Friday, August 26, 2011

The Prefect Ritual

I remember the day they performed the prefect naming ceremony one morning at school assembly, reading out the long list of those lucky souls selected from the 5th year who would have the honour of being glorified Bow Street Runners. Those who would wear the navy blue tie of mock authority.

I was quite frankly shitting myself. The thought of having to walk up onto the stage in front of the entire school and accept one of those blue ties made me feel physically sick. I was a geek. Possibly one of the uncoolest kids in the school. My clothes were unfashionable. My hair was unfashionable. I wore NHS glasses. I was small and ugly. I would get catcalls at worst or, at best, barely concealed sniggers.

I can remember praying, “not me, not me” as they began to go through the names of the chosen ones alphabetically.

They got through the B’s pretty quickly and were well onto the C’s and D’s before it hit me that I had not been selected. I had not been chosen.

There was no relief. Only crushing disappointment. I had just assumed, you see, that I would automatically be one of those chosen. I was one of the good boys. Never in trouble. A constant achiever – even if my grades were mostly average. Always did my homework, was rarely off sick. Never made trouble. An ideal student in every respect.

How could they not choose me? Why would they not?

One by one my mates – all much cooler and more popular than me – were called up onto the stage and were given the tie that would thenceforth differentiate them from me. That’s what it felt like. They were being set apart. I was being left behind. The prefects were automatically a little club unto themselves. They would have responsibilities and experiences that I would never share. I would forever be an outsider to yet another school clique.

Suddenly my relief had turned into searing jealousy and, yes, grief – even if with only a small g.

I was down about it for a week or two afterwards. My prefect mates didn’t see what I was so upset about and didn’t take my moroseness at all seriously. But it bugged me. Why was I not chosen? I mean, they’d deliberately chosen some of the other weaker, less intelligent, more socially deprived boys. Even in those days certain tick boxes had to be ticked for the sake of appearances. So why not me?

Looking back on it now the answer is plain. Academically I had it. In terms of my everyday conduct I had it.

In terms of confidence and self esteem... I didn’t stick a chance. I would never have been able to wield any kind of authority. I did not garner enough respect from my peers.

I was not prefect material.

Would I be prefect material now?

Yes. Without boasting about it, I think yes. But I would turn it down.

I know my place a little better now and am more comfortable with it. Given the choice today, I would always choose to run with the hare rather than hunt with the hound... the hare, you see, is the only one who is free.



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38 comments:

Tenon_Saw said...

I can so relate to this. I was annoyed that all the [in my eyes] loud-mouth-trouble-makers became prefects.

the fly in the web said...

Yes, the hare's motivation is uncomplicated....blameless victim.

Marginalia said...

That's the fifth handkerchief I've drenched. Are you looking for buxon, middle aged woman to console you?

Steve said...

Tenon_Saw: my guess is it's the bolshi ones who make for better Nazis.

The fly in the web: ah... but the hare is not always caught.

Marginalia: vital statistics and bank details first please.

Owen said...

Crazy how some shcool days memories remain sharp so many years later, and can still rankle as though it were yesterday...

But would you be someone else, somewhere else today, had you been chosen then ?

Steve said...

Owen: no. But I'd have had a very nice old navy blue tie in my wardrobe.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Shunning authority is cool if you do it in the right way. Reject conformism, poke fun at the pompous and never turn down female disciples (see Marginilia, above). With your beard, you might get mistaken for a droll sage.

Fran said...

I was never even within a hair's breadth of being chosen. Probably better to be that way than hopeful, I guess.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: given your own hirsuteness I find it curious that you should be so obsessed with my own.

Fran: I was always up for disappointment, me. *sniff*

Alienne said...

We didn't have prefects at my school - there was a large chart in the 6th form common room and all 6th formers had to 'volunteer' to do the various duties. We had to get a certain number of points each per term (it was checked) and the unpopular jobs carried the most points. It was actually a surprisingly fair system as it spread the load, and it worked really well, but then, we were all scared of the Headmistress and the Deputy Head!

Marginalia said...

A couple of hundred grand in cash ISAs, buoyant current account, and a 6 bedroom, 3 bathrooms ( 2 on suite) "home from home" in Stoke Poges. Enough statistics?

About Last Weekend said...

I was not prefect material either. I don't think I've ever shaken that. Neither was my sister or my brother. My sister always says her first ambition in life is to be asked to be the end of year speaker at our old (crappy) high school (and this is a person who has won international awards for her docos).

Steve said...

Alienne: your school wasn't called Hogwarts, was it?

Marginalia: you'll do. When can you start?

About Last Weekend: what makes me feel better is to realize that all those classmates who got to be prefects actually peaked too earlier. After that it was all downhill. People like us, we're still approaching the crest of the hill. ;-)

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Well Steve, tis no consolation to you, but in my case, come the event, the bastards strong armed me onto the stage while another even bigger bastard wrapped one of those officious bluddy ties round my neck, then pinned one of those nasty badges of rank all the way through to my left nipple, before reading me my new rights and the prefects code of conduct & ethics.

The Headbastard then explained that he’d only conceded to ‘make me up’ as an exception in my case, because to be awarded such a prized commission demanded that I attend ‘all’ school lessons in future and not just the one or two that I enjoyed, and they were fed up with sending duty teachers into the woods that surrounded my school, to pointlessly try and track me. “Truancy is strictly Vorbotten! – do you understand vot I’m saying young man!!” To which I replied “Oh yes Sir. Crystal clear sir, absolutely crystal clear sir. Thank you…sir.”

I was then released to leave the stage, and the hall, and very shortly afterwards unbeknown to anyone else, the back of the school playing fields too. After taking a running dive straight over the perimeter fence, I had an especially joyous afternoon fishing by the river. When I ambled into school the next day, the Headbastard was stood at the doors waiting with his hand held open, palm up and an angry shade of purple on his face, so I just pulled my own hand from my pocket and politely placed my neatly rolled up tie and badge onto his, as his other hand crashed into the back of my head.

Game over, happy and smiling to be back amongst the glorious rank and file, comfortably inside 24 hours.

English Rider said...

The view from up front is far superior also. (As delicately put as possible)

libby said...

I was never prefect material either.......I could tick lots of boxes but 'leading' is not one of them. Shall we design our own tie and do a virtual assembly?..and the comment from Alienne made me think 'what a cool school'....

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Oh heck, I definitely feel like an outsider amongst these comments. I confess, I did become a prefect. I remember loving the thrill of the Hunt, but having caught a whiff of cigarette smoke from the loos all I could do to the law-breakers stuffing their fags down the plughole was smile kindly and warn them not to do it again. Being bossy has a price... and I couldn't bare to be hated.

Steve said...

Bish Bosh Bash: now that is class. I now fervently wish they'd made me up to prefect just so I could disappoint them so wonderfully. Alas, back then I doubt I would have done it. Too much the good boy. Your actions were admirable, sir.

English Rider: I like your turn of phrase...

Libby: a virtual school assembly? Only if we can all sing All Things Bright And Beautiful.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: I suspect I was too overtly that way myself hence why I was passed over for "promotion". If only they knew I would have relished being public enemy number one given half the chance...!

Being Me said...

I can relate to this too. This was me at high school... oh, sans facial hair. They weren't called prefects but there were "chosen ones". And they were the ones who were loudest and most obnoxious. It was a pretty early and harsh introduction to The Real World.

Steve said...

Being Me: yep, this is how the world works. The squeaky, show-off wheel gets the grease, the attention, the girl / boy and the accolades. However, when geeks shine, they shine the brightest of all.

Being Me said...

Too right, Sunshine!

Steve said...

Being Me: we're so bright, we gotta wear shades.

;-)

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I can't even remember if there were any prefects at my school, let alone any sort of ceremony for them. Perhaps this is another childhood injustice I should feel bitter about but had hitherto never considered. Thanks Steve! ;- )

Steve said...

Laura: just trying to help the nation tap into hidden bitternesses... it's cathartic, don't you know.

Kelloggsville said...

managed Library Monitor for a short period! prefect never, wasn't pretty or popular enough! Can't imagine I would get it now either so you're one up on me :D

Steve said...

Kelloggsville: I was never a library monitor either but you've just reminded me that I was a milk monitor for a week at infant's school. Thank you. It's nice to know that I wasn't always a failure.

TimeWarden said...

You can't change the past, Steve, you haven't a TARDIS to go back in time and rewrite it, so it's negative energy dwelling on how things might've been. You have a wife and children NOW so you see your very own "sunbeams off the shoulder of Orion" every single day.

Steve said...

TimeWarden: well put. You could argue that my not being picked for prefect was a fixed point in time and space. Disaster will only come by trying to change it.

John Gray said...

childhood disapoinments....growing pains..........
call em what you will.....

Steve said...

John: gross injustices by any other name.

Löst Jimmy said...

I was never called for acclaim although many I was called forward for punishment, an example of how not to attract attention.

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: better to be a rule breaker than a dull boy like me... I wish I'd broken a few more rules I can tell you.

Keith said...

Ha. In another age they would have been the first to sign up for the Hitler Youth or other dubious organizations. Better to be the silent observer, anonymous in the midst, watching, and recording. The world need us more than them, in the long run.

( I was 'overlooked' as well, but I'm not....haurmphhh... bitter )

Steve said...

Keith: my favourite take on it so far. Absolutely. And annoying little scribblers like me record everything. I am Maximus Decimus Meridius and I will have my vengeance!

Nana Go-Go said...

38DD x 30 x 38 - 5ft 4ins - small but perfectly formed!!ha ha ha

Steve said...

Nana Go-Go: you're hired.

Wanderlust said...

We didn't have this ritual in the US, but if we did I wouldn't have been picked either, despite my grades. I was such a wallflower. How times change (us)...

Steve said...

Wanderlust: it is the one true benefit of age - self confidence. It grows with us.