I'm going to tell you about my worst memory from school. This would be when I was six. For some reason I associate it with Christmas, and I imagine this is because it was the last day of the Christmas term. There was a test, or a sort of quiz, and the lady teacher called out the questions, we wrote down the answers, then at the end we had to swap answer sheets and score each other’s work. And here's my worst moment. The question was, what sort of dog is Sarah? Sarah being the school dog. Actually I tell a lie as Sarah was not the dog’s name, that was another dog at another school, an Airedale Terrier. The dog I'm going to tell you about wasn’t an Airedale Terrier and wasn’t called Sarah, but as I've forgotten the name, Sarah will do for now.
I agonised over the answer to this question, of what sort of dog Sarah was. And I really do mean agonised. I can feel the agony now. And what made it worse, another child was going to mark my work. Here's what I wrote down on my answer sheet:-
I stared at what I had written, and the more I stared, the wronger I knew it was. I knew it was wrong in three ways, at least: I knew I hadn’t spelt black right. Moreover I knew one of the letters was formed wrong, though I couldn’t fathom which, or how. But most all I knew I had made a category error, as I think it's called. I knew that black, however spelt, wasn’t the answer looked for. I sensed that I wasn’t being asked what colour Sarah was. I sensed I was being asked some other sort of question. Though without any inkling what that question might be. The question was, of course, what breed Sarah was - though I didn't know the word breed, didn't have the concept of breed, couldn’t name any breeds, knew nothing about dogs. I was sure all the other children did, they all had dogs and ponies and stuff at home. This was a private kindergarten in Sussex you see. I can tell you now, that Sarah was in fact a black Labrador, and LABRADOR was the answer sought. Probably none of the other children could spell Labrador but though I can derive comfort from that thought now, I couldn't then.
Eventually I ran out of time, the papers were to be swapped, and I handed my paper over, with that shaming word BLAC on it. This is my worst memory from school and it's associated with Christmas.