I remember my schooldays (well, I was sober for most of them) and it was a pretty good time overall. There were bullies, but they were dim and easily deflected. Teachers could hit us but they had to have a good reason and in a mining town, they had to have a very good reason because most kids had fathers who looked like the Hulk on a bad-mood day. Lots of weird stuff happened but it still does and I still blunder my way through life with no plan and somehow it seems to work out fairly well, most of the time.
There was the time I was delivered home, memoryless, at around age 16 and to this day I cannot face vodka and lime. I had consumed far more than the current monthly units limit that night, but we didn't have score cards then. There was the time in the pub when conversation died, someone turned to me and said in a loud voice 'So, when are you 18, Leggy?' to which I replied 'Shut up, idiot!' The school trip to some opera or other at which four of us left during the overture to visit the gents and returned to the bus just in time, and only because the pubs were closing. Still, most of my school days were sober and slightly less bizarre than a drunken dream.
I recall Fat Ian moving forward in his seat with almost supernatural timing just before Simon the Nutter's drill broke through the back of it. Yes, when American kids took guns to school, modern kids take knives, we took power tools. There was the time Short Brad entered the dining hall just as a thunderclap struck. Everyone was impressed at his Vincent Price entrance.
The school has now been flattened. In fact, all of the places I studied and worked at have now been flattened. It's as if there's a God up there thinking 'Damn, missed the little bugger again.' Maybe there's a guy with a scythe following me around. It's something I found best to stop mentioning at job interviews, anyway.
Once, we had a sort of IQ test, but we didn't get a number. After the test we had an interview with a careers guy who was supposed to tell us what sort of job we'd be suited to. We were all in terror of being cast as 'future careers guy' because that would mean 'you are no damn use at all'. In those days, we didn't have diversity outreach officers or smoking cessation enforcers or all the other places to put the useless.
The careers guy showed me my score with hope in his eyes. Here, he thought, was at last one who could do better than sewer maintenance operative or plumber's tool-passing assistant.
"So what do you want to do with your life?" was his question.
I had no idea. Still don't. I said "I'd like to be a professional budgie breeder." My older cousin had an aviary and it appealed to me at the time. He also had no life plan and still doesn't. It seems to work for him too.
I think that was the moment I realised just how fast you could deflate someone with a few words. It still took a few years to turn that into a proper weapon, but I'm sure that was where it started.
In these enlightened times, children are no longer given sensible careers advice. Thanks to the Tiny Blur, schools expect all their little charges to go on to university or college and thus their futures are someone else's problem. Either that, or they have no future beyond benefits and Stella and can be given classes in shellsuits, Burberry, convincing Cash Converters the stuff isn't nicked and voting Labour. That's the modern version of vocational training.
Parents are no longer concerned about the quality of teaching in schools, only about whether their child is likely to come home on a school bus or in a body bag. Future careers are a secondary consideration when you have to worry about there being any future at all.
Now it seems the principal career choice offered to children is membership of Stonewall or a life dressed like Julian Clary and a career based on crude botty jokes. Children are to be questioned with 'Are you a pooftah?' at age 11.
At age 11 I had no idea what 'homosexual' meant. I was still a couple of years away from any interest in girls, in fact I still had to pass through that natural phase of experimentation with explosives and had hardly electrocuted myself at all. I was many volts away from the time of sexual awakening (and if you're 11 and are wondering, no, it's not all it's cracked up to be so have fun with the explosives and the electricity while you can).
There is something sinister in this obsession the authorities have with children and sexuality. Children have no sexuality. In my childhood, even kissing was a disgusting and unhygienic practice. It was a thing girls did to you if you weren't alert enough to get out of the way in time.
At age 11, the principal drivers of life were toy cars, plastic kits, things that went 'bang' and things that could fire something over long distances. There were no videos or electronic games in those days. We amused ourselves by finding lizards under rotting logs or finding crawlies under stones or building dams across streams or a hundred other things, none of which involved any sexual activity of any kind at all.
At that age, the dangly was urinary apparatus, nothing more, and our only interest in it was how far up the school pissoir we could wet the bricks. At the age of 11, it didn't do anything else.
Now the authorities want to know if kids like to pot the pink or the brown at age 11, when no natural child should know what the euphemisms even mean. Equality? It sounds more like the sorting of children into paedophile preferences.
If they are caught, then - unlike men accused of rape - they are granted anonymity.
I had dismissed the conspiracy theory of 'institutional paedophilia' as silly. But now I'm beginning to wonder.
There is no rational need for an eleven-year-old child to be asked about their sexual preferences when they are too young to know or care what those words mean.
Therefore, it's not for them. Therefore there is another reason.
There is no alternative reason that is palatable, but one of them must be true.