In 1955, having passed the infamous 11+ exam’ (still known to older folks as the “Scholarship”), I was enrolled in Fairfield Grammar School.
(In England at that time, “Grammar Schools” were what Americans would know as “High Schools”. They were schools designed to prepare “brighter“ pupils for University, whereas “Secondary Schools were for those who would work in the trades, or in industry).
So began five of the most miserable years of my life. I learned to hate F.G.S., and I was a miserable student.
In “elementary” schools (Infant and Junior schools in England), I had shone. I was good at arithmetic, reading, writing - the 3 R’s. So it was no surprise that I passed the 11+ exam.
Mum and Dad had hoped for a high pass so that I might attend the elitist “Bristol Grammar School”, or the well thought of “Cotham Grammar School” (for boys only).
But that did not happen. Instead I was assigned to Fairfield. A good consolation prize, and much better in our minds than the local “St. George’s Grammar School”, or the across the City, “Merrywood Grammar School”, or the newer “Ashton Park School”
Fairfield was 2.9 miles from my home. Had it been 1/10th of a mile farther I would have qualified for a free ‘bus ride. As it was I had to use “shanks pony” , or the City buses, or my bike.
My bike. My parents had promised me a new bike if I passed the exam’. Well, I got a bike, one which my Dad assembled from spare parts.
It wasn’t what I wanted or had expected, and I was ungrateful, and quite churlish about this “new bike”.
I’d wanted a brand new Raleigh with “drop” handle bars, and ten speeds.
Instead I got a “old man’s bike”, repainted and re-fitted, but with “upright” handlebars, and an old fashioned “Sturmey Archer” three speed bike at that.
And my Fairfield misery began in September 1955. More about that tomorrow.