This is the very final post on this series of interviews carried out during the summer with four scallywags who all used to be taught at LAMB school before moving on to bigger and better. In a way, I’m quite sad to see this little series go as I miss these guys and writing this set of posts has kept them in my mind (they never leave my heart).
I can’t say I’ve left the best ‘til last – that would not be fair to the others who are all just great; I can’t say I’ve left my favourite to last – teachers aren’t supposed to have favourites (trade secret: they do and he would be a great contender!); but I can say that Mr J is very special in my heart and I feel especially close to him. He’s a good kid.
It helps that he is English (well…he would say Bangladeshi having lived almost all his life in Bangladesh – but the white skin is a give-away); it helps that his parents have been two of the most influential people in my life (not to say two of the nicest anyone could meet) – in fact we would not have come to work at LAMB had it not been for them; it helps that his father is currently one of my tutors for my Masters degree and I need to keep on his right side or suddenly that next essay is going to go way down when graded.
But most of all, it helps that he is a fellow guitarist; and we guitarists have to stick together you know.
It was pure fluke that I came to interview him during the summer. It was the first time J had been back on his own to LAMB. When he left the school and he and his family returned to the UK he was still very much a little boy. That was five years ago. Now he has completed his GCSEs and is in his first term of doing A-levels.
He’s not so little any more.
I have to say that it has been a real privilege knowing him over the last six years. J’s attitude to life is positive and full of enthusiasm. He loves humour and it seems wrong not to see him laughing.
“The number of students,” was his instant reply, “there’s more people in my year group than there was in the whole of LAMB school.”
He then talked about the difference in culture and community values.
“I knew everyone at LAMB school but in the UK there were people in my year I didn’t know – even when we had the end of year prom!”
I knew that Mr J had struggled initially with going from a class size of 5 to one of 30. Having done it the other way around as a teacher (my largest class in Britain was 33; the smallest I’ve taught at LAMB has been 2), I can appreciate the problems he felt. I don’t know I would ever want to go back to those ‘mass-produced’ numbers.
Despite living his whole life in our little village school though, he got used to the English system and soon settled into the whole thing – the social scene included.
Not that he thinks there is much to do in Gloucester.
“There’s nothing to do in Gloucester,” he says (I did tell you), “and no one wants to do anything.”
It’s nice to hear, for once, one of the Ex-LAMBers saying there is less to do where they live now rather than complain how it is boring at LAMB. But then our Mr J is in a nostalgic mood; it’s why he came back to LAMB for the summer in the first place.
“It’s been really good to be back. I’ve loved going around to all the places I used to hang out as a kid. It was good to do and see how the place has changed.”
I guess it has been a kind of closure for him really. As J starts his A levels, he’s really moving on to new things and preparing for the big break, in less than two years time, of going to university. I think this was really his goodbye to LAMB.
When I asked the group if they would want to come back to live at LAMB in the future they were all adamant they would not. Only J really articulated why though.
“The world here (at LAMB) is quite small. Now I know there is a bigger world and I want to be part of it.”
This seems to me to be a healthy way of looking at things for a young man and I agree with him. Mr J is not dismissive of the virtues of life in the middle of nowhere though. Strangely, he thinks that growing up in the UK “would have been too boring”. This takes me by surprise and I want to know more.
“We were always doing something,” he explained. “Children growing up at LAMB would always be better.”
Not everything about growing up at LAMB was good for J however. The small community means that people talk about you and he, like our other young friends we’ve met in this series, struggled with that. In this respect, the British ‘individualistic’ attitudes were very helpful. Mr J was able to become himself without worrying what others were saying. It is one of the sadder issues with LAMB but one that is not unknown wherever you have small communities.
Not that Mr J is saying that people don’t talk about him.
“I’m different,” he says, acknowledging the effect living in Bangladesh has made in his life, “so there is always gossiping but it is fine in the UK to be upset. You can be you.”
“There was a (stagnant) goose pond,” J explains, breaking out into laughter and barely able to speak as he replayed the incident in his mind, “O was climbing a tree and hanging on a branch. I warned him the branch wouldn’t hold but he was convinced it would.”
Mr O, at this point is laughing too and I can see how this is going to turn out.
Mr J continued: “The branch broke, of course, and O fell into this pond. He came out stinking horribly.”
Whilst I can’t find this incident as funny as the rest of them are – I wasn’t there at the time, after all – I do smile at the physical nature of their humour. This is why I was so attracted to LAMB and why I am so pleased my two children have spent four years living here and six years of summer holidays playing here. With no satellite TV, limited (and slow) internet and very little indoor electronic things to play with, life at LAMB is there way it was meant to be – largely outdoors.
Just as I did as a kid, where I could go out first thing in the morning and not appear again until the evening when I was hungry and as I long as I got my bath all was ok with my parents, so my kids can go out (and only now can they leave the protective walls of the guarded compound under limited conditions) and run, cycle, make dens, climb trees,hide out, fall in goose ponds and generally get as dirty as they like without fear of recrimination.
That said, Mr J feels it is nowhere near as free at LAMB as it used to be.
“Kids today are much more boring than we were.” He says with the look of an aged and wizened one.
I’m so glad he didn’t grow up in the UK. I really do think the boredom would have killed him.