School Captain

To celebrate the fact that I am half way done with my bookie-wook I thought I would share with you a random chapter. It is from the anthology currently titled “As Yet Un-Named Manuscript” and will be published, well I am not quite sure when but the draft needs to be completed by August, which is actually racing towards us at a pant-shitting rate. Anyway, I hope you enjoy xx


Not School Captain

O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all-exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! Heart! Heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Ok, so primary school politics is probably not as dramatic as that, but there is a certain amount of intrigue regarding the selection process of the school leadership team. To be honored with a School Captain badge, well that is just about the icing on the cake for parents all over the country.

And my parents should know, with a strike rate of four out of five. The fifth being me.

I was the black sheep of the shining, socially brilliant, thoughtful, intelligent and sporty band of siblings that gathered at the family dining table each evening. As the rest of them would rattle off their daily achievements, I would push my food around in silence. Occasionally I was able to regale them with irrelevant tales, like how I got assaulted up by Libby Grupetta.

Each Thursday after school, I would catch the bus to the swimming pool for my lesson. I would alight from the bus and proceed to walk to the pool, being followed by the evil Libby Grupetta, a gal whose nastiness was only matched by her most excellent aim. Lizzy would chuck rocks and insults at me for about a block. It was becoming very traumatic for me, on a weekly basis.

But my daily dilemmas were no match for getting picked for the debating team, getting a scholarship to this or that, or going on some student exchange to Dubbo, where you were to be billeted out with a family that hopefully were quite normal, and not vegetarian!

To be the school captain meant that your peers elected you. So you would think that the most popular kid at school would romp it in. But it never happened, because quite often the most popular person was the least suitable person, so in the end the staff chose.

But not before you had to carry out a campaign to share your vision about the school, and implore others to vote for you. There was a speech, a presentation and many meet-and-greet type scenarios. Many ambitious mothers would bake cupcakes all night, to give out as bribes.

The ideal school captain is an all-rounder, involved in all aspects of school and community life. It helps if you are academic, sporty, do something with a musical instrument and, maybe, just maybe, slightly religious.

In your school captaincy speech, convince the punters that you are very likely to cut the school hours dramatically, and are committed to having a vending machine in every classroom.

If you can suck up to the teachers in your speech, it is not going to do you any harm either. Ditto if you haven’t had a sick day all year. Mention this, as it demonstrates you are a robust healthy should, with a commitment to your academic career. (When really, your parents would have actually sent you to school with an axe hanging out of your neck, such was their commitment to your academic career.)

Volunteer for everything! Put your hand up to visit old people in the local home. Bring in a cake for the teachers to enjoy at their staff meeting. Run the MS Read-a-thon, the Skip-a-thon, The Mothers Day Stall. Be everything to everyone. But know that even that might fail.

Argy bargy broke out at St Joseph’s Primary school in the Hunter district of New South Wales, when the student vote counted for jack shit. Having overwhelmingly won the popular vote, The Principal, one Mr. Doyle, put the kybosh onto it, relegating them into the lesser positions of Vice Captain, and awarding the top job to two kids whose parents both worked in the Catholic Education System.

So of course chaos ensued, complaints were made and the local Diocese carried out an investigation into the voting process, which cleared Doyle of any wrongdoing. Dirty deeds, done dirt-cheap? Perhaps. But let us remember that we are talking about 11 year olds here.

Despite my parents’ insistence, I didn’t even bother putting my hand into the ring when it came to my turn to face the elections. To me, it was already Kim Johnsons gig. I mean, she was a state runner for Christ’s sake! She was smart, she had hair that always looked shiny and nice and her uniform was always turned out in an exemplary fashion. She was not likely to kiss any boys in the library at lunchtime behind the hanging wall of big books, nor was she likely to sit up that back of the bus. Kim Johnson danced in a wholesome way at school socials, while me? Not so much.

The standout of the whole campaign however was this one boy who did his Captaincy Speech in the accent of Michael Crawford’s character Frank, from the British TV Series “Some Mothers do ‘ave ‘em.” He tore up the boards, up there on that stage, with the whole school weeping in peals of laughter. From memory, he even kind of looked like Frank.

“Oh Betty…” He would start again, causing us all to erupt hysterically. On completion of his speech, he waved his hands in victory, and was promptly given a standing ovation.

He did not get the role. But he should have.

My older sister, (School Captain North Richmond Public School 1984) has three children who were all School Captains. She calls it her THREE FROM THREE, and is considering putting together some sort of course in how to groom your kids for greatness.

But the truth is, does being a Primary School Captain have any bearing in the long term, regarding life’s path for you? Are you likely to get that promotion into middle management because you won a school election twenty years ago?

The short answer is no. No one cares. At the time it can be a huge big deal, but the truth is, it means nothing. Bragging rights for your parents, but that is about it. Oh and you get to sit on the stage assemblies.

Oh assemblies! Has there ever really been a need for them?

Our school assembly was the most bum numbing, brain sapping, head scratching time of the week. We would file into the old hall, with the kindy kids sitting up at the front. The hall was like an oven in summer, and an igloo in winter. There were two ceiling fan and one lame bar heater to help us cope with the extreme climate. The hall was a traditional one, with a stage up one end, swathed in nasty old, red velvet curtains piped with gold trim.

The walls were full of Boards of Merit, detailing the names of past School Captains, Principals and Dux Award Recipients. And then there were a few fire extinguishers and heaps and heaps of signage pointing out fire escapes. You see the old, old hall was adjacent to the canteen, where any cooking was done. And the whole thing was timber.

The Deputy Principal, wearing long shorts, long socks and slip-on shoes in a pale hue, would tell us all to shut the fuck up, but in more acceptable words. And then he would do that trick where you just stand there… doing nothing.

This is because he was hoping that us kids would eventually notice that he was about to completely lose his shit, and quieten down.

Sometimes it worked, but more often it didn’t, so he would make an example of someone, usually Shane Ryan, and send him or her to the office under a barrage of threats. This was enough for the rest of the school to quieten down. He then would invite Mrs. Browne, who was 87 in the shade, to lead the school in the school in God Save the Queen. Under a portrait of the great lady, we would open our lungs, declaring that we would sent her victorious, happy and glorious, bound to reign over us, God save-ave the Queeeeeennn.

“Please be seated.”

And on the floor we sat, while self important teachers all stood up and told us something dull about the rubbish bins, or the bike racks, or any number of other things that we were doing wrong. The Assembly Item would happen, perhaps for something different the Year One class might do percussion to “Popcorn.” The cold, hard floorboards would literally give you a pain in the ass.

So then onto the class awards. This is when the Principal, a man in long shorts, long socks and slip on shoes in a pale hue, would make an appearance. Scratching his moustache, he would ask if we could wait until the end of the ceremony to show our admiration for the chosen ones.

“Class KM, Jenny Bolton, for having a wonderful smile…”

And the crowd would go WILD with applause! Again he would ask us to hold the applause until the end.

“Class 1S, Brett Dalrymple, for going a week without crying..”

Hysterical, thunderous cheering, hands slapping on the ground, giving the impression what the hall was standing in the way of a huge stampede of buffalo. So he gave up each week, and went through the list quickly. At the end he would ask us to stand for the school prayer.

This is our school
Let peace dwell here
Let the room
be full of contentment
Let love abide here
love of one another
love of life itself
and love of God

Let us remember
that as many hands
built a house
so many hearts
make a school

And we would sing song it away, without a clue what it actually meant.

It was just always very interesting that the kids from the Jehovah’s Witnesses got to go outside for the duration of the prayer. The same family would also pass on the many religious based festivities, although I did remember being aghast when they explained that they didn’t get birthday gifts or Christmas presents.

I mean, where was their incentive to keep living?

Every week scripture class would roll around, and your parents had the choice to send you to either Catholic or Church of England, and that was it. There were a few kids that did “non-scripture” classes; and the Jehovah’s Witness kids went to the library, as we all got our prayer on. The scripture teachers were all elderly members of the local churches, and try as they might, there was little control held over any of the classes I attended.

Welcome to your first experience of segregation based on religion!

The other type of segregation you could experience at primary school, was the social segregation that came along with being on detention. There were a lot of myths that came along with being on detention. One was that a teacher would draw a dot of chalk on the blackboard, and you had to spend the entire lunchtime standing there, with your nose on that dot.

Another was that you had to stand against a wall in the blazing sun for an hour, with your hands on your head as your peers played in front of you. But the reality was not as physically demanding, although indeed it was emotionally degrading.

You had to spend the hour in a supervised classroom writing out your crime with the words I must not in front of it.

I must not throw a duster at Morris’s head
I must not throw a duster at Morris’s head
I must not throw a duster at Morris’s head
I must not throw a duster at Morris’s head
I must not throw a duster at Morris’s head
I must not throw a duster at Morris’s head
I must not throw a duster at Morris’s head
I must not throw a duster at Morris’s head

At the end of lunch, you took your lines up to the teacher/warden at the front and show her. She would ask the question.

“What must you not do?”

“I must not throw a duster at Morris’s head?”

And back to class you would go, to look at the back of Morris’s head, that had a faint chalk mark on the back of it. And it was all you could do not to empty the contents of your sharpener down the back of his shirt…. Or so I am told.