I was a terrible truant at school. My father will testify to the fact I was always skiving off, and getting caught. I remember my first day taken off, and it should have given me a clue as to how not to do it.
It was February, and after much advanced planning with my mate Alan, I was going to meet him behind the local Safeways. I'd taken a change of clothes in my school bag, and all went to plan when he turned up just after 9. I changed in the public toilets outside the store entrance, and we headed off for a day of fun. That's where they say the best laid plans of mice and men. Being February, and being a clear morning, the weather by lunchtime had changed. It was damn cold anyway, and the trek around Crystal Palace Park (home of so many truants the council truant officer could be found camped out in the car park) had become a scene reminiscent of Scott of the Antarctic as we tried to find cover from the heavy snow. In the end we made the fatal flaw, and went back to my house mainly to thaw out. As we sat there in front of a heavy duty fan heater, getting warmed up and watching daytime TV, my sister appeared on the drive. We both legged it up to my bedroom, which in retrospect wasn't the best place to hide. She came in, inquired as to why we weren't at school, and quick thinker I was I told her the school had closed at lunchtime because of the snow. She bought it.
Further bunking off had advanced. I would write letters from my mother explaining why I was off school. I would phone the school secretary and pose as my father (we can sound similar), and explain that I wouldn't be in school that day. One time, caught red handed walking home from the school mid afternoon, the head of year contacted my Mum. He wanted to see her, and I knew I was for the high jump. I wrote a letter from my mum to him, explaining that she was working until 5:30 everyday and in a new job, so would be unable to see him. He accepted this, but wanted confirmation and to my horror phoned her. The truth was out about my handwriting skills, and she came to see my form tutor. After much fluffing of the truth* I managed to convince her I was there after all, and some boys had told the teacher I was bunking off when I wasn't. I even wrote a letter from my teacher in my journal to my mum, explaining this. She bought it.
I genuinely fell ill at the end of my third year, with tonsillitis. This really was not good for the school, because I discovered that I could get days off near the end of terms without requiring a letter or a phonecall. I'd normally take 2 or 3 days off, each and every term, and go shopping in Croydon/go cycling all over the southeast of the UK (!) or on one occasion spent the day in Hastings. The teacher would ask why I was away, I'd invent some good excuse, and explain that I'd bring the letter in. I'd then forget it as the holidays would arrive and the teacher wouldn't ask for it any more.
I was getting boisterous, almost cheeky. I hated chemistry, only taking it so I could take physics as well. The problem was, my form tutor, the man who would take the register in the morning and after lunch, was my chemistry teacher. I didn't care, and I'd still bunk off of his lessons. One time I even wrote a letter from my Art teacher, asking for me to be excused from his lesson so I could work on my portfolio for college. He didn't buy it.
My final year in school was a testament to my bunking off. I had gotten a good grade 'B' in my physics mock exam, and the physics teacher told me and another boy that we had done so well, we didn't have to worry about passing any more in our final exam. What he did say was we could work hard and get an 'A' or doss about and get a 'C'. I never went again. I got a 'C'. I had a lucrative business going, helping out younger bunkers with letters from their parents excusing them from P.E. or for taking a week off to go on holiday. I required a small sample of their mum or dad's handwriting, 50p, and a day to write the thing. I'd spend the hard earned cash on different notepads and letter packs. No one questioned the authenticity, and I reckon teachers would be shocked today if they knew the truth. Terry, one of my best mates, had gone a step further. He couldn't have been anymore blatant if he tried, actually turning up in school without his uniform on. He'd answer the register, and then been seen leaving through the main school gate.
My final school report summed up my laxity.
Number of half days absent - 105.
Number of unauthorised absences - 3.
*aka a damn good lie or two.
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