Too Cool for School
It was way too sunny to spend the day cooped up in a classroom. Having been raised on comics in which characters often played truant to go on fishing trips or similar adventures, I decided to emulate them. I went into school to get my attendance mark on the register, and then I sneaked off.
As I walked along a farm track that led down to the riverside, the noise of the traffic behind me faded out, to be replaced by a much sweeter sound; the song of a skylark. I was reminded of a line from Blake’s poem The Schoolboy, which we had recently studied in English class.
And the skylark sings with me:
O what sweet company!
For this particular fourteen-year-old schoolboy, smoking, exploring and mischief making were on the timetable that day.
Keeping a Low Profile
I decided to walk to the town of Bedlington, some three miles away on the other side of the river. Here I would go unrecognised by the locals; an important factor, as a previous truancy trip had come unstuck when I was spotted in my home town by a friend of my mother’s, and she didn’t hesitate to snitch.
I made my way along the riverside walk and through the maintenance tunnels of the huge iron railway bridge that spans the river Blyth. After much trudging, I arrived at Bedlington town centre, parched, and weary from the walk. I was also hungry because I had spent my dinner money on cigarettes. I passed the time looking in shops and aimlessly wandering around.
Looking back, I wonder what the point of the venture had been. I was forfeiting a day’s education in order to tramp around the pavements on my own, bored and hungry, and with a three mile walk home on an empty stomach to look forward to.
In the afternoon, I decided to have one last cigarette before heading home. I went into the local Presto supermarket, where I sat down on a long row of seating that stood against a wall facing the checkouts. It may seem odd today, but smoking inside a supermarket was tolerated, if not encouraged, back…