In 1991, I walked out of the school gates at Lostock Hall for the final time, safe in the knowledge that, subject to any Brownie-related stag parties I might attend in the future, I would never have to wear a brown and yellow uniform ever again.
Of course, at the age of 11, I probably hadn’t even heard of stag parties, let alone comprehended going to one, and certainly no thoughts of cross-dressing had entered my mind at that point (it would be a few years before I decided to dress as a nun, one drunken Halloween), but I’m almost certain I would have breathed a sigh of relief as that uniform came off for the last time. Well, obviously I’d have waited until I got home before undressing, but you get the idea.
I can’t really remember much about that summer between Primary and Secondary school if I’m honest. It was 1991, so I’m relatively confident there were no major sporting tournaments that year. Italia ’90 – the best World Cup of my lifetime (so far) – had taken place the year before; the Barcelona Olympics were still another 12 months away; and whilst I’m certain there probably was a Rugby World Cup in 1991, no one really gives a shit about Rugby anyway. By the same token, there could have been a major Cricket tournament taking place in our back garden and I wouldn’t have bothered watching. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Wimbledon.
So we therefore fast-forward to September 1991 and, unlike when I went to Primary School, there wasn’t as much choice when it came to Secondary Schools in Poynton. In fact, there’s one: the aptly named ‘Poynton County High School’, or ‘PCHS’. Actually, I’ve just checked, and they seem to have dropped the ‘County’ at some point since I left, so it’s just PHS now, which I’m pretty certain is that company you often see on soap dispensers and air fresheners in toilets. How appropriate.
The other thing I’ve noticed, is that my old form tutor is not only still working there (she must have had about 17 kids by now as the woman was always on maternity leave), but she’s also been made Head of Science at some point. I never liked the woman, but you’ve got to admire her stamina – both in terms of commitment to her job, and her ability to produce countless offspring. In fact, thinking about it, it was her who taught us for sex education in Year 10. That was a bit rich, coming from ol’ baby factory herself.
Anyway, I vividly recall my first day at PCHS, sat in the school hall with nearly 300 other newbies, proudly sporting my new dark blue uniform (you could tell who all the Lostock Hall kids were, as they were all staring at their uniforms and grinning) and waiting to find out which ‘house’ I was in. PCHS had four houses, all named after famous (ish) families from Poynton and the surrounding area: Vernon, Newton, Davenport and Legh. Each house had its own colour, and I ended up in Vernon which was green. The idea was that each house would compete over the school year in a number of sporting and academic activities, and the overall winners would get a crap little trophy in the summer term, which would be displayed in a cabinet outside the boys’ bogs.
There were, in fairness, also some individual awards that you could win (and keep), and I remember a few of us discovering a load of unclaimed trophies in a school cupboard one day when we were in 6th Form. If you’ve met me, it won’t come as any surprise to learn that I wasn’t all that sporty at school, and hadn’t won any awards myself by this point; so I decided that, if the ungrateful recipients didn’t want them, I sure as hell did. Myself and a few friends therefore grabbed one each at random and, as far as I know, I’m still the Year 9 Girls’ 100m Butterfly champion to this day. Winner.
I digress. Each form (class) in the year – of which there were 9, so I’m not entirely sure how that was divided equally between 4 – would be allocated to a house, and you would remain in that house for the entirety of your stay at PCHS. I forget now how the houses were allocated to us, but have a vague recollection that there was some kind of ‘sorting hat’ which we had to wear, that magically told us which house we would belong to. In all honesty, though, I may be mixing that up with something/someone else.
Anyway, I’ve just realised that this reminiscing could all get rather boring (these are my memories, and even I’m struggling to feign interest at this point), so I’ll keep it brief and provide a whistle-stop tour of my seven years at High School:
Started at PCHS. Form room was a (brand new) science lab. Endless fun turning gas taps on and off during registration. Suffered with headaches a lot – not sure why. Strange vicar’s son in our form who used to carry a bible around so he could preach to us. Used to pick his nose and then eat it. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’s killed someone by now. Maybe his parents.
P.E. (not my favourite subject, as I’ve already explained) suddenly got interesting. In Year 9, they introduced the Leisure Activity Programme (L.A.P.) which was mixed-sex physical education. I know. In hindsight, they should have merged this with Dance, and created L.A.P. Dancing (missed a trick there PCHS). Still, rather than get girls to play football, and boys to play netball (sexist bastards), they selected a whole host of other sports that we hadn’t yet encountered. Table tennis and squash spring to mind, amongst others. Swimming was a good one, and initially created some excitement amongst the boys, but the chance of seeing any of the girls in their costumes was pretty slim, as they all invariably developed ‘women’s troubles’ at the same time – specifically 11am on a Wednesday. I’ve heard that women can synchronise like that, but strewth these girls could time it to within a few minutes of each other.
Anyway, since swimming (for me at least) therefore revolved around trying to hide the fact that you were a scrawny kid in speedos, the most popular of all the new sports (well, as far as the boys were concerned) was trampolining. The introduction of an hour long class, which mostly revolved around girls bouncing up and down while the boys suddenly developed ‘men’s troubles’, was a stroke of genius. The timing, as well, was impeccable, as Sarah Barton had just developed a rather spectacular pair of breasts.
Despite my overall lack of sporting prowess (I was a decent enough goalkeeper, but never got picked to play football, as I wasn’t friends with any of the sporty/popular lads), I could run a bit. In 1995, I had a brief glimmer with sporting stardom, when I broke the school 200m record – which had stood for years – during sports day, only for it to be broken again by some little shit in the next heat. Never mind, I was school champion for around three minutes, and no one can take that away from me (that, and my girls 100m butterfly trophy).
Two major events spring to mind here. Firstly, I (rather modestly) nailed my GCSEs – which, I would later find out when I got my A-Level results, was entirely down to hard work and little social life, rather than actually being intelligent – and ended up in the newspaper as a result. This was, of course, before every kid in the country started getting straight As.
Secondly, and rather more embarrassingly, was the end of school photo. Whilst a lot of our year group continued on into the school’s 6th Form, many were leaving to study elsewhere, get jobs/apprenticeships, or just drink themselves into an early grave, so we had one last photo of the entire year group together. Remember, this was nearly 300 pupils, so a huge scaffold had to be set up in the school hall and, being one of the tallest in the year, I was in the first group to be positioned up there on the back row. Which is where I remained, in full uniform despite the baking heat, for what felt like hours, while the remainder of the year were arranged onto the rows lower down.
After a while, I started to feel unwell. I vaguely recall the first photograph being taken, but shortly afterwards it all went a bit hazy. I was told, when I regained consciousness on the floor of the hall, that I had quite spectacularly ‘crowd-surfed’ over everyone to get there. Embarrassed isn’t the word. Still, two other pupils apparently fainted after me, one of which was physically sick as well, so at least I could share some of the embarrassment afterwards.
Sadly, the first picture they took wasn’t the best, and they went with a subsequent shot, so although I have a copy at home to this day, I’m not on it.
1997 – 1998
6th Form. Not much to report, really. Asked out lots of girls. Got rejected by all of them. Didn’t get the grades I needed in my A-levels (English Lit., Economics and Biology) to get into my first choice university, but had I done so I wouldn’t have met my lovely wife. All worked out ok in the end, even if this was a largely forgettable/miserable two years.
Oh dear, I can’t very well end on that sour note, can I? Ok, I’ll finish by saying that my days at PCHS – as with Lostock Hall – left me with some very good friends, most of whom (well, the important ones), I’m still in touch with one way or another even now.