There was a touching moment last year when Gareth wanted to show me to his old high school. It was to be an incredible journey, he said. “It’s a bit of a walk; it’ll take us about forty minutes to get there”.
We trekked past abandoned Irn-Bru cans, Hula Hoop packets and graffitied fences then arrived, breathless with anticipation… in five minutes.
“Well it seemed like a long way when I was a student,” he said with a puzzled frown.
That was only the first surprise of the day. The second was that his beloved high school had been… completely demolished.
All he could do was stand in the rubble of his precious memories, and forlornly point out random spots now cluttered with cranes and building supplies. “That was where the music room was. I think. And that’s where we’d hang out at lunch. Maybe.”
You’ve never seen a more devastated face, I tell you.
In October we’re off to Australia for a few weeks, and it will be my turn for educational nostalgia. The canteen line where the skanky kids used to pester, “Have you got five cents?”. The science lab outside which a magpie shat on my shoulder. The basketball court where some boys asked if I was a redhead down there. And of course, the Fantasy Chairs.
Fantasy Chairs started out as regulation Australian government school chairs: red, orange or blue plastic, hard and unyielding and liable to stick to the back of your sweaty thighs on a scalding January afternoon. But then some obnoxious little shithead in Year 8 would decide to draw upon the seat of the chair, right at the very front in thick black permanent marker, a PENIS.
I was surprised when I started travelling overseas that there is a pretty much universal technique for graffitied blokey bits – the three scrawly loops, the middle one bigger and longer of course; and some short sharp lines if it’s a hairy specimen. They’re on the back of toilet doors; on the underpass near the train station. But I’ve never seen them on chairs anywhere aside from my alma mater.
I don’t know who started calling them Fantasy Chairs, but you can imagine how traumatic they could be for a teenage girl. In the earlier years of high school we had a growing interest in the accessories of the opposite sex, but this did not mean we wanted to SIT atop an artistic impression of one during double English. This often meant circling the classroom trying to find a Normal seat. If you were late to class then often you had little choice and were subject to the ridicule of your peers, “HA HA HA! You got a Fantasy Chair!”.
By the time we got to our senior years most people were totally over the Fantasy Chair thing, but me and my mates were particularly immature so if we struck gold we’d shout across the room with glee, “HA HA HA! I got a Fantasy Chair!”.
I remember rushing in for one of my Year 12 exams and there was a particularly large specimen scrawled on my seat. I smiled fondly and gave it a little pat for good luck.