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.