Belligerent ghouls

I got some nice feedback for yesterday’s post about places I’ve lived, so I thought – how can I top that? Ooh! I know – the schools I went to.

Of course, then I must remember how much I hated school. Every minute of it. My childhood wasn’t the happiest ever but neither was it the unhappiest – nobody ever locked me in the cupboard under the stairs or called me “it” or anything; nevertheless, not a day goes by when I’m not rejoicing that I will never be a child again.

I planned to start with my first primary school, but it turns out that not only has it closed but also they built a Budgen’s Supermarket on top of it. This postpones my tales of HORSA and also means you never get to hear of the time a teacher sent me to clear some kids from a forbidden corner of the playground then punished me for going into that corner on her bidding; suffice to say, I retain, 30 years and six sevenths of my life later, a burning hatred of (a) injustice wherever it is to be found and (b) her.


Instead, this is Honington School (picture stolen from their website), my second primary. I’ve been round and round on Google Street View trying to see it, but you can’t. Since Dunblane and a couple of other rare but horrifying events, many schools are now like Fort Knox. This one is less so, but 30 years ago you could see the road from the hall and vice versa. Now you can only see trees, robbing the school of its major selling point: it was the exterior of Walmington-on-Sea’s church hall, as used in Dad’s Army. Very little was made of this when I was there, alas, and now I expect nobody would know at all. Worse, what was once Honington County Junior School (Suffolk had a 3-stage system of Junior (4-9), Middle (9-13) and Senior (13-16) schools rather than just Primary and Secondary) is now a Church of England school, with a website boasting of how it indoctrinates the children there into believing that they share an imaginary friend.

I won a countywide prize for a collage I did of the next-door church. The prize was given to my parents rather than me; when I mentioned winning in passing to my teacher, she rounded on me for being boastful. Mrs Southwold, you’re probably dead by now. Good.


This was Clinton Park County Primary School. It’s now Tattershall Primary School, whilst the deadly rivals (ah, but this was so important when you were eight years old) Curzon CofE Primary is now Holy Trinity Primary. I was never happy at school, but this was the school where I was least unhappy. I did well here. I passed my 11-plus here, the only one in my class to do so. My final year teacher was Mr Pridmore. He had a cupboard with a fossilized mammoth tooth and a pickled mole in it. He died about 3 years ago, I’m told. Too young.

The school’s website is a marvel: made in Comic Sans (no surprise, it’s important that we rid our young people of any pretense at a design aesthetic early on) but rendered entirely in Microsoft Paint. Yes, even the text. Fab.

I can’t show you my last primary school, as it was on the camp, the only school I went to that was specifically for RAF kids. This should’ve made it better – in civilian schools, RAF children were marked as being “special needs” and, more importantly, “disruptive elements”. We were not wanted. I turned up here after Lincolnshire’s schools had broken up for the summer; Leicestershire’s schools (it’s now in Rutland) still had 3 weeks to run. I found they were studying things I’d done a full year earlier: the entire school was “special needs” in its attitude.

The worse thing was that they were doing a school play for the end of term. I always wanted to be an actor – ah, if only I’d had even a hint of talent, the things I could’ve done – and the makework of a play was ideal for me. The parts were already cast, but there was a vacancy which I was given. Something like Third Councillor – it was The Pied Piper, I think. Alas, alas, the boy who had held the role before me was very very popular in the school. I wasn’t. I never am: I’m a born cynic, never able to be part of a crowd… or a mob. They made my life hell for stealing his role. His father had been posted and he’d left the school, but I was the fall guy. Sadly, this was encouraged by the headmaster. Cunt.


11+ or not, off I went to a comprehensive, Casterton Community College. It was once Casterton Secondary Modern and now has a very New Labour title – Casterton Business, Technology and Conformity School or something. By this point in my life, it was very very clear to me that I was gay. Sadly, it was also very very clear to my age-mates that I was gay, no matter how well I thought I was hiding it (I wasn’t exactly in drag). I still managed to have my first gay sex here. I found the guy on Facebook recently, pictured with his daughter. She looks lovely.

It’s actually a joy to move every 2 to 3 years. You get to leave virtually all your baggage behind and start again. The actual “starting again” part of starting again isn’t all that fun, although it has made sure that to this day I’m never lonely on my own (in a crowd, often; on my own, never). But your past and your mistakes don’t have to catch up with you. When I left Casterton I left several straight boys of my age wondering about their sexualities – pointlessly. Just because I’d manipulated them into a blowjob when we were 13 didn’t make them gay. It just made them horny. Like every 13 year old boy ever invented.


I arrived here at Bedale High School (not the Bedales private school) with a clean sheet, although obviously still a queer. I was 14 and it must have sung out, except that this school was in the ruralest of rural areas and most of the pig-ignorant, straw-chewing, cowshit-stinking boys had no idea what homosexuality actually was.

To this day, there’s a visible line on Gaydar, Grindr and other welcome facilitators of gay sex. After you leave York heading north, the number of queers-per-million remains at roughly 1 in 5 (Grindr distorts the figures by including “men who have sex with men”, ie married straight blokes who like cock too) but mid-way between York and Thirsk you pass a line where suddenly nobody identifies as “gay”
any more and they all become “bisexual” (yeah, me too, ducky) if young and “TV/TS” if over 25. Yes, the rural boys who do boys remain ignorant that you can be a boy who wants boys; instead, they’re to be seen in slingbacks and wraparound pinafores, “can’t accommodate” (ie married), and calling themselves names their grandmothers would’ve thought old fashioned: Doris, Deirdre, Daphne. Carry on north and, just after Yarm, you reach ordinary gays again.

Making a relationship as a teen was impossible: everyone was in the closet, including the straights (not the girls: they were busy having unexpected babies or caring for prematurely aged parents who were often also their aunts and uncles). Fortunately, Mrs Thatcher’s government stepped in and made everything better by banning the discussion (they called it “promotion”) of homosexuality in schools. Books by Oscar Wilde disappeared from the library. The one teacher I had who I was 99% sure was gay stayed very very far away from me – if he’d tried to help, he’d have broken the law. And thus you understand why I have never and will never vote Conservative. This type of crap really is still present in that party – and when we get on a Stagecoach bus or East Midlands, South Western or Virgin train, we’re contributing towards a shareholder who donates to the anti-gay parts of the current Tory party.

Still, in 1991 I left school and since then I’ve learnt more every day than I learnt in my entire school career. School sucks, boys and girls. But it gets better when it’s over.

Wherever I lay my hat


In a previous post, I remarked on how circumstances of birth have caused me to live in very many places. It’s a constant source of wonder to the ball-and-chain, who lived in the same house from about age 1 to about age 14 and just four places since then – the house we share now has been his home since before I went to primary school. By the time he bought it, I’d lived in about 3 houses.

I wondered what Google Streetview could do to show me my previous residences. Because some of them were on RAF stations (we always tried to live off-base if we could) the Streetview van doesn’t get to some. Others aren’t visible from the main road it went down. A couple have since been demolished. At least one I now can’t remember clearly enough to tell if I’ve got the right one.

Nevertheless, here they are in so far as Google can see them.


We start (with me at c3 years old) in the late 1970s in the Lincolnshire village of Waddington. The village of Waddington was subject of a famous experiment by Granada into what would happen when multi-channel television came along. But not this village of Waddington. This one, nothing happened. We lived in two houses here: on base, then off base when my sister was born. The house was ex-civilian stock (the forces used to offer to buy civilian houses from people who complained that they couldn’t sell due to aircraft noise; mostly they were lying, but here there were Vulcans – beautiful but fucking deafening) and it had a gas cooker. RAF quarters didn’t come with gas, so this was a rare treat.


Honington was a horrible place: so bad the house itself is hiding and is actually next to the backs you can see here. Not even my school having been used as the exterior for Walmington-on-Sea’s Church Hall in the BBCtv series Dad’s Army could make Honington a nice place to live. The local Post Office used to scratch out the Best Before dates on all its supplies, “just in case”. I’ve only ever punched someone once in my life and it was whilst living here. I broke his front teeth and my mum supported me against his mum – it was so out of character for me. Also, the boy was a shit and everyone knew it.


Tattershall. We were posted to RAF Coningsby but managed to both live off base in the next-door village of Tattershall and also in quarters on the “Castlefields” estate. We loved it here, which is probably why we only stayed for a tad under 2 years. Castlefields was so called because looming up over us was a great big fuck-off Norman castle. Everyone should grow up with a great big fuck-off Norman castle half a minute’s walk away.


Slight discontinuity: can’t show you RAF Cottesmore, our next stop, although Google can show you a bunch of JTs with wooden rifles and acne trying to look stern at the gates to the camp. So instead, here’s a house we lived in at Leeming. We lived at Leeming when I was born – my parents met there by accident the day after my dad got his decree absolute and my mum started in a new Mess, leading to both being early to work by some 3 hours (him because he set his alarm wrong whilst drunk, her because they played a joke on the newbie and told her it opened at 5 rather than 8). Then we lived elsewhere (see map), then we were given the option of going to Scotland or coming back to Leeming. We all said we wanted to live in Scotland, so my dad put in for and got a posting to Leeming.

There was a waiting list for quarters. We waited for about a million years in Cottesmore, packed and ready to go and at each others’ throats for the entire time. The original idea was we’d live at RAF Church Fenton, then RAF Dishforth, then RAF Leeming, moving quarter as the waiting list declined. And schools too. So we waited in Cottesmore. Then we lived in this two bedroomed house for six months and I slept in the living room and then in what I think was the airing cupboard. My pet gerbil died here.


Then we moved to the house over the road. This, they said, was a four-bedroom house. My two bedrooms were each the size of the box my recent plasma TV came in. Plus one of them was 7 inches shorter floor-to-ceiling than the other – quality housebuilding.


I think this is where I lived when I left home. I was mostly drunk, stoned and cold whilst there so I’m not sure. I remember getting burgled here. The insurance company wouldn’t acknowledge that I was insured – they wouldn’t even respond to my letters let alone send a claim form – but with luck everyone who worked there drowned in a freak boiling water accident.


When I left home, my parents took the opportunity to retire and move house whilst I was away. They moved here, then later (after I’d got the address from a mutual friend*) I mov
ed here too so I could be unhappy in company. I was that kind of teenager. (*possibly not true)


Later – much later – I left home again and moved here. It has changed since then – specifically I’m not sure how I’d get into the flat any more. The flat was huge and I really liked it, although it suffered from (a) heating up like a baker’s oven in the summer, (b) the alarm on Costcutters ringing at stupid times, sometimes all night, and (c) my sister moving her boyfriend in with me and her boyfriend quickly moving me out. I was stood on the pavement at one in the morning, my sister having locked the door behind me, hoping my then-boyfriend would let me move in. He did.


This is where I moved to. I chose the paint that’s on the garage and front doors. That’s Graham’s car that I chose with him. In the window, the light is his fish tank.

He’s dead now. Someday I’ll write about that whole business. Not today.


I moved back in with my mum. You’ve seen the house earlier. So this is her, caught on Google Streetview the day they took the picture of her house.


There she is again! Blissfully unaware of the big Google van with its big Google camera on a big Google pole sticking out of the big Google roof. Her neighbours spotted her on Streetview first. She still doesn’t remember the van.


And this is where I live now with the ball-and-chain. You can see the back of my Mac in my office window. I’ve checked the rest of that day’s Googling of the town and, from the posters in the windows of the shops, can tell you with some amusement that I had moved into this house less than 4 days before Google took the picture. Quite possibly the same day or the day before. That bush still needs pruning.

A tour around the ether

I’m an Air Force brat – both my parents were in the RAF when they met, although my mum left to have me. This meant I moved house somewhere between every two and every three years between being born and leaving home at 16.

The main result of this merry dance (known as “being posted”) was I grew up with a fine understanding of the regional nature of British television before Mrs Thatcher wrecked it. Every time we moved, more or less, there was a new local news programme from the BBC and a new ITV logo to see.

Roughly, this works out as Tyne Tees, Yorkshire, Anglia, Yorkshire, Central and back to Tyne Tees (not including HTV back home in Ebbw Vale). That’s not the whole picture: RAF stations are generally in flat places in the middle of nowhere – flat for the runways, in the middle of nowhere for the Russians – and flat places in the middle of nowhere have a habit of being in the famed overlap areas for transmitters.

Oh, the joy of this in the days of three-channel television, when each ITV region could differ markedly in its schedule, even in peak time. Living in an overlap area gave you a use for the ITV-2 button on your set, a channel of hiss in other people’s houses but in ours the slightly-further-away region would be tuned in. Suddenly, you had FOUR CHANNELS. It was like Christmas.

My regions therefore were actually TTT/YTV, YTV/ATV, Anglia on its own alas alas, YTV on its own, Central/YTV/Anglia and back to TTT/YTV (not including HTV/ATV back home in Ebbw Vale). Many of these were actually quite poorly receivable, so I was the only one watching the alternate option; and it was made harder in the period between Channel 4 launching (and taking the ITV-2 button) and my parents getting a TV with more than four buttons. Damn Decca and their everlasting wooden television sets.

One of the things that I noticed early on – and I mean very early on, in the late 70s before I was even at primary school – was that the poorer reception ITV channel was often completely invisible in the winter but better quality than the ‘main’ region on unseasonable stiflingly hot days in the late spring and early autumn. Yes, I’m such a geek that I independently discovered “atmospherics” when I was about 4.

I dimly recall a change of aerial in our house in the very early 1980s making the old, incompatible with the transmitter, aerial surplus to requirements. For fun, my dad wired a plug on to the trailing cable and plugged it into the crappy Chinese portable monochrome TV I’d got for my best-ever birthday present. It didn’t make much difference to picture quality, but what it did reveal was a silent, very hazy Yorkshire Television picture visible with a slight turn to the right of the tuning knob from BBC-1 East. When we next moved, the reverse became true – with the big aerial, hiding to the right of BBC-1 North was to be found a wavering Anglia. This is, of course, the most exciting thing ever ever ever.

Flash forward to 1991. That summer was a hot and listless one. I was about to leave home to go live somewhere – anywhere – where chicken shit and crop rotation weren’t deemed interesting subjects by the locals, discover I wasn’t nearly as grown up as I thought I was and come back again 5 months later. I had finagled a portable aerial into something a bit more useful in order to escape Tyne Tees and watch the slightly-but-only-slightly more cosmopolitan Yorkshire. I was in my room watching said Yorkshire. The picture got better and better and better as the afternoon wore on; then it started to get dramatically worse and was soon surreally overlaid by the same programme a millisecond or so out of sync. This new programme soon took over entirely and I was delighted beyond measure when, at the end, up came an ident for Central. Good golly gosh!

I didn’t go to bed that night. I got to watch an episode of Prisoner Cell Block H on Central South, then something else on TSW and finished with a bit of TVS. Then I watched a bit of BRTN (Belgian-Flemish) before finishing the spell around dawn looking at test cards from Switzerland. Then the atmospherics blew themselves out and this event has never happened to me again. For shame.

The closest I’ve got is sometimes being able to see, but not hear, TV3’s output from Ireland on similar days; but analogue switch off locally means I rarely remember to bother to surf between Channels 21 and 69 looking for stations when there’s nothing at all there 99.995% of the time.

What I do instead is periodically knock my Freesat box into a “discover” mode and let it play across the transponders it picks up blind without Freesat’s EPG as a guide. As a rule, I find nothing of interest to anybody. Sometimes I get stuff that looks interesting – is that Sky Atlantic unencrypted?! No, it’s a promo for Sky Atlantic that happens to be unencrypted – but usually, it’s nothing in particular. Which fairly well describes the (BBC) test transmission above, which is nothing in particular at all but does have a curious hypnotic quality.

DX television also has that curious hypnotic quality. Unlike the test transmission, however, DXing is – or was – actually exciting.