Monday, August 15, 2005

The Tale Of The Constipated Aardvark

The stress of puberty is the most intense natural cataclysm that a growing child has to undergo. Modern educationalists exacerbate this appalling phase of teenage life by insisting on training the mind beyond all recognition, until it aches, filled to bursting with acres of nonsensical learning that will be forgotten within a year or two, unless it happens to become key to some specialist area of our future earnings, and all this at a time when hormones and growing awareness of the limitations of our prospects are really hitting home.

The most intense year is 15-16, after which time, you can leave compulsory education if you like and join civilian life. In that year, the once-smart school uniform is shabby and exhausted, rules are for spurning, homework is now revision, and the things you could and should have learned will not help you now that exams are upon you. The hope is that you have suffered enough of the iniquities of teaching and the mindless abuse of frustrated teachers that you will exit the process gilded with certificates that will propell you towards A Better Job, or even, A Real Qualification.

Meanwhile, myself and A.G., my friend since aged 12, were busy writing a book. It probably helped us deal with the stress, though doubtless teachers and parents alike would have been alarmed at the time we were not putting into to buffing up our shiny new knowledge; but we knew that we wanted this more than "O" level English grade A, which in any case, we promptly acquired. The book was a spoof children's story, inspired by Spike Milligan and Mad Magazine and Bored of the Rings, and it was a gloriously easy and natural collaboration.

Thus The Tale of the Constipated Aardvark came into being, the story of Willy and his search for healing. In the harried, too-swift mornings, we would pass each other the blue-ruled school exercise book, eager to see what the other had contributed. The book was taken home, continued and returned, and over the weeks of stress, which lead some boys to fight, others to lethargy, and deep depression, A.G. was churning the story out with a degree of relish and wit, and I was illustrating the pages as they came. As we progressed, the book took on a life of its own, and became a thing of beauty, a moral tale full of teenage jokes with surprisingly astute social commentary about racism, cross-dressing, homophobia, stereotyping, beer, and the search for lasting wisdom.

Willy's quest for healing took him a journey from the Somalia to South Africa. My quest for healing took me into my first sexual relationship and thence to a life of romantic disappointment, glandular fever and social chaos. A.G., ever desperate, semi-apologised to me a few months later as he confessed he had moved in upon my ex, in order to provide not just a shoulder to cry on, but also his penis to suck. And so, this tale of not-much-innocence was not to be repeated, eaten up as it was by the onset of adult life with its cares and concerns and selfishness.

I learned two decades later that A.G., having had a long-lasting career at the heart of government, went AWOL one time for a few weeks, and his family and colleagues were seriously worried about him.

He returned, of course, and had they asked me, I would have explained to them that he was simply on a mission to find the Wisest Aardvark Of Them All, and be cured of his constipation.

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At 11:12 PM, Blogger Jay quoth...

Just lovely.


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