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 Hugh Roberts, author, blogger and WordPress Whiz who generously shares his knowledge and advice to assist others along their blogging journey.
I’m not quite sure when or how Hugh and I met, but it was probably over at Geoff Le Pard’s blog some years ago. They are both now involved in the organisation of the Annual Bloggers’ Bash celebrating its fifth anniversary in London later this year (find out more on Hugh’s blog here).
Hugh features many interesting series on his blog and always welcomes new readers and often contributors. I read and enjoyed Hugh’s first book of short stories Glimpses. The second volume More Glimpses has recently been released, and I am looking forward to seeing what twists and delights Hugh has in store for me now.
Hugh also entered both Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contests that I hosted. Although they are judged blind, Hugh won the first competition and came second in the second. That’s a fair indication of what I think of his story telling. 😊
Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow Hugh to tell you a little of himself:
Hugh W. Roberts lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.
Hugh gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dogs, Toby and Austin. Although he was born in Wales, he has lived around various parts of the United Kingdom, including London where he lived and worked for 27 years.
Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after discovering blogging, decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of on-line friends he considers as an ‘everyday essential’.
His short stories have become well known for the unexpected twists they contain in taking the reader up a completely different path to one they think they are on. One of the best complements a reader can give Hugh is “I never saw that ending coming.”
Having published his first book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016, his second collection of short stories, More Glimpses, was published in March 2019. Hugh is already working on the next volume.
A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and enjoys relaxing most evenings with a glass of red wine.
Hugh shares his life with John, his civil-partner, and Toby and Austin, their Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
Welcome, Hugh. Now let’s talk school.
First, could you tell us where you attended school?
I spent my whole school life in the town of Chepstow; a town on the south-east border of Wales and England in the UK.
Did you attend a government, private or independent school?
They were government-run schools.
What is the highest level of education you achieved?
I left school at the age of 16 with five ‘O’ Levels and three GSCEs. I then did a brief stint in college on a hotel and catering management course. A job offer meant I left the class before it finished.
What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?
My first job was as an office junior before I went into retail. I enjoyed an office environment, but it wasn’t customer facing (which is what I wanted). I told my careers teacher at school that I wanted to join the police force or fire brigade. Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify to join either because you had to be above a certain height. I was a couple of inches too short!
What is your earliest memory of school?
I was the only one standing up in class crying my eyes out while I watched all the mums and dads walking away. It was my first day at school, and I didn’t want my mum to leave me there. I was very emotional and felt she had abandoned me and was not coming back. Of course, she did.
What memories do you have of learning to read?
I remember the ‘Peter and Jane’ books which started at 1a, 1b and 1c and went up to 12c (which was the last book in the series). They got harder as you moved up to each one, and you were only allowed to move on to the next book when your teacher was satisfied that you could read the current book satisfactorily.
What memories do you have of learning to write?
I remember the first ink pens given to us to practice writing. They were very thin and had to be filled with ink from a bottle, which we had to fill ourselves. It could sometimes get very messy.
While many of the children around me were doing ‘joined-up’ writing, I was doing all mine in block letters. I can remember being taken aside and told that I had to join the letters together. It took me a long time to gets to grips with joining the letters together, and it wasn’t long before I was left behind.
What do you remember about math classes?
I was not too fond of maths. Numbers did not interest me. All I wanted to do was make up stories. All my maths teachers were rigorous, which didn’t help in me gaining any confidence in numbers. I saw them as nasty, uncaring people, who didn’t seem to care about the children around them. I’m sure they did, but I didn’t see it that way.
What was your favourite subject?
Geography. I enjoyed learning about other countries and the people who lived in them. I was fascinated by maps and the names of towns and cities and the roads that connected them. Even the positions of countries intrigued me, and when I discovered time zones and realised that it wasn’t ‘lunchtime’ everywhere at the same time, ‘time-travel’ entered my life. I remember wishing that it would become part of the Geography education module before I left school.
What did you like best about school?
Drama class. In primary school, I could run around being who or what I wanted to be. Whether it was a tree, an animal or somebody driving a vehicle, I enjoyed the fun, laughter and enjoyment of the class.
As I grew up, Drama got more serious, but I enjoyed playing different parts in the school play.
What did you like least about school?
Playing sport. I had no liking for playing any physical games, especially on cold, wet days on muddy fields. After Easter, we would do athletics which I enjoyed a lot more. The long jump was my speciality!
How do you think schools have changed since your school days?
Unfortunately, I think there are now more children who have no respect for their teachers than there were in my school days. Not only that, but some of the parents also have little regard for the teachers.
It also saddens me to hear about schools not being able to afford to buy the basics like pens, pencils, books and even toilet rolls, because their budgets have been cut so much. Many now turn to the parents asking them to help fund children’s education when it really should be the government which funds it. I was so lucky to have ‘free’ education but, these days, ‘free education’ is something that is disappearing fast.
What do you think schools (in general) do well?
I hear more and more about schools inviting authors, writers and experts to come in and talk to the pupils about a particular subject. Whether it be about self-publishing, how to be safe on social media, or help and advice on careers or money matters, it gives those who want to help a chance to pass on their knowledge to new generations to come. I think it’s fantastic that they also ask people to come in and talk about their memories about specific events. It helps keeps memories and ‘past ways of lives’, alive.
How do you think schools could be improved?
More needs to be done in educating children about diversity and the hate crimes we hear so much about nowadays. Nobody should feel afraid to go to school because they are bullied or just because they’re told they are different and don’t fit in. Children should be encouraged to read about different ways of lives and to speak out about bullying. As a child who was bullied at school, my life was made much worse because I was afraid to tell an adult what was happening. These were the days before social media where bullying and hate crimes have now taken up residence. Children, these days, have a lot more to put up with, but I think there are also more bullies these days than there were when I was at school.
That’s an interesting observation with which to conclude, Hugh. Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I’m sorry you were bullied in school and wish bullying was something we could eradicate.
Find out more about Hugh Roberts
on his blog: Hugh’s Views and News
Connect with him on Social Media
Purchase Hugh’s books 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.