“YOU do realise you’ll never see your mum again, don’t you?”
Paul Barker’s words sent shivers down my spine. “You see up there?” I looked up at the second storey of the building. “That’s where you sleep for the rest of your life.”
It was first day at primary school and I couldn’t believe my mum hadn’t told me I didn’t get to go home ever again.
Just to make it clear, I wasn’t off to some posho Harry Potter-style boarding school. It was the council place down the road.
I would imagine my mum had walked down with me, so Barker must have made his move after we had entered the playground.
The building, actually a typical slightly austere looking Victorian school, looked pretty foreboding to my four-year-old self and I did what any self-respecting lad looking to establish himself some way up the food chain would do. I cried.
Then I cried again. In the class. My first day in the class. The only saving grace being I was too young to recognise embarrassment as being a plausible reaction. I didn’t know what plausible meant either.
Mrs Baker — probably the nicest teacher I ever had despite her similarity in name to the boy Barker — reassured me I would be going home come the end of the school day, which at about six-and-a-half hours later seemed an eternity away.
Looking back at it now from a relative point of view, it almost was.
Remembering Barker’s nastiness made me realise that the feeling I had that day (not necessarily the crying) was something I have experienced quite a few times in life. It’s one related to the loss of comfort and familiarity, the entry into a world that is strange and new. It could be one that is exciting and full of possibility, but your first reaction is that it is something to be afraid of.
It comes when you head off to university/college, when you move out of home, when you start your first job and when your employment takes you to a different part of the country.
The fear of the unknown combined with the realisation that there is a whole load about being in familiar, if sometimes annoying, surroundings that you are going to miss.
Who was going to wake me up and get me ready in a morning if I was never going home again? Who was going to cook my meals, shout me when they were ready, provide me with clothes and offer reassurance when my world was thrown into turmoil, which seemed to happen on a daily basis? Would I be allowed to go to the chippy, watch the football results come in on the television and see my favourite programmes?
Who would I call mum and dad? Would they be horrible?
Almost 400 minutes later my mum came to collect me and life returned to what passed as normal.
I doubt Paul Barker will remember the incident, if it could be given such a title, but I do, and if I ever see him again...