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Columnists

All in the head

Sarah Dean

When I was in the final year of secondary school, the PE teachers decided it was time for a kit check. We got changed and lined up in the gym for inspection. Official uniform was pale blue shirt, royal blue knickers and a navy skirt, freezing in winter, sweaty in summer. Around the room girls were wearing anything but. Many favoured enormous trackie bottoms and hoodies, some had non-ironic shell suits and several were wearing branded trainers. In short most people looked like they were about to have it large at the Hacienda rather than play netball in the drizzle in East Anglia. Apart from me, I was wearing the correct kit. In fact I was wearing the exact kit bought for me in the first year by my Mum, a firm believer in 'You'll grow into it'.

My cooperation with the dress code wasn't because I was some goody-too shoes, it was just that it had never struck me to wear anything-else. I wasn't sporty so I didn't have other stuff to wear, and while PE was an irritant and an annoyance, it didn't bother me enough to warrant thinking about it outside of lessons. I had the right kit due to apathy - but that didn't stop me being unpopular with the rest of the class, who got detention.

The adage 'School days are the best of your life' is clearly coined by someone who was home-schooled. I went to a massive rural comprehensive with weary teachers waiting for retirement and kids from nine villages battling for supremacy. I survived by becoming a librarian so I could stay inside at lunchtime with the other weird librarian kids, and by having parents who made sure I had stuff in my life outside school, like youth theatre - which I loved and flourished in - and church - which I had a love-hate relationship with but gave me a grounding I am grateful for now. Honour thy mother and father kids, I say, trust them when they say school isn't forever and it will get better. I mean, do go ahead and write long cathartic essays in your diary about how insensitive your parents are for saying this, but trust them. Annoyingly, they are right.

My other school survival technique was to make stuff up in my head, which sometimes crept out into real life. My Physics teacher was grumpy and condescending, and so on more than one occasion I pretended to be going blind in order to bunk off. I think he probably let me leave the room because he didn't want to sit through any more of my histrionics - 'I'm sorry sir, I can't do that equation because I can only see half the numbers' followed by loudly discussing with my friend what we might call my guide dog. 'How about Newton in honour of physics sir?' 'Go! To the nurse! Now!' he yelled.

For the past ten years, Third Way has given me the opportunity to take the stuff in my head - the memories and observations, as opposed to the pure fiction of temporary blindness - contemplate how it interacts with faith and then set it free into the world to find the other Christian lefty, arty, librarian weirdos. It's been a pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity freak friends.