Out of Sight, Out of Mind After my first humiliating day at Fairburn School, I figured it was best to get my head down, do as I was told and try to fit in as much as possible. That means I didn’t go out of my way to stand out or make an exhibition of myself. If you doubt my capability of remembering that far back, well, I don’t blame you, so do I. But the caution is very evident in this piece. On Thursday October 11, 1979, the North Yorkshire County Council String Orchestra visited our school and this is just a simple write-up of what happened. Having grown up with young parents (they were 18 when I was born) who listened to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, classical music was alien to me and it’s doubtful I would have heard any played live before. The strange punctuation bears this out. Maybe I was just having a bad day - I still spelt most nouns with capital letters and I thought both North-Yorkshire and County-Council were hyphenated - but it seems I was paying attention when someone pointed out that cello was an abbreviation of violoncello and should therefore be spelt with an apostrophe. It’s not a memory I retained into adulthood though, so my discovery that I knew this as a child is quite a surprise. Whether I truly enjoyed the concert isn’t really evident, though I do say the tunes were “very good” and it’s clear I got a kick out of the jauntier material - Plink Plank Plonk (complete with swanee whistle) is singled out for praise. But it’s obvious I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as the other kids, and that’s where the caution comes in. When “the man” asks us if we want to join in, “I didn’t put my hand up but lots of people did.” Now, this could be just because I had no interest in music. That clearly isn’t true. The only other conclusion I can draw is that I really didn’t want to draw attention to myself. The thing is, I couldn’t help standing out, mainly on account of my hair. Though there were quite a high proportion of blonde-haired boys at Fairburn School, I was still the blondest boy anyone had ever seen. I mean, this wasn’t standard blonde hair - it was almost white. This had been a problem all my life - adults would assume I was a girl because boys weren’t supposed to have white hair, and kids would just use it as an excuse to call me names - first Blondie”, then the slightly more creative “Debbie Harry”, and eventually other, more hurtful names which I’ll keep to myself for the moment, thanks. The point is, I stood out in a crowd, which when you factor in my weird sense of humour, my love of sci-fi and my inability to choose the right bag, meant I was a prime target for bullying. I’d experienced a little of it before I came to Fairburn and I didn’t want it to happen here. So I had to keep my head down, shut up and fit in as much as I possibly could. It wouldn’t last. By the time 1980 rolled around I was beginning to show my true colours and eventually took my rightful place as the biggest show-off in the village. But in this piece, the show-offs appear to be David - who I assume must be David Bramley, then a 4th year junior and thus one of the oldest boys in the school, and can be seen beaming at the back of this photograph - and Paula, who I’m sad to say I don’t remember at all. I wonder, if I’d never kept those photographs or these books, how many other Fairburn kids I would have forgotten about. I wonder if any of them remember me. The Orchestra of Doubt When I first re-read this as an adult, I doubted whether North Yorkshire County Council actually had a string orchestra and even doubted there was such a thing as “North Yorkshire County Council”. I didn’t really believe the largest county in Britain would seriously have its own council. But I was wrong, which goes to show how much I know about the way my country is governed. They no longer appear to have their own orchestra* but we lived in a semi-socialist society back then, when the gas, electricity, water, trains and even the bloody telephone service were state-owned. We even used a quaint olde-worlde fuel called coal and that was state-owned too. So of course the council had its own taxpayer-funded orchestra. They were clearly very good at what they did. Playing tunes on sandpaper, making a double bass sound like an elephant - I wonder if this is where the 80s incarnation of King Crimson got some of their ideas? I’m very impressed. Not so impressed with their selection of songs for us to guess though. Keel Row? John Brown? Early One Morning? Never heard of them. Finally, I wonder, what is a “lang” and why would you write a song about its eye? Was I thinking of Fritz Lang? Did I think it was some kind of animal? Maybe it produced lang’s wool as well and you could eat a nice lang chop for your Sunday dinner. I suppose you can forgive a seven year old Sassenach for not knowing what Auld Lang Syne means - actually, I’m quite impressed that I knew how to spell “auld”. The amazing thing is, I still got a tick from the teacher, despite the glaring error. How marvellously easy it must have been to be a teacher in those days, just a tick and you’re done. My wife has to fill in all kinds of forms when she marks books, and that’s just for four year olds. *Since writing this article in 2010, I’ve discovered that, although North Yorkshire County Council still doesn’t have its own orchestra, it does in fact run a service called the Music Hub, which works with other arts organisations to improve the quality of local music services.
String Orchestra
TERM 1 Sept-Dec 1979
TOPIC 1 Sept-Dec 1979
HISTORY 1 Sept 1979 - Oct 1981
SCIENCE 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
FAIRBURN The place where I wrote all this rubbish
WAEN SHEPHERD Who was this strange little boy?
GEOGRAPHY 1 Sept 1979 - Feb 1981
STRING ORCHESTRA PLAYLIST
Plink Plank Plunk Hong Kong Youth Handbell Ensemble
Three Blind Mice The Canadian National Film Board
Keel Row A Bloke on a Whistle or Flute of Some Kind
Early One Morning Nana Mouskouri
Auld Lang’s Eye The European Parliament
Home Sweet Home Deanna Durbin
Pop Goes the Weasel Anthony Newley
Clarke Hall Old Houses Fairburn v Burton Salmon The Forgotten World String Orchestra Sheet Lightning Grezelda the Witch Bonfire Night Metropolitan Police Christmas 1979 Great Space Battles Luddenden The Hat’s Adventure Sleeping Beauty What I Do On Monday Waen Shepherd 2 Waen Shepherd in: Green Squids Ward’s 7: Move of the Galaxy Ward’s 7: Alpha Centauri Ward’s 7: Escape to Mother Ship Ward’s 7: Death Planet Blake’s 7 Ward’s 7: The Hunt Ward’s 7: Rescue The Flame in the Desert The Fugitive British Skiing Events Fiends of the Eastern Front Apeth (from Outer Space!) Tedosaurus (from Prehistoric Time!) A Walk in Our Village The Mountain Called Tyrannosaurus Rex Florence Nightingale War of the Worlds The Micronauts in: Supersilver
Out of Sight, Out of Mind After my first humiliating day at Fairburn School, I figured it was best to get my head down, do as I was told and try to fit in as much as possible. That means I didn’t go out of my way to stand out or make an exhibition of myself. If you doubt my capability of remembering that far back, well, I don’t blame you, so do I. But the caution is very evident in this piece. On Thursday October 11, 1979, the North Yorkshire County Council String Orchestra visited our school and this is just a simple write-up of what happened. Having grown up with young parents (they were 18 when I was born) who listened to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, classical music was alien to me and it’s doubtful I would have heard any played live before. The strange punctuation bears this out. Maybe I was just having a bad day - I still spelt most nouns with capital letters and I thought both North-Yorkshire and County-Council were hyphenated - but it seems I was paying attention when someone pointed out that cello was an abbreviation of violoncello and should therefore be spelt with an apostrophe. It’s not a memory I retained into adulthood though, so my discovery that I knew this as a child is quite a surprise. Whether I truly enjoyed the concert isn’t really evident, though I do say the tunes were “very good” and it’s clear I got a kick out of the jauntier material - Plink Plank Plonk (complete with swanee whistle) is singled out for praise. But it’s obvious I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as the other kids, and that’s where the caution comes in. When “the man” asks us if we want to join in, “I didn’t put my hand up but lots of people did.” Now, this could be just because I had no interest in music. That clearly isn’t true. The only other conclusion I can draw is that I really didn’t want to draw attention to myself. The thing is, I couldn’t help standing out, mainly on account of my hair. Though there were quite a high proportion of blonde- haired boys at Fairburn School, I was still the blondest boy anyone had ever seen. I mean, this wasn’t standard blonde hair - it was almost white. This had been a problem all my life - adults would assume I was a girl because boys weren’t supposed to have white hair, and kids would just use it as an excuse to call me names - first “Blondie”, then the slightly more creative “Debbie Harry”, and eventually other, more hurtful names which I’ll keep to myself for the moment, thanks. The point is, I stood out in a crowd, which when you factor in my weird sense of humour, my love of sci-fi and my inability to choose the right bag, meant I was a prime target for bullying. I’d experienced a little of it before I came to Fairburn and I didn’t want it to happen here. So I had to keep my head down, shut up and fit in as much as I possibly could. It wouldn’t last. By the time 1980 rolled around I was beginning to show my true colours and eventually took my rightful place as the biggest show-off in the village. But in this piece, the show-offs appear to be David - who I assume must be David Bramley, then a 4th year junior and thus one of the oldest boys in the school, and can be seen beaming at the back of this photograph - and Paula, who I’m sad to say I don’t remember at all. I wonder, if I’d never kept those photographs or these books, how many other Fairburn kids I would have forgotten about. I wonder if any of them remember me. The Orchestra of Doubt When I first re-read this as an adult, I doubted whether North Yorkshire County Council actually had a string orchestra and even doubted there was such a thing as “North Yorkshire County Council”. I didn’t really believe the largest county in Britain would seriously have its own council. But I was wrong, which goes to show how much I know about the way my country is governed. They no longer appear to have their own orchestra* but we lived in a semi-socialist society back then, when the gas, electricity, water, trains and even the bloody telephone service were state-owned. We even used a quaint olde-worlde fuel called coal and that was state-owned too. So of course the council had its own taxpayer-funded orchestra. They were clearly very good at what they did. Playing tunes on sandpaper, making a double bass sound like an elephant - I wonder if this is where the 80s incarnation of King Crimson got some of their ideas? I’m very impressed. Not so impressed with their selection of songs for us to guess though. Keel Row? John Brown? Early One Morning? Never heard of them. Finally, I wonder, what is a “lang” and why would you write a song about its eye? Was I thinking of Fritz Lang? Did I think it was some kind of animal? Maybe it produced lang’s wool as well and you could eat a nice lang chop for your Sunday dinner. I suppose you can forgive a seven year old Sassenach for not knowing what Auld Lang Syne means - actually, I’m quite impressed that I knew how to spell “auld”. The amazing thing is, I still got a tick from the teacher, despite the glaring error. How marvellously easy it must have been to be a teacher in those days, just a tick and you’re done. My wife has to fill in all kinds of forms when she marks books, and that’s just for four year olds. *Since writing this article in 2010, I’ve discovered that, although North Yorkshire County Council still doesn’t have its own orchestra, it does in fact run a service called the Music Hub, which works with other arts organisations to improve the quality of local music services.
String Orchestra
STRING ORCHESTRA PLAYLIST
Plink Plank Plunk Hong Kong Youth Handbell Ensemble
Three Blind Mice The Canadian National Film Board
Keel Row A Bloke on a Whistle or Flute of Some Kind
Early One Morning Nana Mouskouri
Auld Lang’s Eye The European Parliament
Home Sweet Home Deanna Durbin
Pop Goes the Weasel Anthony Newley
TERM 1 Sept-Dec 1979
TOPIC 1 Sept-Dec 1979
HISTORY 1 Sept 1979 - Oct 1981
SCIENCE 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
FAIRBURN The place where I wrote all this rubbish
WAEN SHEPHERD Who was this strange little boy?
GEOGRAPHY 1 Sept 1979 - Feb 1981