, and so a remarkable number of discussions revolved around them day after day. The uninitiated teachers and parents often resorted to shouting and threatening, but to no avail. The girls persisted and the bags continued to appear. While it was impossible to get exercise books or pencil cases into these school bags there was just room enough for face make-up, blusher, eye-liner, lippy,
hairbrush, tail comb, money, cigarettes, a lighter, and of course a personal stereo!
At first glance Michelle and Caroline looked like sisters: long bleached-blonde hair, pulled into an asymmetric pony tail on one side of the head, make-up thickly applied, scarlet lipstick and incredibly complicated patterns applied to their long finger nails with various pink and purple varnishes. It was of little concern to them that they could not take homework to and from school, or handle writing implements to produce neat classwork, because of course anything to do with school was boring!
‘Are you goin’ to that detention, Shel?’ Caroline had removed her single left headphone.
‘Can’t hear you, Caz!’ Michelle was enjoying the music track too much to remove the matching right headphone.
‘Watcher doin’?’ she exclaimed. Caroline had pulled the right headphone from her friend’s ear.
‘I said: Are you goin’ to Gildean’s DT?’
‘Nah! Sonly for twenty minutes. We still miss the same bus if she doubles it to forty. Might as well wait till then!’
‘Yeah, right... She might forget - silly old bag!’
In unison they returned their headphones to their ears and replenished their chewing gum; the gobbets of spent gum joining the dozens of concreted lumps beneath the desk. They may not have been sisters but they were an amazingly close match. They even harmonised tunelessly out loud to the shared music: Shawa! Shawa! Barbie Girl…Wawawa!
At the front of the classroom a couple of daring individuals had discovered Miss Dolan’s box of whiteboard markers. Jamie and Kevin had started to decorate the corners of the board with their tags and indelicate drawings of male genitalia. Groans, cheers and jeers erupted from the onlookers and one or two pleaded, ‘Keep the noise down or we’ll all get done!’
The class victims stayed quiet. They longed for Miss Dolan to arrive soon before the entertainment included a spot of bullying in their direction. These timid spectators watched the unruly proceedings of their classmates with a slightly envious air. They knew, however, that if they dared to move out of their seats, throw a paper dart or even laugh out of turn it would attract the attention of Jake or Kyle. These two persecutors delighted in making their victims’ lives miserable - daily events! Darren, the third member of the bullying trio, had his forehead resting on his arms on his desk and seemed to be asleep, for which the victims were extremely grateful. Was he was too tired to bully? Sat next to Darren was…
TASTER 2: Another extract from my latest book: So What! Stories or Whatever!
…‘Please, sir, what are those animals called with eight testicles?’
Mr Jeffrey could not help blinking, open-mouthed, at the two girls standing at his desk. His long, slow intake of breath gave him a chance to think. His first thought was This is a put-up job! But when he reminded himself they were only just out of Year Seven, and that two of the cleverest but most naive pupils in the year group were Claire and Samantha, then he told himself No, this has to be a genuine question. They were always so keen; they were always asking or answering questions in their own enthusiastic way; they were so artless. The artlessness that he often witnessed in the children he taught worried him greatly at times, while, at the same time, it was one of the main attractions for him as a teacher. It was one of the things that helped to counter-balance the unpleasant events often experienced by teachers in the course of their duties. Girls like these two were so vulnerable and occasionally he felt concern for the children he might have as a future parent himself. But
for now he was both concerned and amused by Claire and Samantha.
With exercise books in hand and pens at the ready, they looked up at him in wide-eyed innocence. And he did not know the answer. Mr Jeffrey mentally rejected hydra, sea horses and anemones then replied, ‘Is this for your poster?’ They nodded vigorously. ‘I’m not sure what you mean, girls. Can you tell me anything else about these animals? Do they have fur or feathers? Do they lay eggs in water or on land? Don’t forget our new topic is called Classification. So you should be able to narrow it down a bit more. Don’t you agree?’
‘Well’, Claire said wistfully, ‘I’m not sure. It is quite unusual. It lives in the water. In the sea, I think’.
‘And it can grip things with its testicles. It can squeeze you to death with them! Or squirt stuff at you to escape!’ said Sam,
Now Mr Jeffrey’s mind went into a spin… OK, he thought, My subject isn’t Biology but I’ve always been interested in the natural world and I’m sure I would have read about a sea creature that can grip things with its testicles.
The thunder of a hundred pennies dropping in his silent brain made him exclaim, ‘Oh! You mean an octopus, girls! An octopus has eight arms - or tentacles - but not testicles!’ Mr Jeffrey tried not to collapse with tears of suppressed laughter. ‘It’s an octopus that has eight tentacles, girls. They have suckers on them. And, yes, it does live in the sea. You’ll find more
details on it in the blue text book over there.’
He waved his left hand vaguely in the direction of the bookcase, and drew their attention towards the correct spelling, which he wrote on the board for them with his right. Then he fished for a paper tissue from the box on his desk. Mr Jeffrey now regularly kept a box for small emergencies with the children: runny noses, cut knees and quite often for tears of sadness. He thought that he should stuff some in his mouth to suppress his laughter. But of course he could not easily do that in front of the class, so he coughed loudly, blew his nose even louder and wiped his eyes, trying hard to recover his composure.
As they went over to the bookcase Mr Jeffrey saw the two innocents put their heads close together. He heard Claire mutter, ‘Well, what are testicles for then? I know I’ve heard of them.’
Mr Jeffrey wanted to bottle the moment and save it for their parents’ amusement on Open Night… But that wouldn’t work. Claire’s mum and dad have just split up. She had already needed some of those tissues. Why was it that…
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There’s more where this came from:
TASTER 3: Another extract from my latest book: So What! Stories or Whatever!
…The next day was relatively uneventful, that is if the long hill walk when Darren went missing for a while is ignored. Each teacher led a group of nine or ten children with Stuart insisting on Darren being in his group. They had to cross a river that was ankle deep and about twenty feet wide. The slippery stepping stones seemed to present a problem for a lot of the young
townies, and each teacher had to take up a helpful position about halfway across the river, where the gap between stones was large even for an adult. The First Year pupils were a sorry sight in the drizzling rain that had persisted for almost an hour. Gathered together on the river bank, wearing an assortment of colourful, adult-size, hooded weatherproofs, the dripping innocents looked and sounded like a group of rebellious munchkins!
You go first!… No way!… I might fall in!… I’m not doin’ it!… Ya! Who’s chicken?… Wimps!… Watch me!
Stuart’s group were to go across first and he was pleased with Darren, for a brief moment, when he pushed forward to cross the stepping stones.
‘Good for you, Darren! Show them it’s nothing to worry about. Just take it steady, lad. No need to run! Slow down!’
Now Darren had his own ideas about showing his twenty seven fellow students how to do it. Galloping across the slimy stones he suddenly found it impossible to stop at Stuart’s outstretched arm. He had just enough momentum to cause his Head of Year to swivel round and step backwards into the icy cold river; where Stuart discovered it was deep enough to pour into his left walking boot and soak his woollen sock up to around shin height!
But Darren did not stay long enough to hear which particular appellation the teacher had chosen to call him. Having completed his watery gymnastics by recoiling backwards from Mr Swanhurst and sitting in the middle of the river, the shocked lad took a sharp intake of breath. This was caused no doubt by the combined effect of cold water around his nether regions and the sight of his Head of Year struggling to regain his footing. Then, springing nimbly to his feet, he departed the river, splashing and flapping like a demented penguin dressed as a monk. Dripping cold river water as he went Darren raced up the grassy hill on the opposite side of the river to disappear over the brow and make his escape!
‘Come back here, Darren!’ bellowed his PE teacher.
‘Darren!’ shouted his form tutor.
‘Darren!’ shouted his History teacher.
‘Darren!’ was the shout attempted by his fellow pupils, but which most of them found impossible to articulate while laughing hilariously. It was their best moment of the Arlem Hall trip and they would be relating it for months and years to come.
… And then Daz slipped on the steppin’ stones!… It was so funny, Mum!… An’ Mr Swanhurst had to step back into the river cos Daz shoved into ’im!… The water was frreezin’ an’ it went into his boot! It was so funny!… An’ Daz fell off the stones an’ sat in the river! It was freezin’ cold! He went: Huuuhh! Cos it was so cold!… I nearly wet meself laffin, Mum! It was so funny…
And so on. Later embroideries of the tale included breaking through ice and slippery fish in trousers; but that’s how stories grow! …
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