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13 February 2015

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.

By Suzanne Moore

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.

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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. 

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