I keep seeing that my grammar school blog is being shared and discussed on complete strangers’ Facebook pages. I also cleared out a large part of my room this weekend and got rid of about thirty magazines that I was hoarding for absolutely no reason* so right now I’m feeling PRETTY EFFING SMUG.
I don’t have anything political or insightful to say, though, so I also feel like anyone who’s here expecting more sage wisdom will probably be disappointed. I guess I could talk about Donald Trump, but to be honest whenever I see him or his supporters I want to stick a fork in each eye, so in the interest of my good mood I’m going to share this instead:
Is the sparrow really angry or is it dancing? I might have to get a GoPro just to recreate that. Although with my technological skills it would probably be me recreating that…
*well, maybe I would read them someday. Or that’s what I told myself in 2013.
It’s been another week, Francesca. Where have you been, Francesca.
On a first aid course, that’s where. Now I know what angina is, and why the recovery position is important (do not let your drunk friends fall asleep on their back or front if they haven’t puked yet). I’ve also been writing, which is more draining than I had remembered. I need a short nap every five hundred words.
Anyway. Remember this?
My order has arrived.
I’m not ready.
I can’t believe it’s been ten years since I first heard Welcome to the Black Parade.
There’s a flag in my bedroom and I might remove a wardrobe to make room for it.
I might have to put myself in the recovery position if the music hurts.
My body’s 21st birthday present to itself was to catch a cold, so I’m interspersing work with those violent sneezes where you projectile snot over your hair/clothes/arm/phone. I watched that Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs programme yesterday, which was also the first time I’ve taken more than one paracetamol at a time for months, so I’m debating whether just to fill a mug with hot water and some honey (we have no lemon and I can’t taste anything anyway), curl up and read about witches in Essex. The perks of being freelance, blah blah blah.
I was going to take more photos for Etsy – why hello, Halloween – but with the snot situation I think I might be better off just doing inventory… there was a point to this blog as well but I’ve already forgotten it. Maybe I will go and write thank you cards next to a box of tissues, and pray my reactions are good enough not to accidentally infect everyone I’m writing to. There’s an anthrax joke there somewhere.
Sod it, I’m going to find the honey and work out when I can safely take more paracetamol. And the witch book is for work, so I will see you when I’ve crawled back out from under a blanket…
The new school year is upon the nation’s sproglets and there’s a new-ish argument in Parliament and the media about grammar schools. Am I glad to be back home. I want to add my two cents to the great grammar school debate, because I actually attended one – after 1974, which as far as I can tell is when most politicians left university – and no one seems to have thought to ask grammar school pupils what they think.
I went to a grammar school in Essex from 2007 until a couple of years ago, partly because I grew up surrounded by them, and their students looked very accomplished and clever and grown up in their uniforms and I wanted to be like that, and partly because my parents and teachers had worked out by the time I was eleven that I was a precocious academic brat. Also, the alternative schools were shit. They weren’t all shit schools, but they were shit for me. Had I gone to the local comprehensives, I would have spent my teenage years with the same people I went to primary school with. I did not like most of the people I went to primary school with. I was shy and awkward and did all my growing in year five, so I looked 15, not 10 – and wearing a bra and shopping for sanitary products when your classmates are still getting the giggles when they look up ‘vagina’ in the dictionary is less fun than it sounds. Plus I loved reading and reading = smart, right? SO I WAS GOING TO TRY OUT FOR THE GRAMMAR SCHOOLS.
At school we already had to do shitty tests and homework and SATs, and I signed up to the Eleven Plus assuming it was basically the same, which it was. I fucking hated all tests and homework right up until year 13 – so shout out to my parents, who gritted their teeth and walked me through my verbal reasoning book, and to my primary school teachers, who ran extra classes for the kids they thought could try out for the grammar schools, or the grammar stream that ran in one of the comprehensives.
I don’t remember much about the months leading up to the Eleven Plus, other than I listened to evening radio while I finished my verbal reasoning, and that’s where I got into MCR. But I do remember visiting the different schools, and one of my classmates mum’s saying to one of the teachers at an all-girls grammar: ‘Lucy much prefers boys to girls. She doesn’t get on with girls. Would that be a problem here?’ The answer was yes. Lucy went to a comprehensive. I never got on with her – and I thought boys were mostly gross, and I saw no reason to share a desk with them unless forced. My other resounding memory of that time is another child’s mum saying in the playground ‘I won’t let my daughter go to the girls school. It’s full of posh people and dykes.’
My friends and I conducted pretty thorough studies over the years and trust me, it’s really not.
Anyway, a lot of children at my school went in for the Eleven Plus, and a lot of us passed (again, shout out to the teachers for having faith in so many of us). A few went to the different grammars, but most went into the grammar stream at the comprehensive. I don’t know if that still exists, but if anyone reading this is worried their little girl might miss the company of the Y chromosome aged 12, consider that.
In my first week of year seven I was surprised at how quiet the classrooms were. My primary school was raucous and busy and chairs got thrown and kids hadn’t met their parents for years and kids were on medication and kids were loud. I couldn’t get over how much people wanted to learn (to anyone who taught my classes after year nine – sorry we couldn’t keep that up).
By the end of year eight I had learnt that I went to school with girls who were thick as shit but whose families had the money to tutor them through the Eleven Plus, with girls whose families didn’t have enough money to buy food and the expensive school uniform, with girls whose parents seemed to treat the grammar system as an extension of the private school system, with girls who are smart enough to run the country. I also learnt that I would not contract lesbianism by virtue of not being near boys, although I took an extra-curricular karate class just to be on the safe side. I still think boys are mostly gross but I would like to apologise publicly for confusing queerness with the flu. In my defence, I went to primary school with kids whose parents were twats.
I also learnt that I kind of hated school. I hated homework and poncy assemblies in which we politely applauded the latest hockey victories. I hated standing up when a teacher came in (show me some respect and I’ll show you some, dude) and the optional but-not-really letters asking for ‘small donations’ and the PE lessons run by people who never seemed to exercise and the ridiculous assumption that we should all go to university. I hated that the highest standard wasn’t high enough, I hated that the arts were ignored in favour of maths and science, and that maths and science was ignored in favour of sport.
But I loved my friends, my blazer’s many pockets and the weird little intricacies that came with a century-old institution. We had two staircases, one going up and one going down, and sometimes someone would lose a shoe on the way up. We celebrated our school’s birthday with giant fruitcake and a rousing rendition of Jerusalem. We’d visit foreign language teachers in spare offices once a fortnight to play with index cards about verbs. I hated that the highest standard wasn’t high enough, but only when it came to homework; I give the same attention to my work now that teachers wanted me to give to my work then.
I did well in my GCSEs by grammar standards, and badly in my A Levels by grammar standards. I’m doing okay now in life standards, although probably not grammar school ones – I didn’t go to university, I work for myself and I’m broke, there’s nothing about me that they can put on a brochure to encourage the next generation of precious academic brats.
If I had gone to any of the comprehensives, maybe the part of me that says ‘fuck’ a lot, dyes my hair pink and refuses to get a normal job would have flourished a lot earlier. Maybe I would have been more relaxed about homework and less frustrated by all the hoops I had to jump through as a student. Maybe I would have gone to university. Maybe I wouldn’t be blogging, wouldn’t be an MCR fan or wouldn’t be a writer. I have yet to see if being an alumni of my school can open doors; I’ve had more interviews based on my blog than I have my qualifications – although a during lot of local interviews people have mentioned that they went to a grammar, or their kid did, or their aunt’s cousin’s neighbour did. I don’t know if that’s an exclusive club I want to be in.
So, politicians and parents and teachers and, for once, the kids who are in the education system today:
I don’t know what’s best for you. Your parents might not know what’s best for you. A wonderful teacher and a supportive home life will get your far further than the number of A*s you’ve achieved. I didn’t do well in primary school because I was magically gifted, I did well because my teachers were brilliant and my family gave a shit. I’m no smarter than the children who didn’t go to the grammars, although my parents are smarter than the parents who didn’t let their children try out for the grammars. If you fail an exam aged eleven, you have the rest of your life to do everything in your life. If you want to try out for the Eleven Plus, do it. If you want to dye your hair pink, do it.
Only one of those things will ruin your clothes, your bathroom and some of your job prospects.
I AM STILL ON HOLIDAY. But I have posted this, snowflakes, because I want to. And given that a year ago I wasn’t sure if I wanted to blog any more, it’s enough for me just to write that sentence. Until last Tuesday, I hadn’t taken more than a day off at a time in over a year. I nearly published an entire a blog a few months ago complaining about that, but reading a post about how hard my comfortable life is would be even more excruciating than writing one, so I shelved it. But I am very, very happy to have some time off.
Turn off your phone, encourage self help articles. It’s good for you.
Nah man, a mindless scroll through Insta at 11pm works just as well, I snort.
I am an idiot. Working and socialising through the same five apps and having a day job that used to be a hobby takes way more discipline than I ever realised, and I’m either as organised as Emily Blunt in The Devil Wears Prada or a total slob. When you work from home, what do you come home to? I’ve been at it for two years and I haven’t worked it out at all. I am not a suave marketing guru with a beautiful handbag and neat hair, but I’m not quite a starving artist either. I’m not sure whether I want to be a suave marketing guru or a starving artist. I think it would be nice to be a well fed artist. I would also like to go to backpacking, spend more time blogging and finish a novel. I have no idea how to prioritise one over another – and should I have to? I’m a Millennial. We grew up being told we could have the world, god damn it, and I know the world I want.
But right now I’m happy to have a week off, and that’s enough.