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Why I Can’t Draw

At the age of eleven, I passed my 11-plus exam, so was taken away from boarding school and sent to a local comprehensive school.  What we would call in America a public high school.  This was a 20 minute bus ride away, until we moved to Longwood road Aldridge, when it would take two buses and an hour.

I was in ‘Rodney’ house and form 1T, along with Philip Burnell, so we soon palled up.  Philip was cool and was learning to play guitar, but I had other dorky friends - David Soulsby (the Bode), Vincent Sims and Keith Wood.

The art room at TP Riley School was in the new science block, though maybe there was a real art room somewhere else for the kids who were good at art.  We sat at big tables instead of desks.  I was about 12 or 13 at the time, sitting with the usual gang of unwilling students, Vincent Sims, the Bode, Lawrence Green, Philip, Mick Thompson.  The teacher was up at the blackboard, showing us how do draw a landscape.  "So... we'll put some hills in the background...  and some trees here on the left...."  He's drawing as he's talking, so there are long pauses.  "And trees on the side of this hill.... and in the middle here we'll put some cottages..."

So I said, "some sausages!"  For some reason everyone at my table thought this was hilariously funny and bent over laughing.  Then someone else would say 'sausages' again, and we'd all laugh twice as hard - the kind of laughing where you can't breathe, your eyes water and your nose runs.  By this time I had slid off my chair and was sitting on the floor behind the desk, doubled up with laughter and hoping that the teacher would blame the other guys, laughing on top of the desk.

Just then I was yanked up by my ears, by the teacher who had walked over and was standing behind me.  This made the situation even funnier and we were all crying.  "So, Kirkup", he yelled at me from two inches away, "Would you care to tell the whole class what is so funny?"    "Well sir, we thought you hahaha hahaha...   We thought hahahah...  We thought you said sausages!"

I really thought he would see the funny side of this, especially as everyone else was now laughing too, but he just whacked me on the side of the head and sent me to stand outside in the corridor for the rest of the lesson, with Philip who was sitting next to me.  I was marked as a troublemaker in art after that, and never got to be paint monitor or any good assignments.  There ended my career as an artist.  Well, it's the art world's loss.