Building bases with our pencil cases at school. This was in Middle school. Young, innocent and eager to possess educational tools. Or felt pens as they were known. I’m not sure if the curriculum demanded parents provided their children with such mess-making utensils, but we all had them anyway. Along with rulers, rubbers (eraser), pencils and a pen of choice. My choice being a fountain pen with refillable ink from which you suck into your pen from a jar. Blotting paper was needed to stem the mess I would inevitably make. It was unnecessary, messy and time-consuming but nonetheless flamboyant. My peers would look on, intrigued. I was the distinguished gentleman and the fountain pen was my pipe.
Pens were something of a hierarchal marker in my school. We were only allowed pens when our teacher deemed our handwriting good enough. Mine was good enough before most but I was not the first. That title belonged to a girl of course. But I was the first boy and because of that I carried the future intellectual hopes of the other boys whenever the teacher would set a quiz in the scenario of Boys Vs Girls. Something I always enjoyed. I loved being the underdog, but nowhere near as much as I loved being the underdog and winning – winning with great aplomb and arrogance. I was the peoples’ champion. Or at least in my mind.
Pencil cases would filter into Secondary school, but they now would encompass graffiti. Mine always proudly announced that ‘PFC’ were the best football club in the world and that ‘Man U’ were shit. Sexual tendencies were now being broadcast by the magic of pen. My pencil case told everyone how much I loved Pamela Anderson. She was quite easily the most sexually attractive woman in the world and at a time when my focus started to switch to tits and fannies, she was all I could think about. Aside from football of course.
Every now and then, peers would snatch your pencil case and scrawl their own thoughts and wishes onto your canvas of opinions. Girls would sometimes express their friend’s desire to kiss you. Other times it would be just to call you a nob. It was very much the way to flirt. A way for girls to tell you they fancy you. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have that in adult society now. At least people could express how they feel instead of bottling it up inside. What better way to seduce Karen at work by scrawling ‘John & Karen I.D.S.T.’ across the back of your computer? What happened to those days when you could openly snog your peers? No guilt was felt. No boundaries crossed. You just stuck your tongue in and then got on with the rest of your lives. Probably by snogging their best mate. The only way we ever come close to this now is by standing in a big room with pounding music. I think it’s called clubbing. And this is only ever achieved if we’re pissed off our faces. When we were kids we did it sober. Now if you want anything slightly close to a sober snog, you have to go on a ‘date’ and be ‘polite’. Apparently it’s not appropriate to say; “I’ll meet you behind the bike sheds at eight”. Flirtation by pencil case. It was so much easier.
By the age of 15 the pencil case had gone, and by the age of 16 the school bag had disappeared completely. Instead I’d carry a pen and that was that. I didn’t need a bag for homework. I didn’t do homework anymore. That was for mugs. In fact I’d given up on school. All that pride that went in to buying fountain pens, 2B pencils, paintbrush felt pens, rulers, rubbers, protractors, diaries, and even tipp-ex, had disappeared. Secondary School had lied and could no longer look me in the eyes when offering me false promises. I chose to focus on the positives of this place. The place we were spending four years of our lives. The people who made me laugh. The people who challenged me both physically and mentally. The social network that so many adults strive for today and many never achieve. And also the array of fanny who you can flirt with on a daily basis. When was the last time you were at work and fingered a girl whilst sat next to her at a desk? And let’s face it, it was the only time you could touch a fifteen year-old girl inappropriately without a sense of guilt and the impending sound of Police footsteps coming up your driveway. It was okay. You were fifteen.
I don’t carry a pencil-case these days. I don’t graffiti other people’s property. I no longer flirt with fifteen year-old girls. And the only rubber I’m likely to possess is probably called ‘Johnny’. At my desk are no flamboyant pens. Only a laptop. I try to build a base but the Camomile tea and glass of water offer no defensive edge – they don’t even collate. The table is no longer in a school but in a coffee shop full of people whom I never speak to. We only offer stares of intrigue and then glance away pretending we weren’t really showing any interest. But no-one smiles. This is adult life. Fun isn’t it?