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The best punishment I ever got at primary school…

By Marcus Santer

my favourite photo of me

I hated reading as a young boy.

Couldn’t see any point to it.

So I didn’t do it.

And then one day I got caught by the headmaster jumping off the school roof.

I guess at this point I should explain a few details…

So it was after school and my mum was working there as a cleaner.

And as a supercharged 8 year old, my job was to play and keep out of the way until she’d finished.

Now I wanted to be a fighter pilot in the RAF.

Cut off a piece of my body and you’d see written all the way through it:

“I want to be a fighter pilot in the RAF” – like a stick of Dawlish rock.

So I decided I ought to practice my parachute rolls.

You know, learn how to jump off tall objects, bend my knees, roll into a ball and get back up again.

Now I wasn’t stoopid.

I decided to start off close to the ground and gradually increase the height.

I graduated from the floor, to a chair, to a table, to a ledge, to a small tree and I was looking for something bigger.

The school roof was the perfect next step up, it sloped down to about 10ft at the back and there was an area where I could land onto a nice patch of grass.

So I climbed up a drainpipe and onto the roof.

Crossed over to my launch pad and looked over the edge, I’ll be honest, it looked like a long way to the ground.

But I was committed in the way only an 8 year old with true enthusiasm can be.

I backed up…

… And then backed up a little more.

I would need a good run up, because the roof dropped directly on to a concrete path beneath, if I wanted to make the grass, I’d need to clear it.

So I backed up a little bit more – just to be on the safe side.

And then I ran as fast as I could.

I pumped my arms and as I reached the edge of the roof I pushed off with my feet and launched myself into the air.

And began to drop.

I landed on my feet and curiously noticed – because time had done that thing where it slows down – my feet had disappeared into the ground.

And I realised why as I dropped and rolled.

The grass was heavily waterlogged and the force of my impact meant I’d actually sunk into the earth beneath it =)

I was dirty, I was wet and I was elated with success.

That lasted all of a few seconds until I heard the banging on the window behind me and turned around to see the headmaster shouting furiously at me.

Now Mr Powell was a traditional old-school headmaster.

He had a rack outside his office proudly displaying a selection of wooden canes in various thicknesses.

Though his preferred method of discipline was the slipper.

He was fearsome.

He was scary.

And he was looking straight at me.

He opened the window and told me to get to his office right now.

I thought about running away.

But realised that wouldn’t work and anyway, I’d have to face the music at some point, so why not get it over and done with.

Long story short, I was punished.

But not in the way I expected.

Once Mr Powell realised I was the son of one of the cleaners, he came up with a most cruel and unusual form of punishment for me.

Every day, after school, I had to report to his office.

I had to stand in front of his desk and read a book out loud for half an hour.

It was torture.

To begin with.

But something really weird happened.

I began to enjoy it.

The books I was reading to Mr Powell were part of series.

I’d started off with ‘Here is Peter. Here is Jane. Here is Peter and Jane

And over time progressed to harder and harder material.

The hardest books were the red series.

And I wanted to get my hands on those, but I had to work my way through the blues and greens first.

And I did.

Even longer story short…

Today I love reading, can’t get enough of it.

I’ve been known to spend whole days reading, only putting my book down to feed and water myself.

And it’s all thanks to my headmaster Mr Powell.

And it turns out reading can help to increase your life too.

Check this study out: Yale study finds reading books adds to longevity

Bye for now


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…Read my book: The Healthy Ageing Pyramid