• DOUGGIE JOHN

SQUARE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM


An excerpt from '200'

Malcolm Primary School, Penge, South London. I'll always remember my first day there. Just five years old, I couldn’t understand why my mother had taken me. And my heart broke when she turned around and left without me.

We lived just around the corner. I snuck out of that classroom at the first opportunity and scurried across the playing field, scattering crows. I squeezed through an unfastened section of fence, and skulked behind my mother as she raised her key to the front door. She hauled me straight back, and I screamed like a boiling kettle.

It got worse. At some point during that fateful day numbers came into the equation, numbers on big white cards. They filled me with terror. In the musty, yapping chaos of it all I embarked on my second escape. I discretely backed away from the main group of children and took refuge underneath the dead snail and dried twig strewn nature table.

My disappearing act caused a hushed panic. Teachers whispered to each other about calling the police. One of the children noticed me and snitched. The overhanging tablecloth swished aside unceremoniously, and I crawled back out into a world of numbers. Add abject humiliation to trauma, multiplied by a strong sense of abandonment. My disdain for numbers surfaced instinctively, and the loathing has never subsided.

Walsingham Comprehensive School, St Paul’s Cray, Orpington. My final day in the state education system turned out to be even more eventful, and this time the police did get involved. I was marched out of the building by a plainclothes officer after flattening Mr Howard with a desk. The frustrations of the first found vent on the last.

I didn’t learn much of anything at school due to a natural distrust of the system. I enjoyed art classes, and learned how to play a drum kit, but mostly revelled in high mischief and stupid violence. And I fiercely resisted mathematics all the way.


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