The Green Pen

This is a completely pointless page about some shit from school which I was remembering last night and giggling about.

As is usually the case in schools we were afflicted with PE lessons. We had them twice a week. Naturally, this induced a response in the form of attempts to minimise the affliction. One fairly effective method of doing this was to put your name down for weights.

Every other activity possible in PE took place in the gym, but the weights room wasn't in the gym. To get to it you had to go out of the gym, walk all the way around outside it, go down some steps, go up some more steps, and into this rickety wooden shed. Inside this shed was a weights machine, which by some arcane power managed to avoid falling through the disintegrating, rat-chewed floor.

Since nothing inside the shed could be observed by the PE teacher without abandoning those in the gym to their own devices and making the trek to the shed, he wasn't there most of the time. When he did show up, he would see a lot of us standing around doing nothing. This was only natural since two or three times as many people had put their name down for weights as there were stations on the weights machine. So he didn't mind. Of course it was always the same people who were standing around doing nothing, but he either didn't notice or didn't care.

After a while it dawned on some of us that there wasn't actually any rule that said we had to get changed for PE in the changing room attached to the gym. The lockers where we kept our PE kit were themselves in a changing room, which was actually closer to the weights shed than the gym changing room was, and there was nothing to stop us getting changed in there instead. Indeed, it was advantageous, since there was a lot more room in there and you weren't forever putting your elbows in each other's faces, and also it was much easier to avoid being made to have a shower afterwards, because there was nobody there to see if you did or not.

Of course, doing this meant that the PE teacher never saw us in the gym changing rooms before the lesson so he didn't know if we were there or not, and so he changed the timing of his once-per-lesson visit to the shed to take place at the start of the lesson instead of part way through. But he always found us there. We hadn't disappeared, we had just got changed somewhere else. So that was all OK, and after a while he stopped bothering to come and check on us at all.

Once we realised that his lack of checking had become habitual, it enabled us to abbreviate our efforts further, and simply not bother getting changed at all. We still turned up, since the biggest difficulty with skiving PE was that we still had to be somewhere and if someone found us we would be in trouble. The one place where we could be certain not to be observed was in the weights shed. So we just hung around in there instead of hanging around somewhere else, chatting shit to each other and occasionally poking holes in the shed walls when we got bored, but no longer even pretending to do anything with the weights.

(Poking holes in the walls was very easy because the shed was so crap. As well as the weights machine, there were some iron bars in it, which were for putting weights on the ends of. They were quite heavy in themselves, and if picked up and swung like a spear at the shed walls they would poke a neat circular hole in it. It was quite fascinating how they would make so neat and circular a hole despite not being pointed or anything, just from their sheer momentum. It did however make a fucking loud noise so we didn't do it very often.)

Across the way from the manky old shed, and even further from the gym, the school had another old building which was currently disused. After a while either the shed fell down altogether or the school decided that it was just about to, I'm not sure which, but anyway they figured that the large, empty room which took up much of the ground floor of this disused building was a much more sensible place to put the weights machine than the shed was, so they moved it. It was somewhat less congenial a place to hang around in than the shed was, because it was rather short of stuff to sit on (there was loads of shit in there, but not comfortable sitty shit), but on the other hand after the first lesson in there we never got checked up on once.

Nevertheless, it was probably in there that I exerted more muscular effort than I had in any of the weights sessions up to that point. At the opposite end of the room from the door we entered by was another door, with a load of old shit piled up in front of it. Driven by my usual urge to explore I decided to move enough of this shit to be able to get at the door, with the intention of opening it to see what was on the other side. Unfortunately once I had achieved that I found that although the door was not locked, it was still an effective barrier because it had had something nailed across it from the other side.

Of course, that didn't stop me. Next lesson I brought some tools with me, and with a combination of suitably applied leverage and plain straightforward putting the boot in, I managed to get the door to open. Not all the way, but enough to get through, and as a bonus it closed itself firmly enough afterwards that a casual inspection would not reveal that it had been breached.

On the other side of it I found a set of stairs which led to the upper floor of the building. On that floor a corridor ran down one side of the building with a series of private study rooms opening off one side. In these rooms there were tables with two or three seating positions, mounted against the wall, with hoods over them under which were 20W fluorescent light fittings, and also overturned chairs, bits of paper, and other random debris. It was plainly obvious that no fucker had been in there for ages and no fucker was likely to.

But there were these 20W fluorescent fittings, in pristine condition, and hidden beneath the hoods such that even if someone did come in they wouldn't see them without making a special effort to look. And there was me with my liking for electrical devices of all kinds and a bag full of tools. So it wasn't long before one of them was no longer attached to the underside of the hood but instead was in my by now rather grubby little hand.

It wouldn't fit in my bag, of course; it was too big. It wouldn't fit in my locker either. So during lunch break I had to leave it on the floor out in the open, in the same pile of bags and stuff that everyone else left their junk in. But that didn't matter. There was nothing unusual about me leaving electrical stuff lying about; I would quite often salvage stuff out of the school bins or out of skips in the High Street that I passed on my way to school and have to put it somewhere until I could take it home in the evening. It was quite safe because no other bugger was interested enough in those sort of things to want to nick it for themselves. And the chance of anyone realising that I had got this fitting not out of a bin but out of a disused study room that no other bugger had even been into for years was as close to zero as made no difference.

Of course, most of the other stuff that I nicked from school was a lot smaller than a fluorescent fitting. Chemicals out of the chemistry labs, for instance. If I needed something for my home-made explosives I would get into the lab a couple of minutes before the teacher arrived, take the bottle off the shelves, and hide it in some cranny of the lab. If the teacher found it missing and suspected someone of nicking it I could then quite truthfully say that I didn't have it and if they got to the point of getting everyone to turn out their pockets and empty their bags it would not be found that way. In the end the teacher would write it off as a baffling mystery, and on my way out of the lab at the end of the lesson I would retrieve it from its hiding place in passing and stash it in my pocket with nobody any the wiser.

Less unusual items than bottles of chemicals were correspondingly easier to pinch. Overhead projector pens, for instance. Many classrooms had overhead projectors in them; rarely were they ever used, and when they were the teacher would only be re-displaying slides that they had made long ago; they would never write anything new on them during the lesson. So if I slipped one of the pens into my pocket it was certain that it would not be noticed at the time and highly likely that it would not be noticed ever.

Overhead projectors were useful for other things than providing a supply of pens. At a previous school where they were used more often, I used to enjoy slipping into the classroom when nobody was about, taking the bulb out, colouring it in heavily with one of the pens, and putting it back. The result was that when the teacher switched it on, instead of it projecting clear white light on the screen, it would project a deep and sinister red, or a startling green, or whatever other colour I had used. Then after a few seconds the bulb would heat up enough to burn the colour off; the screen would clear, while a large cloud of smoke would billow out of the overhead projector's cooling vents, and have the teacher throwing open windows in a panic in case the fire alarm went off.

After a while I found a more successfully disruptive method of overhead projector sabotage. Looking through the drawers in the teacher's desk I found a spare bulb. It turned out to be possible to install that in addition to the existing bulb; one terminal of one bulb went into one half of the connector, one terminal of the other bulb went into the other half, and the two free terminals of the bulbs were then joined with a paper clip. With two bulbs thus connected in series the light output was dimmed to a red-orange glow that rendered the projector largely useless. (I had tried before to achieve a similar result by using a length of pencil lead as a resistor, but the amount of smoke that emanated from the binder when it heated up was truly epic and far more of a fire alarm activation risk than burning ink off the bulb.) For some reason, despite the teacher knowing all about my habit of doing things to the bulb, he didn't realise that this was just another instance; he apparently just assumed the thing had fucked itself of its own accord, and didn't even bother taking the lid off to have a look. It was out of action for quite a few weeks until he finally caught on.

At this school, however, the overhead projectors were used sufficiently rarely that there was little point in sabotage, and I confined my interactions with them to merely nicking the pens. I liked the pens because they would write on shiny surfaces that normal pens wouldn't touch, and the writing could not easily be erased. They were also very highly coloured, with strong dye, so the writing came out properly instead of being a faint and hard-to-read smear.

At the time I nicked the fluorescent fitting, I happened to have a recently-nicked green overhead projector pen in my pocket. The surface of the fluorescent fitting was smooth, white, and shiny, and the pen was a good one; there was something fascinating in the ease with which it would glide over the surface leaving a deep, solid green behind. So I assuaged this fascination by writing a load of stuff on this fluorescent fitting.

I can't remember what I wrote. It was just stream-of-consciousness drivel to enable me to enjoy the process of writing on a white enamelled steel surface with a green overhead projector pen. When the mood takes me, I am quite good at producing large quantities of verbal drivel, and so it was on this occasion; one entire surface of the fitting ended up covered in line after line of small, dense writing. Somewhere in the middle of this was some comment to the effect that I hated the bog cleaning woman so much that I would like to clamp her clit in a mole wrench and dangle her down the stairwell by it. I didn't actually mean it; in reality I would have paid a considerable sum to avoid going anywhere near her clit, and it was just written for something to write. The rest of the stuff was more than likely the same sort of crap, but apart from that one little bit I can't remember what it said.

This be-graffitied fluorescent fitting, then, was what I left on the floor along with my bag in a pile of other people's bags while I buggered off to lunch. And this be-graffitied fluorescent fitting was what caught the eye of a passing teacher, who then proceeded to pick it up and read every word of the drivel I had written on it. But whereas any normal person would have just rolled their eyes and put it down again, this chap, being a teacher, decided to give me a massive bollocking over it.

Now this I thought was decidedly unfair. As far as I was concerned it was my fucking fitting and if I wanted to write on it then it was none of any other fucker's business. Indeed, as far as the teacher was concerned it was my fucking fitting too. As I had anticipated, he assumed it was just another piece of junk that I had pulled out of a bin somewhere as I often did, and it never even crossed his mind to suspect that I might have nicked it out of a disused classroom. The point of disagreement was that he didn't think it was no other fucker's business what I did with my own stuff. He contended that it was an appallingly heinous crime on the grounds of "what would have happened if the bog woman had read it". Which was bloody stupid since the bog woman was only around first thing in the morning and this was the middle of the day, and since half a million years of evolution had apparently passed her by such that she could barely even speak - the school seemed to obtain its cleaning staff by hanging around outside the gates of the local looney bin and offering employment to anyone who passed, and I was far from being the only one who took the piss out of the part-human part-amoeboid things they managed to dredge up - I strongly doubted that she'd have been able to read it even if she had been around to see it. Or that she'd have even bothered trying. And I also disagreed with his assertion that she would have totally freaked out and had a nurvus brakedown over it, because as a rule people do not freak out and have nurvus brakedowns over bits of random abuse - if they did, the whole idea of a school would be unworkable - and even if she could and did read it she probably wouldn't know what most of the words meant anyway.

Still, I had long ago learned that there was no point attempting to dispute any of the fucking weird constructions teachers built around my activities in lieu of actually having any clue about what I was really doing, even if I had been able to coherently articulate my point of view while some cunt was bellowing shit at me, which I wasn't. By far the easiest thing to do was to say as little as possible and just wait for them to shut up, at which point I could with any luck forget about the whole thing. And so it proved in this case. After yelling the products of his imagination at me for about fifteen minutes he ran out of steam and let me go without imposing any actual punishment, and the whole business promptly dropped out of my mind.

I still had the fitting, which I took home that evening as I had intended, and cleaned the writing off it with acetone before my parents could see that it included rude words and concepts which they persisted in deluding themselves into thinking that their sweet little kids were too innocent to have acquired. (Or at least my mum did. I can still remember the tone of absolute disgusted horror in which she announced to my dad her discovery that my sister (aged 17 at the time) had sucked her boyfriend off. I can also remember how blatantly obvious it was that my dad was thinking "lucky bastard".)

And, of course, I also still had the pen. It was, I think, around a couple of weeks later that I found the smooth varnished surface of a desk in the library to be nearly as satisfying to write on with it as the fluorescent fitting had been, and adorned it with a list of about ten different animals, each of which was what we used to say each of ten different teachers were. It never crossed my mind that I might get into trouble for it because everyone wrote on desks and nobody ever got into trouble for it. There were, indeed, already several other pieces of graffiti on this desk, although they were much less conspicuous since the writers had used biro or cartridge pen to do it and the surface had rejected most of the ink, whereas I had used the proper tool for the job and it stood out nice and clearly.

However, my anticipation in this instance was deficient. Although, to my knowledge, the teacher who had bollocked me about writing on my own light never went into the library, and certainly not to the section concerned which was about industrial history and other things he didn't teach, something prompted him to visit it not long after I had written on the desk. The writing was still fresh and clear, and the image of the same handwriting in the same green pen was comparably fresh and clear in his mind, and the result was that I got another bollocking for it. This time, too, there was a punishment. I was given a supply of coarse sandpaper and told to sand it off. In so doing I discovered that the ink had penetrated the varnish and soaked into the wood beneath. In order to completely remove it, I had to carry on sanding until there was a bare, varnishless depression in the surface of the desk several millimetres deep and about a foot across. There was, very obviously, far more damage to the desk after I had finished than there would have been if they had just ignored the graffiti like they did with every single other instance of writing on desks that took place in the entire school (and this would still have been the case even if I had not tried to subvert the punishment by carrying out the sanding in as vicious a manner as possible). I don't know if this is why they did not then give me a brush and a pot of varnish and make me reinstate the finish, but I think it probably wasn't, because they didn't get anyone else to do that either and the varnishless depression remained as it was at least for the remainder of my time at the school, gradually accumulating dirt and ending up as a far greater defacement to the desk than the actual writing had been.

It appeared that their school-standard gross overreaction to trivia had built up enough pressure that merely making me sand my graffiti off again was insufficient to fully discharge it. But in trying to figure out something else to do to me, their imaginations ran out of pressure before their motivation did.

The school was one to whose exalted station admittance was decided by competitive examination, and I had done sufficiently well in the exam to be awarded a scholarship. Five hundred years before a scholarship had meant that the school fees would be waived entirely, but its value had declined with time to merely giving my parents a cut of about 5% off the bill. As far as its effect on the actual recipient of the scholarship was concerned, however, time had wreaked less of a diminution. Several times a term, our precious Sundays - and another historical hangover of the school was that we had lessons on Saturday mornings, so Sundays, being the only completely school-free day of the week, were even more precious than normal - were ruined by having to go to a service in the Cathedral at 10 in the bloody morning and ponce around in surplices. This would have been boring and shit even if it had taken place on a school day in place of lessons; with it ruining the only day in the week that we normally had off school, it was several times more shit.

So when the teacher called me into his office and broke the news to me that in addition to making me sand the graffiti off they were going to take my scholarship away, I had great difficulty in suppressing the resulting massive grin until I was out of the door.

A while later my dad read through a letter from the school with a frown on his face, and then began to give me a bollocking on his own account. He opened by mention of the fact that my scholarship had been taken away. My reply was "that's a punishment of you, not me". I was hoping that he would kick off at the school for doing it and divert his ire away from me. Well, he did indeed shut up immediately I had said that, but he didn't kick off at the school, which I found something of a disappointment.

I thought I had discovered the reason when that term's bill arrived and my dad left it on the table for my mum to see, which meant that I could also see it. The deduction off it for my scholarship was still there. So I figured that the news of the loss of my scholarship had failed to make it successfully as far as the school's accounting department, and my dad was keeping quiet about it and hoping they would continue to not notice.

It was some time later, after several more bills had arrived with the deduction still present, that I found out the real reason. Both my parents had gone out for the evening to the theatre or something, and my sister was either already in bed or round at a friend's, leaving me alone in the house. This time I used, as I often did on such occasions, to go through my dad's folder of letters and stuff about my school and see what they had been saying to him that they didn't want me to find out about. I knew they did this and I thought they were fucking cunts for chatting shit about me behind my back. As far as I was concerned they had no right to talk about me without including me in the discussion, and I had every right to look at these letters because it was me that they were about; the times when I could guarantee myself a sufficient length of undisturbed time to remedy this injustice were all too rare. So this was the first time I had been able to see that letter about my scholarship for myself.

And what did I find? The continuing presence of the scholarship deduction on the bill was not an administrative error. It was deliberate. The final paragraph of the letter said that the school would be continuing to apply that deduction because it would not be fair to my parents otherwise; it also instructed them not to tell me about this, in case I "found some way to belittle the punishment".

What. The. Fuck?

How would I not "belittle" the punishment? I had "belittled" it, in my mind, in the same instant that they had told me of it, and I had made that plain to my dad as soon as he raised the subject. It was now obvious to me why he had shut up immediately when I said that. He had the intelligence to see the bleeding obvious, even if the school didn't. The one single positive thing about me having a scholarship was that it entitled my parents to a cut off the bill. End of. For the school to attempt to punish me by denying my parents that cut to make me feel guilty about it - which is what I thought they were doing - was an unbelievably cuntish way to carry on, and blatantly so; the punishment "belittled" itself by its own cuntiness in attacking my parents to try and get at me, and I had fully expected my dad to think the same (whether he said so to me or not) and have a go at the school about it.

Now I had discovered that they weren't actually doing that; they were just pretending to. They were lying to me (by omission) to make me think they had attacked my parents, and had persuaded my parents to collude in the deception. I'm not sure whether that makes them less cunts or more, but fucking cunts they certainly still were regardless of questions of degree.

But as well as being fucking cunts, they were also fucking stupid cunts. For a start, they were projecting their own irrationality onto me in assuming that I would feel guilty about it in the first place: they, presumably, would have been muddle-headed enough to feel guilty themselves if the position had been reversed, and were assuming I would be equally thick. They were, of course, wrong. Why the fuck should I feel guilty about something someone else had done? I didn't take my scholarship away. They did. They couldn't even have expected me to anticipate that writing on a desk could have resulted in my scholarship being taken away - they made a point of emphasising that they had never "had to" (meaning: chosen to) do that to anyone before; they knew very well that I had nothing to base such an anticipation on. And even if I had it wouldn't have made any difference. Because they didn't "have to" do it at all; it was entirely their own free choice. They could have done anything, or nothing. (Every fucker in the whole fucking school wrote on desks, and "nothing" was what they usually did do.) I was never going to feel guilty about them being a cunt to my parents (or pretending to) because it wasn't my fault. I didn't make them do it. They did it entirely of their own free will, therefore the fault is theirs, and I didn't feel any guilt at all, I just thought they were cunts.

For their position to make any kind of sense, it would have had to have been the case that (a) I knew in advance, before I wrote on the desk, that it was likely to result in my scholarship being taken away, and (b) that that result would follow not as a result of any human agency - since if it was, that human agency would have a choice over whether to do it or not, and therefore if they did choose to do it the fault would be theirs - but out of some mechanical process that would proceed inexorably on its way without any decisive human involvement in any stage of the process, so no blame could be attached to it (as blame is attached not to the gun but to the person pulling the trigger). Neither condition was true, and they knew this: they knew (a) did not apply because there had never been an example for me to take note of, and (b) did not apply because it is impossible. But thanks to them flying off the handle over such a triviality and losing all semblance of reason over it, they failed to take account of this very obvious point.

They did think I should have anticipated them flying off the handle over it, albeit with indeterminate result. They thought this because they lumped it as all of a kind with me writing on my fluorescent light. They thought I too should have made that connection and it was totally beyond them to understand that in reality it had never even crossed my mind, because there was no reason why it should.

As far as I was concerned the only connection between the two events was that I had used the same green pen both times. Apart from that they were fundamentally different. The desk in the library was school property, so it was reasonable for me to expect them to be annoyed about it and make me clean it off again (though not to do any more than that, certainly not to go as bleeding mental as if the sky was falling in like they did). But the fluorescent fitting was mine (or at least they thought it was) and I can do what the fuck I like with my own stuff, including writing all over it if the mood so takes me, so to me that incident was just them being wankers for the sake of it.

Their idea of a "connection" was their hypothesis that if someone reads rude things written about them it will cause them terrible and irreversible mental damage. That had been what all their yelling and screaming at me over the fluorescent fitting had been about. It never occurred to them that it was a fucking ridiculous idea, and they were much too far up their own arseholes to realise that I had instantly so classified it and regarded all the stuff that was yelled and screamed at me about it as so much horseshit. Perhaps they took my dumb silence during that episode as evidence that I was stricken speechless by the realisation of what an awful thing I had done, and didn't realise that I thought it was a load of old arse and was just standing there letting it go in one ear and out the other waiting for him to shut up. That would be a bloody stupid thing for them to think, but it has to be said that there is no reason to take that as a reason to reject the possibility, and if anything the reverse is true.

They thought that not only should I have accepted and internalised their idiotic hypothesis, but that I should have applied it to the writing on the desk: that I should have thought that if any of the teachers saw what I had written comparing them to various animals, it would so damage their minds as to make it hard for them to continue to teach - how could they teach at a school where someone thought they were a gibbon? It never occurred to them that I would absolutely not do that because I knew for a fact that it would not be true. I don't know why since it was bleeding obvious. Every fucking kid at the school had been calling them a gibbon or a bear or whatever since long before I had been there and they were all perfectly well aware of it. And it's the same at every fucking school. If a teacher couldn't carry on after a kid had called them something rude there wouldn't be any fucking teachers. Yet despite being teachers themselves this very obvious point passed them by entirely and they expected me to react as if I was as fucking thick as they were, and couldn't accept that I didn't.

But what is at least an order of magnitude more fucking stupid is that their irrational attempt to make me feel guilty over something that was their fault was only the minor part of what they were trying to do. It was, for them, a pleasant side effect, but not the main thing. Their major aim was to make me feel bad in myself for the loss of my scholarship, without reference to the cut off the bill. And this above all shows with total clarity that they were off in the fucking clouds somewhere with no link to reality whatsoever.

As I have explained above, as far as I personally was concerned the scholarship was an unmitigated pain in the arse. To me myself it brought nothing whatever apart from the ruination of several Sundays a term. It did not provide any compensating privileges in my life at school; as far as school life was concerned a scholar was no different from anyone else. Absolutely the only thing it did was make me have to waste Sundays poncing around in a surplice and getting bored off my tits, and when I didn't have to do that any more I thought it was fucking brilliant. That they should have expected any other reaction of me is something that baffles me entirely.

I get the impression that they thought I should have been devastated at the loss of the "honour and glory" that goes with a scholarship. Three and a bit years of teaching me had not equipped them to realise that I wouldn't give a tinker's fuck. The only sense in which it was anything remotely to be proud of is in having achieved a high enough mark in the exam to get it in the first place, and that - minimal as it is - they can't take away from me. The resulting title isn't worth a puddle of monkey spunk and whether I keep it or not doesn't matter a wank to me. Why should it? It's not like I can actually do anything with it, either then or ever. Its potential to make my life better in even the minutest respect is zero. It is entirely fucking useless. There never was and never could be any reason why I should care about it.

On the other hand, its potential to make life worse was highly significant, and that makes its loss a cause for jubilation. And jubilate I jolly well did.

What is really funny about the whole episode is that in all their foaming at the mouth over trivia and their attempts to impose a punishment which backfired so spectacularly, they totally missed the one thing that I did do that would have justified a severe punishment: stealing the fucking light fitting. The teacher even had the evidence in his hand, but all he was bothered about was what I had written on it. To be fair, it probably didn't make much difference, because he threw such a ginormous fucking paddy over the writing and blew it so vastly out of proportion that he'd have been hard pushed to have a worse go at me even if he had realised I'd stolen it.

(I can predict what he would have done if he had realised, as well. He would have made a minor point of the actual theft aspect, but gone on and on and bloody on about how dangerous it was to fuck with mains electricity; he would have totally ignored the fact - which he well knew - that I was in all likelihood more understanding of the danger than he was, that my standing there unharmed was evidence supporting my competence, and that in any case if I decide to do some thing and hurt myself in the process it is entirely my concern and fuck all to do with anyone else. Of course the ignorance of that last point is not confined to teachers, but pervades the legal system as well, and it is high fucking time they got shot of it.)

Fucking school fucking shite. But then every fucking thing that happened to me at school was like that. When I was 5 a teacher spent so long yelling and screaming at me that I thought she had actually gone insane, and was partly frightened and partly intrigued because I had never met a real live mad person and I was interested to see what she might do. The reason? Me walking round this side of a building instead of round that side. But (to shift examples to a different school) when I smeared my shit all over the walls because I fucking loathed the place so much, I got away with it completely. Universal pattern. Teachers flew completely off the handle at me for things so trivial I wouldn't believe it if it hadn't happened to me, but things which genuinely did deserve punishment they didn't even know it was me that had done it. It was fucking ridiculous.

Not that life outside school has turned out to be really all that much different. It really is a bummer having to live on the same planet as so many people of such mind-boggling stupidity. Fucking humans fucking shite.




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