Belfast Telegraph

Beware, end-of-term anarchy is in the air

By Frances Burscough

Don't be surprised if you get squirted with a supersoaker at some stage over the next few days. Especially if you're anywhere near a school.

A-levels are looming, common rooms are deserted and, for sixth formers across the country, school's out ... forever. And they definitely won't go quietly. According to age-old tradition, on the last days of school there are no rules and inter-corridor anarchy often spills out into the surrounding streets.

This is certainly the case in my son's school. He's in Lower Sixth and still has a year to go, but he's been enjoying the classroom capers of his Upper Sixth peers all week. Apparently one guy brought a tonne of sand into the grounds on a trailer which was then dumped to form a makeshift beach for them to play on.

At another, a covert and complex mission ensued which encompassed all school perimeters. Staff and security were first distracted at the front gates by a student carrying a live chicken into the grounds (which was then allowed to escape onto the rugby pitch) while, unbeknown to them, at the teachers' car park round the back a sixth form swat team deployed tasteless car bumper stickers and shaving foam graffiti.

But every student knows that whether their more outlandish jolly japes are successful or not, there's always the good old grand finale flour and water fight to look forward to. This tried and tested recipe for madness and mayhem involves one bag of flour (self raising or plain), six eggs and one litre bottle of water per person, preferably sparkling and shaken, not stirred. This is then distributed liberally and at random over fellow students and passers-by until it all ends in tears and/or the police are called.

So all the mess and mayhem of this week's school runs reminds me of my own last few days at Lark Hill Convent School for Girls. As its name suggests it was indeed a very strict school, run by Catholic nuns in a walled and gated convent community, complete with its own chapel.

They ruled us with a rod of iron and watched us all like hawks, so actual full-blown anarchy per se wasn't really an option. In fact, until my year came along, the most rebellious thing that sixth formers had ever done was to take their school ties off and dangle them out of the common room window.

But then I was one of the 'bad girls' -- an elite band of ten renegades and misfits all of whom smoked behind the bike shed every lunchtime where we also planned in detail our last day exit strategy.

In retrospect, some of the conversations were pretty comical. One girl proposed staging a séance in the school chapel. This idea was dismissed on account of the fact that actually conjuring up Satan might put a bit of a dampener on proceedings and, besides, we might not be able to get rid of him if we did. Bit of a responsibility, what with exams coming up and all.

There was also talk of pig's blood a la the film Carrie. This too was deemed impractical as there was no way we could smuggle a live pig into school while the nuns patrolled the perimeter. No. Think, girls, think.

Flour and eggs certainly wouldn't work -- we'd never get them through security. No, this had to be fun, yet daring; naughty and, crucially, not-actually-criminal.

Then I struck on a great idea, or so I thought.

"I know ... how about celebrating the very last hour by staging a very blatant cigarette break inside the chapel?!"

It was too perfect! And yet so very very wrong!

So that was the plan. All ten of us would meet in the school chapel at 1200 hours on the very last day of school. Bring ciggies, lighters and cameras because, after all, no one else will really believe us when we tell them and this deserves more that to be just an urban legend. We want proof!

We synchronised our watches and then went on our way, breathing not a word to anyone.

Now, I'd love to be able to report that the hallowed portals of the school chapel smelt of cigarettes instead of incense that day in 1982. But, unfortunately, no one but me turned up. 'The best laid plans' etc. To my dismay they all chickened out, meeting instead in the common room to dangle ties out of the window.

But I at least stuck to my guns. So I sat there, on the front bench opposite the altar and quietly smoked my cigarette before dropping it into the holy water font on my way out. AND I didn't genuflect either.

It may not have been very smoky, but it did at least smell of teen spirit.

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