Part 2 of Badger's recollections of life in Arbury and at Chesterton Community College as a gay teenager in the 1980s.
Readers of a sensitive disposition please exercise caution as some of the memories recounted here are distressing.
I never settled in at Chesterton School. I hated it and I wasn't doing PE and going in the showers with the other boys. I would have found it acutely embarrassing. I couldn't have done it. The PE master gave up on me in the end, because it was always 'I forgot my kit, Sir,' and 'I don't feel well, Sir.' He was quite decent really because I looked like a 'sensitive little flower', blond hair and blue eyes, and I think he had an idea of why I was so resistant.
Personalities quickly emerged in my form, and the outstanding ones were negative. There were 3 boys, a nasty little dude who'd clearly modelled himself on Sid Vicious, and two goons who sort of 'minded' him, and a girl who liked to stir up trouble.
I didn't fit in and nobody seemed to want me to. I started to feel paranoid and sorry for myself and looking back every second there seems like agony. I stood on my own in the playground, and wandered the local streets at lunchtime with my packed lunch.
I often wondered why, at a very sensitive time in our lives, we were hurled out of our cosy primary schools and into these huge, ugly institutions. It's a time when we need help and support and a focusing on as individuals just as much as in primary school. I suppose we were being prepared for the rat race outside.
Some of the kids called me 'Blondie', after Debbie Harry, and thought that was a real laugh. The kids behaved like they were in a pack, and because the trouble makers couldn't stick me, even the kids that seemed OK steered well clear, fearing they might become a target if they befriended me I suppose.
There were countless small bullying incidents, I kept thinking: 'Try turning your mind off and just endure it. It's not forever.' And then after I'd been there for coming on a year, things got out of hand.
We were in Art one day and the teacher had to nip out. I hated it when that happened, it used to make me sweat because if any of the kids wanted to dig at me they could. On this day the trouble making girl said to one of the lads: 'Blondie can't keep his eyes off you! Haven't you noticed him looking?'
I'd never had any problems with this particular lad, but now he turned and looked at me and it was like hate. 'You been looking at me?' he said.
'No,' I croaked.
He got up and came over. 'Well, you'd better not cos I'll knock your head off!' And he punched me really hard on the shoulder. It really winded me.
That was the first thing. After that, we were in registration one day and our form mistress was late. Sid Vicious and his goons came over. It was all, 'Oooh, Blondie, what lovely hair you have!' in high cooing voices, then Sid got his comb out. 'Gonna make it look real good,' he said, and spat in my hair and started combing it in. The trouble making girl was laughing and egging them on, 'Oh yeah, that looks smashing!', and Sid kept spitting: 'Just a bit more gel...'
I felt like I was going to throw up, and grabbed my satchel and ran from the classroom, out of the school and away up Bateson Road.
The outside world was normal. People were walking around and I got to Carlton Way and felt a bit better.
I let myself in at the house. Dad worked full-time and Mum did part time cleaning in the mornings, and ran upstairs and washed my hair.
I had nobody to talk to. We had no family in Cambridge and I'd hardly seen my old Arbury School mate since he went to the Manor. I thought quickly and decided there was no way I was going back to that hell hole at Chesterton. I came up with a plan: we had two sheds in our garden, a brick one the council had put up when they built the house, and a little wooden one Dad had built. I decided I'd hide in the wooden shed and pretend I'd been to school.
Stupid, I know, but I didn't feel I could talk to my parents. They weren't anti-gay by those days standards, they liked Larry Grayson and John Inman on TV, but they were camp acts. My mother disapprovingly referred to some men as being 'a bit of a Jessie,' and Dad said he thought somebody at work was a 'pansy' so I knew it wouldn't go down well with them.
I wasn't thinking clearly so I grabbed some books, I loved books, was always reading, and down to the shed I went...
Part three is here.