there i am
my last year of lyneham primary
our teacher was mr petfield
he didnt particularly like me or hate me
he wasnt a bad guy i suppose
he was about as old as i am now
and i imagine the tedium of teaching
a bunch of little 12 year olds every day
my school is visiting our sister school in wollongong
but there are 3 too many kids in our class
for places on the bus trip there
and petfields running a demerit scheme to see who stays behind
every time a kid does something wrong
they get a chalk mark against their name
i never ever looked like i was gonna go
i had already turn the corner into the next column of marks
before any other kid got on the board
2 kids were off school with illness anyway
so one morning i waved my class goodbye
and i was drafted into the opportunity class
the opportunity class in lyneham canberra 1966 was not funny
in fact it was rather scary
in a separate wing of the school was the opportunity class
full of strange kids who these days would be seen as a.d.d.t
some couldnt speak english properly
some had seeing or hearing problems
and some of them
were working class australian kids
whose parents were literally dirt poor
and these kids were as hard as fucking nails
yeah theyd give any london artful dodger a run for 'is money
and theyd lumped em in from all ages
into this one class
in a weird classroom
in a distant wing
and the teacher was weird too
a big rawboned redfaced ex rugby star or something
and the classroom was weirdly shaped
and the classes were like feeding time at the zoo
and i sat there
amongst these kids with their thick glasses
and handmedown stained n knitted n darned uniforms
you knew some of em were going straight to fucking jail
they knew it too
even at 10 or 11
ooh it was so weird
inside myself im this permanent priggish prude
constantly amazed by how "the other half lives"
i was shocked at how some of the kids smelt of burned wee
i was amazed at their dirty fingernails and
wild unkempt hair
the language they used
and their pronunciations
and mr harvey himself
presiding over this chaotic rabble of kids
with his deep booming voice
his slowly said instructions
that wry half smile in everything he did
god i can still see em all now
oh those poor children
and that awful circus-like class
immigrant kids just landed in australia
from god knows where
and they punch first and never ask questions at all
and here i was
some smartass kid from 6A
sent down here to cool his heels
while the rest of the toffy 6Aers went on hols
it seemed like most of em couldnt read properly
a huge 12 year old darkskinned boy
struggling along with myopic girls who were 9
to read kindergarten texts
of course eventually my class came back
and i was double whammied by all the talk
about places i hadnt been
and people i'd never met
kid in playground 1 : hey what about spikes room?
me: whos spike?
kip2: he wasnt there...
kip1: spike was my billet...
kip2: he had his own flat out the back...
kip1: with his own stereo...
kip2: he had playboys too...
kip1 ; he had all the rollings stones records....
kip2: he had a book about john lennon...
kip1: he had a girlfriend who lived next door...
kip2: and his twin sister....
kip1 : i kissed her...
kip2: yeah he kissed her...