Rummaging through boxes gone by brings its rewards. Lot 27 is a bus pass for the 12S, home to school, school to home. By way of socialist credentials, I should point out that this ‘grammar’ was actually a comprehensive, though it did have certain public school pretensions: blazers, hymns and ritual beatings.
There were good things about the half hour bus journey to school. It left time to copy homework from someone, though I always took care to make one or two answers different to theirs. That worked for a while, but when replicating another friend’s German, I was spectacularly found out: ‘Ich bin Sarah’ didn’t wash with Herr Spalding.
There was, too, the excitement of a new driver getting completely lost and flustered, which happened three times over five years. I’ll never forget the sight of an overweight bloke who looked a lot like Ron Dixon standing in front of a full bus pleading ‘will someone please help me.’ We ended up just outside Scarborough.
Yet this item also brings a dark memory – it is a reminder of the Great Bus Pass Fraud of ’95. The council funded free travel if you lived over a certain number of miles away from school, which we did. However, my friend John lived just under the benchmark and had to pay. I liked John a lot. He was ace at headers and his Dad used to say “You pair off out birdin`?” when we were leaving their house to muck about (I miss ‘mucking about’).
This injustice stirred the inner-socialist/naughty twat in me. Was this not an affront to equality? Rosa Parks made her point on buses, and the 12S was a chance to make mine. Just as Marx identified man’s relationship with the labour process as key to his alienation, I identified replacement bus pass protocol as key to liberating John. Thus did I trundle to the Deputy Head’s office.
It seems odd that a man so lofty as the Deputy Head should be in charge of administrative processes relating to transportation. Knocking on that teak door I should have been intimidated, but I was a revolutionary leader with history on my side: I was Che, I was Bolivar, I was Geoff from Byker Grove. The deal was far too easy to do. ‘I left it in my trouser pocket and my Mum washed it by mistake.’ John had his pass by home-time.
For weeks it went well. Then, a spot-check. The Deputy Head had received a tip-off from someone, some fifth columnist. Our hearts pounded. He asked to see John’s ticket. ‘I ate it, sir’ (that didn’t help). ‘You are a LIAR. You have a bus pass. Empty your pockets.’ John did, and a delve into his blazer yielded a piece of Hubba-Bubba, a Pro-Set card of Tony Dorigo and a replacement 12S bus pass marked ‘D. Gray’ on the back.
Our punishment, us Tolpuddle Martyrs of the day, was a ‘physical detention’, presided over by the Deputy Head. For an hour we were made to run, climb and lift medicine balls. This is the part where I should say ‘it never did me any harm’, but it did; man alive, we wore only our shorts and it took place after school in the girl’s gym. This was 1995. Told you it thought itself a public school. I’m off out now to try my pass on the Citylink to Glasgow. It’s what John would want.