It’s my birthday today and I’d like to share a little poem that my English teacher, David Steddall, wrote in the card he gave me when I reached sweet sixteen.
I know you’re not a fairy queen
I know you’re not a donkey
Perhaps you’re something in between
Like a hairy gnome gone wonky
It reads worse than it was. It’s certainly true that I was relentlessly bullied as soon as I entered the gates of my ancient and prestigious South London grammar school. The other kids knew I was pink-leaning even when I didn’t (well, actually I did but that’s another story). I survived the ordeal by developing a sharp tongue and fast legs. But, by the time I reached my O Level years, the torment had subsided and I’d won the grudging acceptance of my peers, and high praise for my compositions. What Dave was actually telling me was to pull my finger out in the poetry stakes. “It’s not that difficult,” he wrote in my final school report after I miserably failed my English Literature mock. You see, I just didn’t get it. Simile, descriptive prose, analogy, word play? It just flew right over my cute curly head. Do I get now? Well, let’s see:
“I know you’re not a fairy queen”
Because we’re not all camp as a row of tents (ok, I can be a little lary and loose-wristed, particularly when on the sauce).
“I know you’re not a donkey”
I’ve never claimed to be hung like Eeyore.
“Perhaps you’re something in between
Another sexuality reference, perhaps?
Like a hairy gnome gone wonky”
Well, my balls did drop sooner than most of my cohort and I was (and still am) vertically challenged. And the wonky bit? Another allusion to the Friends of Dorothy? I have a feeling in my water that this isn’t about Shakespeare’s sonnets after all.
There you go. Sorted. Now, where did I put my Chaucer?
PS. I’m sure this degree of familiarity wouldn’t be allowed these days. We live in more hysterical times, imagining a pedo lurking round every corner. And, just in case anyone’s wondering, as far as I remember, Dave was a straight as my school ruler. No mucky business going on or intended.