Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.
This week, I am pleased to introduce Geoff Le Pard, author, blogger, humourist and all-round nice guy. I met Geoff through Anne Goodwin, if I remember correctly. We engaged in conversations on Anne’s blog first, then followed each other and engaged in conversations on each other’s blogs too.
Anne and Geoff had already been lucky enough to meet in person on a writing course, but I hadn’t known either for long when I visited family in London for the first time in 2014. I very timidly emailed Geoff and asked if he’d like to meet up. (This was prior to the Bloggers’ Bash of which Geoff is now on the organising committee and I didn’t yet know of any other instances of bloggers meeting up.)
I was both anxious and thrilled when Geoff, Anne and Lisa all agreed we’d meet up at the British Library. I think we were all wondering if these ‘strangers’ were who they said they were or if they might be potential axe murderers. Fortunately, though some of us may have a been a bit stranger than others, none were axe murderers and we had a very pleasant afternoon together.
Since that auspicious occasion, Geoff has entertained thousands, if not millions, of readers with his blog posts that are sometimes hilarious, sometimes serious, often compassionate and always with his own tangent on life, love and anything in between. He has published four novels, three anthologies and one memoir. I have no hesitation in recommending them to you.
But perhaps we should get to the real purpose of this post, which is to provide Geoff with an opportunity of sharing his reminiscences of school.
Before we begin the interview though, I’ll allow Geoff to tell you a little of himself:
Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.
Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?
My schooling started at 3 at Miss Stark’s nursery school in a large house about half a mile from home (mum walked me everyday). From there, at 5, I went to Maple Road Primary in Whyteleafe, in leafy Surrey this time about 2 miles away (I caught the bus – until I was 6 with mum, after that with my older brother (he was one year older). At 11 I moved to a local Grammar school, Purley Grammar school for boys, about 4 miles from home (I cycled) until I was 12 when the family moved to south Hampshire and joined Brockenhurst High School, also a Grammar, where I stayed until 16 when I moved into the adjacent sixth form college until 18 (the school was seven miles away and involved a daily train journey after a cycle ride).
Did you attend a government, private or independent school?
The nursery was private but the remaining schooling was Local education authority funded. Grammar schools were an attempt by the post war governments to give the best equivalent of a private education to those who couldn’t afford it. To enter you had to pass your 11 plus. I failed mine, had an interview as I was ‘borderline’ (makes it sound like it was a mental health issue) and was granted a place – I still think Paddington Bear was my saviour – this post explains my reason for thinking that.
What is the highest level of education you achieved?
I went through the sixth form, took four A levels (two maths, history and French plus S level maths – not sure what the ‘S’ stood for but it was meant to be equivalent of first or second year at uni – I managed 100% I was told – get me, much good it did me) and then attended University (Law, at Bristol University), and later in life went again for a masters (Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam)
What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?
I chose a law degree at Uni that lead to a career in the Law. I can cite the following influences from school:
- One of my school friends had already chosen law and it sounded cool;
- I went to a careers’ evening organised at school and the two reps from Southampton University were law lecturers and they were the coolest people there
- My maths teacher wanted me to go to Cambridge and do maths and he was anything but cool
What is your earliest memory of school?
The sandpit at nursery and the leather indoor slide and being made to stand in the corner for running when told not to.
I recall the terror of my first day at primary school, the sun in my eyes through the high windows and all the other children; I also remember the old fashioned radio speaker on the wall – a large wooden box with a brass speaker in the middle and listening to a story on it. There was a separate playground for the first and second forms (years 1 and 2 nowadays) with a high wire fence around it, like a tennis court that we stared through, like caged animals, at the older children in their playground
What memories do you have of learning to read?
I’m pretty sure I could read before I went to primary school but unlike my older brother I didn’t really enjoy it. I have to thank him for inadvertently (in the sense that I was an irritating little shadow who he needed to rid himself of) persevering in finding me books to read and converting me to the joys of reading. This post may give you a sense of my journey
What memories do you have of learning to write?
Ah me! Handwriting has never been a strength – a school report, noted in the post above, said I achieved a B in my handwriting exam and the remark from my teacher was ‘I don’t know how he managed it’). We had lined books in which we repeated our own take in cursive writing and mine were not things of beauty – again, perhaps I should indulge another post, here with examples of my work.
What do you remember about math classes?
I was always ‘good’ at maths (if you ignore the geometry report cited above – ‘utterly confused in exam – good term’s work’). I didn’t always grasp a concept immediately like some but it didn’t take long and I generally could work back though to first principles if taught properly. For some time it looked as if maths was my way into university until I was lucky enough to have an inspirational history teacher in the sixth form (years 11 to 13 now) who taught me to widen my horizons. He was cool.
What was your favourite subject?
History and the more modern the better.
What did you like best about school?
Play time, friends, being praised, winning badges, some school dinners and certain teachers. In secondary school I would add in sport and, after the age of 14, learning.
What did you like least about school?
Geography, biology, any sense I was in trouble, shepherd’s pie, girls until I was14 (my terror was different from there on) and certain teachers.
How do you think schools have changed since your school days?
Harder work, more pressure put overtly on children to perform (we had exams that were as difficult, we just weren’t bombarded with how important they were meant to be), a more rigorous structure to what they learn, less scope for great teachers to go off topic, far more Big Brother is watching you – we had scope to break rules, places to subvert – it seems today the rule breaking has to be in public and so is more likely to be chastised. I hear evidence that in certain places behaviour has degenerated but good teachers have always controlled classes. The punishment regime is less physical today and children are believed more than before. Perhaps the biggest changes are children are listened to more and teachers have less time to teach (or should that be to educate?)
What do you think schools (in general) do well?
When they do it well they inspire lifelong learning and in my experience that comes from the spark of an individual teacher capturing a child’s imagination. They give a child tools to learn, to teach, to educate him/herself – reading and writing and, no doubt today IT skills and after that to be inquiring, not to accept what they are told is the answer but to question – the ability to frame the right question is perhaps the greatest gift a teacher can give a pupil.
How do you think schools could be improved?
They can spend more time educating and less teaching. The tyranny of the curriculum is one of teaching’s greatest challenges. The notion that if you learn to a script and regurgitate that script and you will succeed is one of life’s top five fictions; no actor worth their salt merely delivers a script – they have to understand it, live it, get beneath and inside it. That is precisely the same with learning. Get beneath the surface, go round the back, take off the lid and see the workings and that way so much joy will be had and so many avenues will be opened. Good education acknowledges the world is round and that all we can ever do is proceed to the next horizon and see what’s there; bad teachers are education’s flat earthers.
Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Geoff. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I learned so much I didn’t already know about you. I enjoyed hearing your perspective on education and agree with much of what you had to say about it.
Find out more about Geoff Le Pard
on his blog
and his author page
My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.
Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.
Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015
Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.
This is available here
Buster & Moo is about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?
Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages
Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.
Life in a Conversation is an anthology of short and super short fiction that explores connections through humour, speech and everything besides. If you enjoy the funny, the weird and the heart-rending then you’ll be sure to find something here.
If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:
Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.
with more to follow.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.