My first school was the Royal High School in Edinburgh, up at Northfield Broadway, a short walk from my house on Hamilton Terrace in Portobello. It was one of those old style schools and while others were getting into the groove and allowed the wearing of flares and tank tops, we were in full uniform, with cap! Oh yes! Well, anyway I continued my love of all things ancient and archaeological (YES! Even fossils.. I know they are not really archaeology ! honest I do).
It was in primary school that several events happened that you could say, shaped my life, positive and negative they are bubbling to the top of my mind now, so here’s a start.
In Primary 4, to make every kid in my class feel like they were special (That’s me – the prim looking one! – 2nd from the right at the back) the teacher, a Mr Henderson, gave each of us a hand written scroll, all copperplate writing and ribbons, the works. Each of us was called up to the front of class to be presented one by one. The scroll contained words like … Richard is most likely to grow up to be a new Picasso (if they were good at art) or Mark is most likely to be Mark Spitz (if they were good at paddling across a swimming pool). My turn came…. and I pottered up to the front, but you can imagine my horror when I was told I was most likely to turn out like Geoffrey Wheeler…. GEOFFREY WHEELER … who the #### was that … I wanted to be Mortimer Wheeler.. and didn’t mind saying so. The teacher had tried but got it slightly wrong! However I did learn a lesson, as he bent down and hissed… accept it with good grace, sometimes you don’t quite get what you expect! (as an aside, sometimes you get exactly what you expect, as I got a good 6 of the best belting for an unfortunate incident with a stand up urinal which I swear to this day, directed the flow at the boy next to me – and if you are reading… apologies! – but bloody hell did that belt hurt – so I did get what I expected that time.)
I still have the scroll, just to remind me. Now, as we were talking about Richard the artist, this was a eureka moment for me, one that helped shape me into a draughtsman. I peeked over his shoulder to find out why he was the best artist (well as good as a 9 year old can be) and good god… it was like watching the renaissance happening before my eyes. Instead of the average kiddy airplane picture where the wings come out of the top and bottom of the plane body, he knew about PERSPECTIVE!!!!
Suddenly I realised the world could be 3D, though why the Egyptians had never worked it out after thousands of years I am still not sure, as it only took Richard 9 years. This revelation allowed me to explore the technical side of looking at objects and would help me 10 years later as I began my career as a draughtsman. I don’t want to get ahead of myself too much, so I will leave further primary school memories until next time.
Is it something about that time, where everything is like a dream, where knowledge is all around you and the smallest nugget of information can be like a fist sized lump of pure gold? Each colour bright and new – finding out what happens when you press a piano key for the first time , or running so fast you hit a wall and you learn about the solidity of nature. Each day was a wow. With stories and minds that were open to everything, innocent and free from prejudice… well… that was almost true, but every school needs a bully, and I had three … lucky me! How to deal with conflict, well now there is a new lesson that drags an innocent into the adult world…..