When I was a young fellah, I was the class clown. I wouldn’t like to call it desperation for attention. It was more a variation of Attention Deficit Disorder, where instead of being unable to maintain my own attention on one thing, I needed to have more than one thing’s attention on me. Then a Prince came along and spoiled it all.
We were told that Harry and his younger brother Fillipali were Fijian royalty when they came to Bellevue School. I’m not sure if this was some form of ruse by the teaching staff to alter our behaviour towards them, but it certainly focused attention. Harry was placed in my class, and Harry was a smiley, funny boyo. A bit too feckin’ funny. And when I was a wee lad in the seventies, far too many comedy duo’s relied on a straight man. Damned if I was going to be the Wise to his Morecombe (or whichever was ’round that was). My regular role had been usurped, and I couldn’t even be pissy at the guy, we ended up pretty good friends. Grr. I found new ways to steal the limelight. I could draw a mean Star Wars character, I sold a life-sized sketch of Boba Fett to a class mate for fitty cent and a week of infamy. But I slipped a little back into myself for a while.
By the time I was finishing my year before college (High School) at twelve, I’d recovered my ability to focus attention. On me. I had a good little posse though, a solid crew. And I’d needed this over the last year or so, as puberty and its dancing partner hormones had gotten busy the summer prior. All those girls that had chased us nippers on horseback as we fled on our BMX’s, had somehow transformed. Their teasing had become something to be courted. For someone cursed with ginger hair (thankfully now heading towards strawberry blonde) and the associated propensity towards extreme blushing, the ladies were lethal. Fortunately the lads could ferry my notes to girls, provide back up for my bluster and denials if I was ever rejected, and be just as petrified of being picked last at school dance classes.
That transition to college was a small bump, some of the lads went to Catholic schools, one disappeared, and there was a whole new selection of girls to invoke my colour shift to scarlet. The first two years were solid though, the work wasn’t any harder, though I found a nemesis in the Physical Education teacher, Mr Hornell. He was one of those pricks who liked to point out your flaws in front of others. I encountered his ghost in a guy I met here in Colorado recently. He’s the sort of twat that constantly talks the ladies up while trying to undermine the lads. They register you only as something to smear on their ego to shine it up, and get frustrated if you have the tools to undo them. Usually wit, intelligence, and dumping Tobasco sauce in their pint when they’re not looking. But I digress.
My great withdrawal came at the first year of formal exams, “Fifth Form” in old skool…school. For some unfathomable reason we were all shuffled into new classes, and I was stripped of my defence. This was a hard year, my parents had emphasised the importance of exams, and al that came afterwards (more exams). I curled up a little, I studied, in fact the next two years were quite insular. I spent too much time with my computer, my art work, and my reading. At the end of two years of social cellar dwelling, I had great exam results and blonde hair. My penance was paid, my red-haired curse undone. I had to implement change, so I held an end of year party at my parents house. They had a sauna in the basement, a hose long enough to run the entire length of the house, and the good grace to leave me to it.
Seventh form was my rebirth. I chose new friends, I did a Toast Masters course to combat my terror of public speaking, and I got invited to go on booze runs for “Darren’s Parties”. THE parties. I took lots of pictures, I didn’t study quite as much as I should have. I rejoined the football team, this time in social (very) grade. Girls still petrified me, but I had my mojo back, some friends who weren’t afraid of the limelight (cross dressing seemed a little too prevalent…) and a growing confidence in myself.
I hadn’t yet regained all my powers though, and all of us that had made it to Seventh Form were under pressure to make decisions about our future. The only ones capable of making those decisions had already left school, or were determined to be Architects. I made a decision to do what I thought was sensible. Follow my mates to Victoria University of Wellington. This was to be a shock.
Coming soon: Shyness Undone: The Heavy Metal Years