My parents are good country folk, my Mom was an English and Art teacher, and my Dad was a printer, and in his earlier days, a prizefighter and then legit boxer.
They had already had their share of their wayward young son’s waywardness. Now they had to deal with his expulsion from school. My worst thing was, we weren’t the richest family in the neighbourhood, and they had spent a lot on sending me to this school.
But they genuinely surprised me. They heard me out, heard the reasons, and accepted them. Their big focus was then on trying to find a school that would take in a crazed political activist.
For me, this was the biggest relief. That my parents understood. They weren’t crazy about what I did. But they understood. We found a school nearby home , with a headmaster that tentatively agreed to take me on for a trial period. That was also a win. The biggest win was that there were actual girls at this school.
This fact did little for my concentration at school, or on the bus to and from school. But it did a lot for my social life. There were a bunch of like-minded disruptive kids in my neighbourhood, and we got together to party, make a noise, and so on.
Soon we earned the title ‘Henley Hooligans’ (after the town where I grew up – and Hooligans out there – you know who you are !).
My grades didn’t improve much, but I did get less canings. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was, how tolerant people were. They forgave, they let it go. When I look back, and compare myself, and our gang, to the kids today, the kids now are angels.(Yes, I know it’s supposed to be the other way around, but it isn’t).
Even at school, people handled me better. I didn’t know it then, but I was living in a more functional environment. Still pretty f**ed up though, because there was still apartheid creating an artificial and unholy segregation, so there was this big pretence going on.
I was under strict orders to not get expelled, or go to jail, so I chewed at my reins and focused on girls. This was good, and I fell in and out of love weekly. It’s beautiful when you look back, and remember the big things.
There were great girls I met and had a crush on, but the one I remember the most from my year at that school, that gave me a break, was one that wasn’t even a girlfriend.
There was athletics at the school, so I could get a lot of my ya’s ya’s out doing the hundred metre sprint and the the long jump.
In one competition, down to the last few jumpers, I actually let rip an explosive fart as I hit the board and jumped. It didn’t do anything for my ego, but I swear it helped me gain a few extra necessary inches!
In a later inter-high track meet, I was given the last leg of the 4 x 100 relay to run. I loved the relay, because on most legs you could get a flying start. Our team was good.
The four of us weren’t the fastest individually, as we’d already been beaten in the 100 metre dash. But together, as a team, we were the fastest combination, and we took the relay in a new record.
Hot and tired, I went to the cold drink truck , and sat down in the shade, gulping down a Coke. That’s when Henrietta came and sat down next to me with a couple of blocks of ice. She must have picked them out of the big cold drink tub nearby. She didn’t say hi, she didn’t say a word. She just started rubbing my legs with ice. Now wait. There was nothing sexual in this, although I probably wished there was.
She just cooled my legs down, quietly and gently, and I sat there like lamb. We didn’t day a word. After about ten minutes, she smiled, and left, and I still to this day don’t know what I could’ve said. But I knew I was in love. And I was learning some valuable lessons about teamwork and genuine kindness. Sometimes being expelled is necessary.
Next time – how to get a whole busload of schoolkids to bunk school.