school daze (aka ancient history)

I've been thinking a lot about my old school subjects recently. School, I finished 23 years ago. I've taken to discussing school subjects with friends, such as discussing which subjects we excelled in and those we bombed, and so forth. I've no clear idea as to why I'm harking back to an era that passed over in October 1987. I suppose I'm merely manifesting my incorrigible quirkiness and way of mentalising everything, the present, the future and the past. Maybe it's all because of Facebook. I've been making facebook-friends with people I went to school with and hadn't thought about for 23 years since leaving school. I suspect my nostalgia buttons are reignited as I wonder about all those old faces (or older faces) on Facebook of those I went to school with 23-plus years ago. Maybe I'm nostalgic because I'm hitting 40 and I'm wondering what the hell have I done with my life?? Other than learn piano. Or acquire a small(-ish) collection of acoustic guitars & basses. Which is worthwhile in itself. Kind of.

Relating to this, another of my current obsessions is 'brain power'. To this end I've enrolled in Lumosity courses that provide a series of games designed to increase brain power, in those facets such as speed, memory, flexibility, focus, information processing, visual perception, etc. So far so good, but some of these games are positively nightmarish!! I love the birdwatching game, and the word game, but 'memory match' and 'monster garden' are positively freakish, relying of vast quantity of memory to achieve great results. Nevertheless, I'm doing well with it and will continue on with the course. I do a session almost daily and each session takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. At present I'm in the top 77% of users in my age group 5 years younger and older.

School. I was a very average primary school student. It wasn't until I hit about year 5, in a new school, that I began to demonstrate some degree of academic prowess. By the time I was in year 7 I found myself streamed in the higher maths level. I got good results in maths, physics and chemistry. English started to fire up for me too, racing into the advanced stream by years 9 & 10. I failed Biology in year 10. And in year 11 and 12 I was failing economics until I decided to pull my socks up, to which I did very well with the subject in my final exam in 1987.

I was always good at history. I found myself to be particularly good at Ancient History, especially Ancient Greece. I should have taken the Ancient History prize. Really, that prize was mine. It occured to me just last week of the distinct possibility of a small conspiracy against me at that school in my final year. I received a very 'lukewarm' school reference. A few years later I returned to the school and quietly demanded to the headmaster to issue me with a much more positive reference, to which he did. I sensed an almost open hostility in my final year from a group of teachers that weren't even teaching year 12. These were the brat-packers, surfer, lay-about teachers who appeared macho and racist in their manner and outlook. I was musical and a thinker and was known, back then, to have an intense glare. Outwardly I was well-behaved, but my whole being emanated belligerence and non-conformity toward the established mode of things. Thankfully I'm a lot more laid back now, and comfortable in just being myself.

They weren't very good teachers, on the whole, at that school. There were a couple, or 3, very good English teachers but the others were woeful. The head of English - he was terrific - died of AIDS. The other guy, Mr Davis, went to teach at another school. And the other good English teacher was a cadet-master with strange proclivities, but he was a good English teacher. Regrettably I tended to have the poor teachers for most of my stream. I don't recall being taught grammar except fleetingly. Still, I flew into advanced English in high school and took the full three units of it. I'd do especially well with English if I liked the book we were studying at the time. And back then my brain was spongey and young enough to handle a wide oeuvre of literature, including two of Jane Austen's books. I wouldn't read Jane Austen now, the reason being that my brain as it is now wouldn't absorb this material, but I enjoyed it at the time. I thoroughly enjoyed 'Pride and Prejudice' but found 'Emma' something of an endurance test. I vividly recall coming up to Chapter 35 and thinking out aloud that there were another 20 chapters to go after that!

But if I could go back I would've taken 3-units of Ancient History instead.

I would've taken higher levels of Maths too, and kept on with Physics & Chemistry in the senior years, all of which came naturally to me. But you can't do everything. I was taken by music and the written word back then, still am, so the maths had to give. I still did the advanced stream of maths, but only 2 units of it.

The subject I did best at for my HSC was the 1-unit subject of 'General Studies'. I must have come in the very top stream in the state for this subject, scoring 47 out of 50. It helped that I subscribed to Time magazine throughout 1987. Notwithstanding, my best attribute academically is a keen sense of perception and understanding, and General Studies allowed me to convey these skills in the wider context of current events.

And funnily enough, my worst subject at school was Music. Music didn't matter so much. I was doing 12 units of study and only the top 10 were counted. Music was my relief period, my sanity check, to get away from the awful, drab, normal subjects and enjoy a bit of r&r with a few peers. I was playing trombone. I played very well in the trials but I bombed the HSC performance. I didn't care. Trombone was never my passion although I enjoyed playing in the school orchestra. And I recall showing the examiners a notated copy of a song of mine. I vaguely remember all those innocent notes written by a 17-year old hand. Must've been cute. Anyway, I did much better with Music when I took it up at tertiary level.

I'll say it again; I can't believe how fast time's flown since 1987. The dates themselves don't matter, the bottom line is that time goes by fast. I feel better now I've written this down. I feel I can leave it behind me. For life is about to 'begin'. Life begins at 40.

Unless you're John Lennon.


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