Dogged readers may not be too surprised to learn that an early experience at the new school involved detention, with activities clearly designed by those favouring the 'picking oakum' theory of punishment. The grammar school was intended to widen our mental horizons, and so punishment must obviously withhold such pleasures. Miscreants assembled immediately after close of school for one hour, or for more serious transgression, for three hours on a Saturday morning. Depending on the whim of the supervising teacher, two principal activities were available.
Coventry Council regularly published a document entitled 'Civic News'. This comprised four pages of dense type, reporting on all council activities and statistics. The school probably represented most of its circulation. Quite simply, punishment involved writing out the contents of this document until the invigilator was satisfied with the standard of handwriting. At that point in time I knew more about the supply of books to Coventry libraries and the numerous goodwill visits of councillors to war-torn Europe than was healthy.
The second activity involved mathematics, and long preceded the availability of calculators. Each participant was issued a nine-digit number, for which he then had to calculate the arithmetic cube. Again ..., and again ..., until the correct answer was submitted; when a new number would be issued. Of course, the invigilator was provided with a master list of numbers and their cubes.
During either of these activities the invigilator would stalk up and down the rows of desks, ensuring that some sort of movement could be discerned. Retreating into coma or foaming idiocy was not permitted.
Only from hindsight do I realise that appointment as invigilator must have been a form of punishment. Certain acts of misbehaviour by teachers must have incurred allocation to detention duty. Perhaps they came to school and forget to bring their gown? Was their facial expression in a staff meeting judged to represent dumb insolence? I've misjudged them all these years. They too were victims of a repressive society.