But after I twice came top of the class,
those part-prison, part-farm grammar school days
turned Orwellian – the angry headmaster,
the strap-wielding gowns, the corridors and bells,
fume-cupboards, ticker-tape, differentiating
partial fractions, “today we will read
Leviticus”, staring at homework in tears,
the mud and balls – only woodwork made sense:
Mr Savage’s dust-scented domain,
where I learned to work with the grain, the cells
of wood stronger than steel, to dovetail corners,
to angle a blade, lean on the saw’s weight,
use finer and finer glass-paper grades
to bring out the beauty of the oak’s rays.
School was all equations and verbs; but in
the workshop I learned stillness at the lathe.