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  • Writer's pictureJack

School Schmool

'School Schmool' Acrylic on canvas board 20 by 30cm

This is the fourth in this first series of ten paintings from memories and strange occurrences from my past.

I hadn't seen my dad since I was about seven years old. I didn't like him much. My mum told me how he used to mistreat her and that he'd cheated within the first week of their marriage, he'd left when we were young so he wasn't my favourite person.

By the time I was around thirteen I didn't like my mum or stepdad much either.

My older sister nagged at me and finally persuaded me to go and see my dad.

We arrived at his grotty little bedsit in Manningham in Bradford. The street he lived on was nicknamed 'Death Row' because it had the most concentrated number of registered addicts on one street in the whole of West Yorkshire, that's what I was told anyway.

When we got inside my Dad was looking miserable and gave me a quick grumpy glance and then said to my sister 'Who's this?'. She replied 'It's your son....Joel' (later in life I changed my name).

His demeaner changed, he became very friendly and shook my hand and got me a beer and offered my a cigarette.

A little light bulb went on above my head and I thought to myself 'This is where I'm coming to knock off school from now on'. I guess I'd started to loose my morals in my teen years.

I hardly went to school at this point and I stopped going altogether by the time I was fourteen, I hated it.

My dads place was quite near my school which was two bus rides from my mum's house, one into the center of Bradford then a school allocated one out the other side. I'd get off the bus at school with all the idiots I went to school with and as they all went through the gates I'd wander off down the road to my dad's.

This is when I met Billy Jean, his girlfriend. They had met in Linfield Mount which was known as the local mental hospital (as everyone called them back then) but it was also a place where people went for rehabilitation of various kinds.

She'd had a troubled life but was such a friendly, funny lady that I instantly took a shine to her.

When I would arrive at my dad's I would ring the doorbell and his window upstairs would eventually open and he'd throw the keys down so I could let myself in. I'd get up to their room and they'd both be sat up in bed passing a pint glass of cider between them, both with shaking hands.

We'd drink and smoke and sometimes get stoned during the days then I'd go back and get on the school bus with all the morons so that I'd arrive home at the right time so as not to raise suspicion that I hadn't been to school again.

I remember I had a social worker lady who would drive around looking for me when I was off school, my mum would tell her where I hung out and she'd find me. She was a nice lady and I was always polite to her, and I'd get in her car and she'd take me into school. I'd have to go in the headmasters office and he'd shout at me for a while and I'd act polite and say all the right things then he'd say 'Now get to class'. I'd say 'OK' and then walk back out of school again.

They eventually gave up on me but once when I'd got back from my dad's they'd rung up and I was in trouble. My stepdad was in my face the next morning and said 'If you don't go to school today then don't bother coming home' I said ok and he thought I meant ok I'll go to school but I meant OK I won't come home.

I went to my brothers for three days at the other side of town. Then I went to my sisters and she said that my mum was so mad with me that I still hadn't been going to school and she hadn't seen me for three days. I remember thinking wow, she hasn't seen her fourteen year old son for three days and had no idea where he was and her only course of action was to get pissed off.

My sister was short on cash and didn't have any cigs and I bet her and her boyfriend that I'd not only not be in trouble but I'd get money for cigs and be back within the hour.

I got home and my mother was going mental with me and I just said, 'Dad said if I didn't go to school then not to come home so I didn't and I'm not going back to school ever, then I quickly said that my sister was having a crisis and didn't have any nappies for her child and needed money, so my mum gave me the money and I left back for my sister's laughing to myself.

I moved in with my sister and her boyfriend shortly after that as it seems my mum gave up on me too. My sister's house was a drug fueled party house so that suited me just fine, I was fourteen and I could do whatever I wanted.

Anyway, back to my dad's stinking bedsit. When I was there, he'd often say 'I've got to go and see a man about a dog' and leave. Billie Jean's eyes would light up and she'd sit next to me on the sofa and say 'I've got you all to myself now'. She'd say 'look at those cheekbones' whilst stroking my face. I was so conflicted, this was my dad's girlfriend and she was all over me.

She'd be like Pepe Le Pew and I'd be like the poor cat that had accidently got a stripe of white paint down it's back. We never did anything but she'd hug me, straddle me, kiss me and I'd be all the time trying to politely decline.

When I seventeen and I hadn't had a girlfriend for two years I often used to look back in regret that I hadn't taken advantage of that situation, it seems I'd really lost my morals by then.


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