A student takes notes. Photo: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images
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I was 13 when my English teacher asked me to go camping. I thought it was because he loved my poetry

Mr Greenaway pursued me and another girl in the class and I felt almost literary. Then my mum went and ruined everything.

Blurred lines. That was the Seventies, wasn’t it? Everything all hung out and no one minded. It was, we were told, OK to perv over 13-year-olds, especially the ones in school uniform. No one quite knew what was wrong or what was right. Except it just wasn’t like that where I lived.

I’d annoyed everyone by passing the eleven-plus. The headmaster of my primary school shouted at me in his study because I was selling rude drawings of him in the playground with the inscription “There was an old man from Australia who painted his bum like a dahlia” written underneath. This, I explained, was “a newspaper”. I was clearly ahead of my time and he clearly did not like me.

“What is the plural of sheep?” he yelled.

“Sheeps, sir.”

On this basis he had deduced I would be going to the local rubbish school. When it turned out that I’d passed the stupid test, my mum was furious. We simply could not afford the uniform, so we had to get a special grant.

It was there that a red-haired English teacher set eyes on me. He encouraged us to write poetry. I produced long, intense verses about the end of the world, which I imagined was full of huge crevices in which people died “like ants”. He called me The Infanta and told me that I reminded him of a painting I’d never seen.

The best thing about him was that he just didn’t care. He was a rebel. He gave us form points if we rolled a six on the dice. Rules were there for the breaking.

But Mr Greenaway seemed unaware of what we were actually reading. My friend had found How to Be a Sensual Woman under her dad’s bed and we studied these techniques intensely even though officially we hated boys. We were frankly mortified by the talk of Linda Lovelace, because even in Suffolk we had an inkling that the clitoris was not located near the larynx.

Nonetheless Mr Greenaway pursued me and another girl in the class and I felt almost literary. He was so incredibly ancient, maybe even 35, that I convinced myself that only he could see what my doom-laden poetry really meant.

When he gave me a flowery note asking me to go camping with him for the weekend, I took it home and gave it to my mum excitedly.

“He loves my poetry!”

The next thing I knew, my mother was all hairspray and lipstick and tight skirt, barging into the school with me in tow.

She dragged Mr Greenaway out of the staff room and pushed him up against the wall. She was taller than him in her best stilettos.

“If you want to interfere with her,” she said, close to his face, “you have to interfere with me first. Do you understand?”

I hated my mum. She always had to ruin everything. 

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 13 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Assad vs Isis

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I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.