Dissent with Mortification: On the Origin of the Manifestations of Baboonery
I can thank my secondary school days for providing the inspiration for the title Manifestations of Baboonery (MoB) as well as instilling in me a palpable and crippling sense of self-doubt that continues to haunt my adult life. The spectre of positive reinforcement didn’t raise its ugly head in those dark, satanic corridors. Oh no, “Not good enough, BOY!” was the school motto.
Anyway, to help you picture the aforementioned institution, think of a school with the educational philosophy of Dickens’ Salem House, the discipline of Shawshank State Prison and the hierarchy of Gattaca. Out of the blue one afternoon an emergency assembly for the entire year was called and the word on the playground was that some unspecified travesty had been perpetrated by a person or persons unknown.
Put it down to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or compartmentalisation, but I now can’t reliably remember what it was all about. Until recently I was convinced it was to do with ‘Wagonwheelgate’ – the daily lunchtime besmirching of the 3rd year toilets, which smelt like a stirred midden (unlike the ones by room J in the main building that smelt of Port Salut and a doorway in Soho on a Sunday morning in August, or indeed the ones by room A where the world’s highest grade of Ethanethiol is mined).
Just think of William “Wild Bill” Wharton spitting the Moon Pie into Brutus “Brutal” Howell’s face in the Green Mile. But substitute “Wild Bill” with about ten disaffected schoolboys, Moon Pie with Wagon Wheels (incidentally, are they supposed to taste like they’re stale?) and “Brutal” with a full length mirror, thoughtfully mounted just below the mean head and shoulder height of a typical north London 13 year old.
Unsurprisingly after a few weeks of looking like the chocolate, saliva and cinnamon equivalent of Clarice Starling’s semen flicked face, the mirror got removed. Surprisingly it turned out the target wasn’t the mirror after all but instead the pristine bit of wall behind it – which ended up looking like the wall of a Victorian zoo enclosure occupied by a solitary monkey with campylobacter and a personality disorder that makes it think it’s an IRA hunger striker.
Having said all that, I’ve recently been told by a still traumatised veteran of those wonderfully carefree schooldays that it was actually because the nursing home-style wipe-clean armchairs provided for us in the 6th form common room had elaborate combinations of swearwords brailled into them with compasses. And yes, I’m aware those two events occurred three years apart, but school was such wall to wall fun it all blurs into one.
The hall was quieter than a coward during genocide despite being filled with 180 petrified, sphincter-failing boys all thinking “I hope it isn’t me! I hope they don’t know about that thing I did. I hope that porno Marcus Biscuit has lent me is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.” All of us of course were too stupid to realise that if they knew who’d done it there would be no need for a mass execution.
The Headmaster, flanked by the School Cabinet (Heads of Year for those that went to a normal school), rose imperceptibly slowly from his creaking chair and paced along the stage like a diplodocus on Mogadon, looking like the love child of Friar Tuck, Captain Mainwaring and Mr Creosote. It’s important to bear in mind this man was not a figure of comedy or ridicule. His presence to a teenage boy was nothing less than devastating – the kind of feeling you’d get if, come the revolution, you found yourself armed with a stick and a helicopter gunship popped over the horizon and winked at you. He stopped in the middle of the stage, hands behind his back, his face as purple as an aroused hypertensive aubergine’s bell-end, fat-controllering his stomach towards us, the huddling and trembling masses (who like me I assume were thinking “how many ping pong balls could you fit in his belly button?”), and boomed like R136a1 going nova and then stubbing its toe on a doorframe:
“THERE HAVE BEEN… MANIFESTATIONS OF BABOONERY!”