I just started grammar school; surprisingly passing the exams, which neither of my two older brothers did, so was regarded by my family as a bit of an oddity, but a good one. This was something special, for the first time ever, one of the family going to grammar school.
Mum and dad said they were so proud of me. Had I peaked at eleven years old?
We didn’t have much money but mum was so thrilled she couldn’t wait to take me to get my new school uniform. I already had grey shorts and socks but needed a new school blazer with the badge that meant so much, together with the correct school tie and cap. It came to a small fortune but mum and dad scraped the bottom of whatever barrels we had in order to pay for this fine achievement.
Getting ready for my first day I was so nervous but mum said, as she passed me a freshly ironed shirt, she couldn’t believe her ‘little sweetheart’ was going to such a prestigious academy. She seemed more excited than I was as she added both her and dad couldn’t have been more delighted about my success because of what the future now held. They both firmly believed that this type of education was a guarantee of future accomplishment. #
The housing estate we lived on was very working class and although there were bound to be others my age who had passed their exam, I didn’t know anyone. My brothers, and all their friends, went to the local secondary school so I was a bit of an anomaly. Most of the families were just about getting by, some a lot worse than we were, so I knew mum and dad were probably sacrificing quite a lot to let me go to this particular ‘elite’ place of education. #
My first day at ‘big school’ was quite daunting. Most of my class were, like me, wearing shorts but a few eleven year olds had made the leap into long trousers. I was surprised as I thought we would all be wearing the same uniform. Mum had said that for the first couple of years, the rule was that ‘junior’ boys should wear shorts. Obviously this wasn’t true, and though it didn’t click in my mind at the time, the reason I stayed in shorts was simply because I was still growing and we hadn’t enough money to buy such ‘extras’.
My older brothers at their school were wearing long trousers but, as they grew out of them, first Joe who then handed them down to Geoff, they were really in no fit state as hand-me-downs for me. However, like a lot of the kids on the estate, it’s how I ended up with most of my clothes. In fact, my new blazer, tie and cap were about the only new thing that I possessed that were mine alone.
Their trousers with worn out knees through general wear and tear made them almost useless for anything other than cutting down and converting to ‘playing out’ shorts. Mum had gotten to be a dab hand at sewing and patching stuff up but even she couldn’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, and certainly not for her boy in grammar school.
Although only three and two years (respectively) older than me, my rough and tumble brothers, Joseph and Geoffrey, were big boys for their age, whereas I’d maintained a small stature like mum, they had gained dad’s genes and had grown a lot quicker than me. As a result, I had an abundance of shorts, which not surprising for my size always fit. I wasn’t going into long trousers for some time yet… not with money being at a premium and two brothers who also needed clothes for school as well as everything else.
Whilst I was wearing shorts at least I looked as smart as any other new boy in class. Patched up long trousers just wouldn’t do.
As there were others in the same boat as me, I wasn’t that bothered about wearing shorts. Because, when I’d arrive back home from school I always changed out of my uniform and into something more scruffy and relaxed, which generally meant a different pair of shorts and jumper. I was still the youngest (and smallest) of the family so got all my clothes from my older brothers. I was used to wearing hand-me-downs so it didn’t worry me. The thing was they were still growing teenagers whereas I seemed to have slowed down with my growth spurt so all new clothing was aimed at them. #
However, on a different subject, with grammar school came homework, and proper homework, not like you’d get at junior school.
I didn’t like it and found it difficult to sustain any interest in doing work away from class.
Even when my older brothers tried to help me… I was hopeless.
The teachers at the academy were a fierce bunch of old men in gowns who terrified me and my real ability became apparent, I lacked any great talent for learning.
At my earlier schools the teachers had been friends and very supportive, but now, well it was down to me to work, and work hard, to produce results. Not that the teachers were bad, in fact, they were very good, it was just that you were left to prove, improve and motivate yourself.
It just wasn’t me.
I’m sure the teachers were encouraging in their own way but I suppose I just wasn’t ready for such a dramatic change in what was now expected of me.
I guess I was just a bit lazy and had no idea how I came to pass the exam in the first place. There were around a hundred of us inducted that year and we were divided into Forms 1a, 1b and 1c, I wasn’t by any means the worst but I was left in the lower half of the class… and I was in the bottom section for my age. #
About six months into term I woke up one Monday morning and I was wet through. I’d had a homework assignment over the weekend that I just couldn’t seem to get a handle on and I’d been dreaming about how my teachers would react to such a “stupid boy”. My night time worries had become very apparent as I gingerly got up and had to tell mum what had happened.
When she saw me standing in the kitchen in soaked pyjamas and a very worried look on my face she seemed sympathetic but also a little saddened. She had hoped that I’d bloom at this school, which was very well regarded, but I really was in fear of the strict teachers even though, as yet, I’d not fallen foul of any of them.
It was just the shear dread of what might happen rather than any actual experience.
Although mum had to dash off to work she stripped my bed, turned the mattress and opened the windows to air things out. She said that she’d sort everything else out by the time I got home from school but in the meantime, just to do the best I could. She also insisted that I had a really good wash as she didn’t want me to go to school smelling of pee. #
Mum worked part-time at Boots the Chemist, whilst dad worked as a warehouse stockman for one of the big supermarket chains. Neither were extravagantly paid jobs but they both worked hard to give us kids whatever they could. I may have dressed in old clothes but we never went hungry or shoeless… and I didn’t have parents who drank their way through any problems. #
I pulled on my uniform, checked that my shoes were shiny; the school masters were very insistent that shoes should always gleam. We had regular inspections to make sure we kept up to a certain level of cleanliness, hairstyle, hygiene and our uniforms should be well maintained. If you faltered in any of these areas a terse and awkward letter from the headmaster would be sent to your parents – standards had to be upheld at all times - this included any time your wore the uniform whether in school time or not.
All this ‘pressure’ was weighing heavily on my shoulders. Other kids at school seemed to revel in this new responsibility and not being treated as thoughtless adolescents, whilst it simply scared me. Meanwhile, after what appeared to have been only a few weeks, I was one of the few boys in my class still wearing shorts, which of course only added to the fact that I didn’t feel grown-up compared to those who were in long trousers.
Out of the three classes, there were still less than twenty of us in our grey school shorts, the rest having ‘graduated’ into long trousers. We who were still wearing shorts felt under duress to conform but not all families (like mine) had the wherewithal to make that financial leap.
Occasionally some of the older boys, and those in my class with self-confidence, commented on the fact that, being on the short side, I looked like I still belonged in junior school and hadn’t quite made the grade to senior level. With short grey school shorts revealing my hairless bare legs, slim diminutive figure, floppy dark brown hair and still quite babyish soft features, I probably did look exactly as they described. #
At night, as I slept, whatever the reason, all this was getting to me in some way and I woke up soaked every morning.
Thankfully, after that first wet night, mum had put a plastic sheet on my bed to protect the mattress. After my third wet night she’d managed to get a discount on nappies from her work place and after that, I spent every night tightly pinned into them as I slept.
There were tears and I tried my best to reject the inevitable but both my parents said it was for the best, so that was me… sunk.
This helped with the wet bed (though not soaked nappies) but did nothing for my self-esteem and my brothers, being brothers (Geoffrey 14, Joseph 15), took great delight in making sure that their ‘clever’ little brother knew he was nothing more than a dumb, pissy little baby.
If they’d ever shown resentment at mum’s pride in my getting to grammar school that soon disappeared as they saw I was unable to cope and had become almost incontinent. They appeared almost gleeful in my decent into becoming a bed wetter. Mum had a catalogue from which she bought most of our clothes in instalments and they would often leave it open at the infants page, circling prams, onesies and baby’s plastic pants.
As it was, thanks to her work at the chemist, mum had brought home a pack of twelve adolescent fabric nappies and a few pairs of very strong rubber pants that she’d been assured by the company were leak-proof and odour-free. These were to become the defence that kept my bed dry and the damp contained as I slept. They were smooth and glossy to the touch but gripped my waist and legs like a vice. They didn’t hurt, the thick rubber saw to that, but they were heavy and together with a well-padded nappy, were a force to be reckoned with.
However, they did work very well and my small bedroom (my brothers shared a much larger bedroom) didn’t smell of pee. My nappies, plastic pants and various creams were kept away from their prying eyes, whilst mum and dad made sure I was well shielded every night in my heavy protection.
As you can tell, things were getting worse and try as I might, my body was behaving badly and there seemed very little I could do to control it. #
However, mum did tell me that soon I’d be getting my first suit. Not a hand-me-down, one that Auntie Annie, mum’s auntie, was getting made especially for me. She knew I was growing up and wanted to get something that was just for me… something to celebrate securing a place at grammar school. I was so excited I badgered mum to give me details.
All she said was that I’d have it before my twelfth birthday and that auntie mentioned it was blue. So, despite having to wear nappies at night, I was finally going to be treated as a grown-up and have my own clothes. #
Auntie Annie is my mother’s auntie who, together with her husband Bill, had taken in mum when she was a girl after her mother had died. Her father was a hopeless drunk and couldn’t cope with his young daughter’s grief along with his own, so Annie, his sister, had stepped in to help. Aunt Annie and Uncle Bill had all but adopted mum and she lived with them until she married and left home.
I never knew Uncle Bill, he’d died long before I was born. However, Auntie Annie was my favourite relative and since being a little baby, I’d always spent time with her. Even as I got older and more independent, I would still visit her as often as I could… and sometimes stay over to keep her company. #
Unfortunately, before the suit arrived I had an enormous set-back at school; I accidently wet my pants in the middle of a science lesson. Sorry to say, I drifted off as the teacher spoke about chemical symbols, and in that few moments of total relaxation my bladder gave way and a river of stored pee exited and covered the front of my shorts.
Barry Turner, who I was sitting next to, couldn’t believe his eyes as the dark grey stain spread across my shorts and a trickle of pee ran down my leg. He was quick to notify everyone in class and the teacher, realising he had one very damp eleven year old, gave me permission to go and see the school matron.
Now I’m not sure if this was something that regularly happened at the academy but judging by the verdict from my classmates, it was both a funny and diabolical thing to have happen. I slouched, undignified from the chemistry lab, down several flights of stairs to matron’s room.
On the way I tried to conceal my obvious stain but it was too large for my tiny hand to completely hide. Two older boys I passed on the stairs smiled before I heard a huge guffaw once there were a couple of floors separating us. I couldn’t have been more embarrassed, well I thought not, until I knocked on matron’s door. #
She looked aghast, shook her head and told me to take off my shorts.
I was reluctant to do anything but too afraid of any form of authority in this place, and she was definitely scary, so I did what I always did when authority spoke, just as I was told.
I stood there holding my wet grey school shorts and offered them to her. My sodden underpants sagged a little and she looked perplexed.
“And those,” she said pointing to the droopy white cotton.
She passed me a thin cotton towel and told me to dry myself, whilst she busied herself sorting stuff in a cupboard.
I checked to make sure I hadn’t wet my shirt, although one of my socks was also soaked with pee, but I didn’t want to draw attention to that fact.
Once relatively dry I stood waiting for whatever it was matron had decided I needed. She’d pulled out a few items, which I couldn’t quite make out what they were, and then went over to the phone on her desk and dialled a number.
It was the contact number for mum and after a few intermediaries she eventually answered. Matron told her what had happened and asked if she could come and collect me. There was more of a conversation and I saw matron listening intently occasionally murmuring a “Yes “or an “I see” ending with a “Yes, please bring those”. #
It felt strange standing all but naked in the middle of the office but after a couple of minutes (which seemed like an eternity) eventually she finished and confirmed that mum would pick me up shortly (45 minutes) and that in the meantime I’d have to wait with her.
Matron checked I’d dried myself properly and then, much to my surprise, fluffed out a large disposable and told me to sit on her table so she could put me in it.
My half-hearted protest was dismissed as she took complete charge and had efficiently taped me up in a matter of moments.
“I can’t have you sitting around with no clothes on, and, as I don’t know if you might wet again, this is my solution.”
She wasn’t being unkind but I was a little tearful that a boy my age (at grammar school no less), had been reduced to wearing a thick nappy. The fact that I was already regarded as a ‘little kid’ by some of my fellow students made my situation worse. Word would be all around the school about my wet incident and I could feel my standing in the school yard, although not great, would be taking a dive.
She checked that the disposable fitted correctly and then pulled my shirt down as best she could to hide the bulky mass. She slipped my wet clothes into a plastic bag and handed them back.
“Sorry about this, I know you’ll be feeling a little anxious but I don’t have…”
She appeared to have an idea and went off to check on something else.
The padding was pleasant and in all honesty I was quite grateful to be out of sopping pants, but, as I sat waiting for her return I was too embarrassed to admit to matron that I’d recently begun to wear a nappy at night… although in retrospect, perhaps mum had mentioned that fact in her brief conversation.
She came back triumphantly holding a pair of white nylon gym shorts.
“I thought there might be something in the lost property box… here… put these on.”
I squeezed myself into them but it was difficult. They would probably fit had I not had such a cushion around my groin but with such thick padding I struggled.
Matron looked on somewhat pleased with herself being able to find something to spare my blushes. However, she told me that under normal circumstances I’d be sent straight back to class but as this was an ‘exceptional’ event, I should sit in her outer office, read and wait for mum to arrive. #
It wasn’t like a doctor’s waiting room with games for kids and out of date magazines for older folk, this one had two plastic chairs, wasn’t particularly warm and had glass windows where anyone walking down the corridor could look in.
I sat slightly demoralised holding onto my plastic bag and wishing mum would hurry up. Matron must have taken sympathy on me as she came out of her office and handed me a very old copy of the Beano comic. For a couple of minutes it held my attention until the end of lesson bell rang and the entire school moved around to their next class.
Several people walked or hurried down the corridor and past matron’s window. For those who had eyes to see, there I was, sat in the briefest of shorts, a disposable clearly jutting down the leg-holes and with me reading a particularly childish comic. Of course it only occurred to me how stupid I looked after everyone had gone to their respective classrooms and I took stock. I hadn’t quite realised how much of the nappy was visible as I’d been engrossed in the cartoon capers and shuffled around getting comfy on the plastic chair, my tight little shorts had become very revealing.
A huge sigh escaped my lips as I wondered if anything worse could happen. # tbc #