Metro 181

Last week I wrote about an act of schoolboy protest, when I produced the world’s loudest ever burp during the minute’s silence at my school’s Ascension Day service in 1983. This rebellion was made all the more impressive, because my dad was the headmaster who’d just asked us to be quiet.
He had seen me laughing afterwards and must have worked out that I might be the mysterious phantom belcher. So what would he do? Punish me or let me off…..? I left the story on a cliffhanger. I know you’ve been thinking about it all week.

Well… he didn’t do anything. He shook with fury, then decided to let it go and introduced the string quartet. I’d got away with it!

And as I left the service, everyone was telling me how brilliant I had been. Even the hardest kids in the school, who would usually avoid me like the plague, were patting me on the back and saying, ‘That was flipping hilarious, mate” (if you watched Grange Hill then you know that “flip” was the strongest swear word available to 1980s school kids). They realised it had been a double dare for me, because of who my Dad was. And for once they liked and maybe even respected me. In a way, it was my own Ascension day (I am not saying I am Jesus.. that is for others to say).

I felt pretty good, until I remembered that the Headmaster was also my dad. He was going to wait until I get home and then the sugar was really going to hit the fan (again 1980s swearing at its finest).

We were sitting at dinner that night and there was a bit of an awkward silence. Then my dad said, ‘Something a bit weird happened at school today…’

“Oh yeah”, I replied nonchalantly.

‘Someone burped during the minute’s silence. I was going to tear a strip off them, then I saw you laughing, and realised it might have been you,

So I didn’t do anything.’

I said ‘Well, it wasn’t me, so that’s lucky.’

But he knew it had been me yet he still didn’t punish me.

At the time I thought that was a bit weak. He shouldn’t have treated me differently, just because I was his son. But I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I thought about this from his point of view. I’d spent my life thinking how difficult it had been, being the Headmaster’s son, but never once thought what it must be like to be the Headmaster at a school where your son is a pupil.

What was he meant to do, in that situation?

If he’d hauled me out in front of the whole school, pulled down my trousers and spanked me on the arse, then this might not be such a feel-good conclusion.

I’d put him in an impossible situation. Our parents are just human beings and they make mistakes. But sometimes we do something where every response would be wrong.  And we can hold grudges for decades about those injustices.

If I meet anyone from my school, the first thing they say to me isn’t

‘Oh I saw you on the TV” or “I love your Metro column.” They always say, “How’s your dad?”

They loved him.

In the past I have tried to make out that my dad being my headmaster is responsible for my adult screw-ups. But there’s only one person to blame for the way my life has turned out. And it isn’t my dad.

It’s my overprotective mother.

Congratulations to the Queen on becoming our longest reigning monarch. Spare a thought for poor Prince Charles. He’s got to be happy that his mum is being sent victorious, happy and glorious, but I bet he hums a certain Lion King song a lot. He probably even envies Louis XIX of France who reigned for 20 minutes. It’s not a record you’d want to break, but it’s better than nothing.