Protecting the Innocent

Last week I penned a handful of narratives relating to the two south Gateshead high schools I attended between 1974-1979. Those educational establishments going by the monikers of Breckenbeds Junior High and Heathfield Senior High.

Places of learning that provided me with the springboard to a working life that, although unfulfilling in that I didn’t play to my strengths, provided me with the financial wherewithal to provide a relatively comfortable life for my family and me.

During these partly fictional narratives I touched on unreliable memories relating to teachers and the schools themselves. At the time omitting to write about friends and acquaintances as I wanted to maintain their anonymity. However, I’ve had second thoughts and as such have deciding to utilise this blog to rectify my original oversight.

Within this narrative, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, and indeed the culpable. The antics of these characters, although vague, residing in the depths of my subconscious for just short of four decades. Anecdotes that will only be purged if I become afflicted by a neurological disorder or drink my brother Ian’s home brew wine.

Our kids DIY vino so potent, that along with napalm, mustard gas and his home brew gin, it resides on a United Nations (UN) chemical weapon list. I’ve no idea which ingredients make up our Ian’s home brew recipe, but he did once let slip it includes Victoria sponge cake and the souls of the oppressed.

Anyhow, in no particular order, a selection some of the individuals (with pseudonyms) whose acquaintance I made at Breckenbeds and/or Heathfield:-

Waylon Cheesecloth – An anxious lad in my class at Breckenbeds who became a nervous wreck in the presence of a Bunsen burner, leading to his rabid loathing of chemistry lessons. Akin to the chemistry teacher, Waylon didn’t find it funny if you stood behind him and screamed “BANG!” while he was in the process of heating a Florence flask of chemicals. No doubt relieved his name wasn’t really Waylon Cheesecloth.

George Smirk – Probably the cleverest lad in our form, apart from Mick Hyena who’d perfected negative in three different languages. George had aspirations in adulthood of finding the cure for reflux acid. Sadly, he didn’t and as a result, as I write, I’ve got terrible heartburn. Was the first person in the class whose voice broke, a boast he dined out on until Bensham lass Clare Tent-Peg controversially, and far more impressively, became the second.

Eddie Truman – A big lad who played second row forward for the Breckenbeds rugby team. Had the catchphrase “Never take a backward step!” – A rousing ideology of strength which gained him much respect amongst his peers. On the downside, though, this mantra ruined his adulthood dreams of becoming a professional moonwalker. In 1977 his aunt Edie achieved the accolade of becoming the first person on the Chowdene estate to utilise the word chintz.

Ava Margison – A lass from the Allerdene estate who collected pens, Tupperware lids and the broken hearts of adolescent Heathfield students. Despite being a brilliant language student, didn’t know the French translation of the English colloquialism clagnuts. Married a lad from Wrekenton who wasn’t as accomplished as a linguist, however he did know the French translation of clagnuts – A major contributing factor towards their successful betrothal.

Ged Jedburgh – The class clown in my Heathfield form. A consummate raconteur with a prolific memory for jokes and anecdotes. Was the first person I heard tell the 12″ pianist joke, which as an immature schoolboy made him a hero in my eyes. Regularly borrowed pens and Tupperware lids from Ava Margison as an excuse to talk to her. In 1983, he became a taxi driver in Ponteland after his Tupperware lid juggling act diminished in popularity.

Jeff Basingstoke – A divisive character who played his classmates off against each other. A diminutive lad who used to always try ‘top’ anything the rest of the class had undertaken with his ridiculous attempts at oneupmanship. For example, when a classmate relayed they’d met Newcastle United striker Alan Shoulder, he responded “So what!….. I was his moustache when he played for Blyth Spartans against Wrexham in the 5th round of the FA Cup!” Was once unknowingly hoisted by his own petard.

Tina Cheesecloth – No relation to Waylon Cheesecloth, or the well to do Chester-Le-Street Cheesecloths. A lovely girl who was sadly plagued with depression. Once intentionally self-harmed during a lesson by inhaling deeply beside less than fragrant form bully Buster Cheeks. Upon her collapse, Cheeks took Tina’s dinner money, but sadly not her anti-perspirant.

Tim Crass – An arrogant oaf who thought he was the dog’s b*ll*cks because his aunt once dated Geordie comedian Little Bobby Thompson. Crass’ vain glorious persona earned him the nickname ‘Peacock Feathers’, along with excruciating Chinese burns from the less tolerant lads in the class. A stickler for financial transparency, Crass always asked Buster Cheeks for a receipt when the bully stole his dinner money.

Ed Tuckshop – Jovial but rather simple lad who at Heathfield played the piano, guitar and truant. A lad before his time, he envisaged the replacement of comprehensive schools by academies in the early 21st century. He shouldn’t get too smug, though, as he also predicted Ged Jedburgh would enjoy a long and healthy career juggling Tupperware lids.


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