Primary school in the UK had many challenges, even at a young tender age we would find ourselves pushed to be the best, and at my school being the best meant being "removed" from all the other kids and put into a special class.


Unbeknown to us we were being watched from about 8 years old, the way we worked, our interaction skills, awareness and all-round characters, all this leading to when we would all have to sit an end of year test before moving into the final year of primary school. The test itself was a breeze, but not for everyone! Test result in.. 12 names called out, me included, we have been selected, we are now “removed”.


“Remove” was a class specially for a small set of children and headed by one teacher, Mr Clarke, who’s sole responsibility was to prepare the 12 for the 11 Plus exam and get every one of the 12 into Grammar school. Mr Clarke had a unique educational style, the day would start with a defined set of tasks listed on the blackboard, no time limit but one goal, finish the tasks and finish them to the highest possible standards.


These tasks included everything from Maths to Geography, Literature and Grammar. Once done we could do what we wanted, we could go out and play, sit in and work, it didn’t matter because we had completed our tasks for the day.


Before we knew it, the year had passed, the 12 had become close friends, in fact one of the 12 was my first ever girlfriend. There we are, it's 11 Plus exam day, the 12 at the front of school hall, the rest of the year behind us. The instructions where clear, turn the papers over and answer as many questions we can within the allotted time, once complete you can get up and quietly leave.


You could sense the tension in the room, in fact you could smell the fear, well to be precise the fear Chris felt because we crapped his pants and had to be taken out of the exam hall before he gassed us all!


The bell rang, papers turned, silence fell, and every second felt like an hour, but in unison 12 removed kids all finished within seconds of each other, all 12 looked at each other and all 12 quietly walked out of the exam hall congratulating each other leaving the rest to complete the exam in the remaining 40 minutes they had.


Two weeks later we got the results, 12 had passed and made it into the local Grammar schools, the rest all into the comprehensives.


This is how the world works, it happened 40 years ago and is still happening today, our children are being identified and selected, and we are playing along, we are strengthening the elitism model and most parents are proud of it. Every child has talent, every child has an ability to be outstanding in their field, but not every child gets removed!

Inseparable best friends, we met during my first week at primary school, he was the coolest kid in school, everyone wanted to be his friend and I think because of that the school headmistress buddied us together.


We literally spent every spare moment we had together including evenings sharing a bag of fish & ships from his local chippy washed down with a bottle of dandelion & burdock or cycling for hours in our neighbourhood without a care in the world.


But growing up had its toll on our friendship, I passed my 11 plus exam and got a place in a prestigious all boys Grammar School whereas Will got a place at the local secondary school, but we vowed that would not get in the way of our friendship.


Inevitably going to two different schools did have an effect and we slowly drifted apart, by the time I we turned 15 he was already in trouble with the police and rumours echoed that he was dabbling with soft drugs.


The last time I saw him he was a shadow of his former self, unrecognisable, skinny, rough and clearly doped out of his head. I recall giving him a hug and asking him to sort himself out, look after his health and whatever he was doing to stop it!


I think I in my late twenties, married, two awesome kids, a house, a mortgage and a successful career, I was back in my childhood neighbourhood and bumped into one of my old primary school friends, in hindsight a meeting I wish never happened.


No sooner than we had exchanged greetings she hugged me and said she was sorry about William. My whole body froze, deep down I knew but I had to ask, “What happened" I asked nervously, “he died last week of an overdose” came the reply.


I don’t recall anything else about that encounter, not what I did next, where I went or how I got home but I do recall his face as the child I grew up with, his blonde hair, his laugh and his smile, and I recall sitting in my car, in my driveway that evening crying my heart out, blubbering like a baby, wishing I had the chance to see him before he passed, to have been able to have helped him with his addiction, or just to tell him that he was the most amazing friend I ever had.


I had every intention to write about every adventure me and my best friend had, the laughter, the times we went fishing and the days we spent playing in the park or watching movies , but I couldn’t, even writing this is painful, publishing it more so as to this day my eyes well up just thinking about the best childhood friend anyone could have ever wished for.


In loving memory of my best friend, William.


"At some point in your childhood, you and your friends went outside to play together for the last time and none of you never knew it!"




Growing up in the UK, in a middle class white suburban area was not as bad as some TV sitcoms or movies make out, even being one of a very rare number of ‘brown skinned’ families in the area wasn’t that bad… if anything it kinda made us stand out in the crowd.


As a child I went to a local Primary School where me and my brothers were the only "brown" kids, that not only made us ‘special’ but add that we were smart kids, great at sports, and obviously handsome, again, me being the most handsome out of the four of us… it is a cross I bear!


Forget name calling or bullying, one of the biggest issues we faced was school lunch!


The school suddenly found themselves in a situation having to feed 4 young Muslim boys with Halal food, a situation they never faced before, but wow they handled it well…. Apart from one day when it all went wrong!


Being the only Muslim kids in a school meant we got some benefits, if there was any form of meat served at lunchtime we would always get compensated with extra scoops of mash potatoes or fish or chips, but many times we also be given a lump of cheese! That’s right, while the other kids had burgers and sausages, we got two scoops of mash, a puddle of bakes beans and a large chunk of cheese, and trust me, it was heaven. But this only happened when the head cook was in the canteen, otherwise God help us, we ended up with next to nothing or even worse……


There I am, eagerly looking forward to lunch, me and my younger brother lining up, trays in hand eyeing up the rhubarb crumble & custard, but to get to that we first had to finish lunch but we had a problem, the head cook was nowhere to be seen.


The dinner lady handed us both a plate of what looked like stew, potatoes, carrots, a strange looking sauce of chunks of pinkish meat. I explained that we cannot eat the meat and asked for something else, sadly the dinner lady angrily told me that we had to eat what as given to us just like all the other kids and to stop complaining!


There we are sat at a dining table, my brother staring at me and both is us refusing to eat, but with each minute that passed the dinning room emptied more leaving us sat there with a dinner lady standing over us demanding we eat and making it clear we cannot leave until we finish everything on our plates, forget the rhubarb custard, we had no chance of tasting that now!


We had no choice, we had to eat and eat we did, but with every spoonful came the urge to vomit but eat we continued until our plates were acceptably empty and we could return to class.

Let us just say that Dad’s visit to the Headmistress Office the next morning was rather vocal and the school never force-fed Ham again!

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