Andy Martin has asked me to contribute to his first novel, Behind The Bike Sheds. It’s not a collaboration as such, more a section written from the perspective of a 14 year old girl in 1968. There is so much material I can use from my own schooldays – although I was 14 in 1981, I don’t think schools, or children, have changed much since the late 60s – the basics of the section are easy in some respects, but I wanted to truly get myself into the headspace of my early teenage years, so I looked up the Facebook page of my old comprehensive school. It has been painful and has reopened some old wounds. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who enjoyed school; my circle of friends has always consisted of misfits and those who question authority, so school was a matter of surviving bullying teachers and ‘fellow’ pupils. I was bullied intermittently during junior school and constantly from the moment I moved up to secondary school to the moment I left, five years later. The research worked – the section’s well on track – but I was so immersed in how I felt as a schoolchild that when a friend expressed a desire to meet up with me I was in a state of confusion and distress as to why she’d want to. I managed to get out of that frame of mind but it’s frightening to realise the appalling damage done to so many children at school – and how these things are still happening.
All images and text © Julie Travis