First Day at School.
First days at school are generally fixed firmly in the back of our minds, mine is no different. My Mother always called me PJ .short for Peter John for as long as I can remember claiming I was called after a back page comic strip in the Daily Mirror. As a child I paid little attention to such nicknames accepting the title with some pride. Little did I realise that when I started school that the name when haunt me, other boys mocked the grandiose nature of PJ. an attitude that caused me no end of trouble.
Mr Allwork’s Primary School was located at the far end of our village, and being a fairly shy boy the shock of confronting strangers on that first school day proved traumatic. There was the gauntlet of aggressive boys that needed to be navigated opposite our house who took great delight in hurling abuse and throwing stones at those they consider different. I never have understood the hostility and even now thinking back it resembles similar experienced encounter between Catholic and Protestant school students later years.
The day inevitability developed into a push and shove between first dayers until someone’s finger found its way into an eye. Most of the boys had led isolated lives and were not terrible good at sharing. A fight developed resulting in my receiving a black eye from a rotund boy called Barany whose father owned the local soft drink factory. Thinking back it is hard to imagine what the disagreement was about, but we became good friends. This had the added advantage gaining access to the never ending supply of lemonade his father made a delicacy only available in my home on birthdays. The resulting fight led to our being made to stand outside in the school yard, noses pressed hard up against the stone wall.
It was only then that I remember the box of matches in my pocket I had ‘borrowed’ from my parents art deco cigarette boxes scattered around the house like wild mushroom after rain. It was September and the dry summer grass remained in abundance. I suggested to Barany that perhaps a little diversion was in order and much to our delight we soon had the grass on fire. Being five year old we had not taken into consideration that smoke quickly finds its way into any open window. Parents were called and another round of talks with the parish priest followed about the need to act responsible. Strangely no one ever enquired as to whether I had enjoyed my first day at school.