Wednesday, 13 June 2012

school exchange

On the way to school, I passed a very short year 7 boy and a tall, skinny year 9 boy walking to school. I was pushing my bike up the (very steep, okay!) hill, and I overtook them. Year 7 was saying to year 9, " 'course, I never give a girl my actual, real address," and the year 9 was nodding seriously as if to agree that to do so would be absolute folly.

I found myself wondering what possible scenario the year 7 had conjured up for himself which would necessitate such secrecy. Was he already a baby father? At 11? Or was he so devilish attractive that girls would queue for hours at the Very Bus Stop He Had Stood At, in the possible hope of bumping into him? Or maybe he only mugs girls because they're easier to push over, and he's worried they'll send their big brothers round for revenge? I turned back after I'd passed them, searching for a clue to the answer. No. No. and Possibly. Their uniforms were a shambles, their blazers being very similar in size despite the 7 being a dwarf and the 9 being a lanky bean - the 7 was swallowed up by his blazer, and the 9 was having to hunch his shoulders together, his being so tight.

In Edinburgh, when I was growing up, there was a brilliant shop called the School Exchange, where Mum used to take us for a second-hand replacement blazer/skirt/shirt etc. (Now I come to think of it, I have worn second-hand clothes my entire life). It was a mysterious place, with shelf after shelf of uniforms for all the different Edinburgh schools (except the very posh - I can't imagine Tony Blair's mum going to the school exchange for his Fettes finery). The shop was shadowy, owing to the very high shelf units and small, dirty windows, and it had an air of Olivanders about it. Perhaps that was the inspiration behind the wand-shop. I loved to go there, and it is my earnest hope to find an old-style school mac like the one Mum bought me there, and which I wore for many years after I had left school, I was so fond of it. Y' hear me, Ebay? That's what I want for Christmas! Sort it out, please!


  1. I s'pose when you're 11, you have no real idea what the coming bit will be like, so it's best to be prepared. Because what if girls in reality were the same as girls in your imagination? Heaven forfend!

    I too wore second hand school uniforms. You sound much more sanguine about it than I ever felt.


  2. New uniforms and their Kellogs-cereal-packet-rigidity held few charms for me - I was happy to let someone else endure that torture. And where I came from, a new blazer marked you out as a 'spoon' whereas a 'pre-loved' (Etsy-speak) blazer helped its wearer blend into the crowd - always an advantage in secondary school, unless you are 'built' or just aggressive.

    You're right about the boys - they are outwardly worldy-wise, but secretly still babies, most of them. It's very touching watching them try out their teenage personas, and I often feel very privileged to be invited into that world, as I often am.