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Empty cloakroom; I grabbed the duffel off my old peg. The peeling, discolored name sticker hiding beneath the lunchbox shelf was the only legacy I left my primary of almost six years. Which, come September would be ripped off and a fresh one plastered on the wall for the first years. 2003 my wonder year- was it so wonderful? Well some headlines that soaked up plenty of ink were the passing of my great idols Nina Simone and Johnny Cash, but to name a few. Global commerce hit a standstill when Beckham was sold off to Madrid.

Asian undertakers were having a Christmas bonus with the outbreak of SARS. Nemo the most famous of all clownfish, found his way home. The hysteria of teen TV was passed from ‘Dawson’s Creek’ to its junior… ‘The O. C. ‘ The beating feet of 10 million was unheard by government as we marched in London to protest against the invasion of Iraq. The summer drew to an end, no more instant tans under the Maldivian sun and sampling the luxurious spices of Dubai. It was a whole new adventure… secondary school. ‘Gaybar’ was no longer a taboo but a number one in the UK by Electric Six.

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It was out with the royal blue jumpers and in with the navy polo shirts. School used to mean packed lunches, skipping ropes, and gingham dresses. Secondary school seemed to mean fast food, make up and short skirts. Not for me-a bohemian type tomboy with baggy trousers, whole-meal humus sandwiches and papaya. School in my not so limited experience was a great place-nai?? ve! None of my previous schools in Macau, Lantau, Manilla, Camel or Frieth could’ve prepared me for the enormity of Gillotts. Many things struck me about the way in which it worked.

There was a social food chain and I was friends with all the boys in my year; this was not socially acceptable for eighth grade girls. That was the biggest shock I guess-Ive had such strong male influence in my life. I have two brothers a younger, older and one sister, as I said all my friends where of the rough and tumble variety. I wasn’t ready to give up noogies and causing mischief. My parents realized that I wasn’t going to listen to their advice on the matter, so they called my older brother, and sister. At the grand age of 19 Ali had to be one of the most hideous breeds of big sister possible…

she’s so pretty she puts Kate Moss to shame and has a bigger wardrobe than Barbie. Not only that but is every bit talented, big hearted and funny. She re-iterated that if I fitted into school as well as she fitted into her dream Chanel dress I’d be fine. All I needed to do was wear the right clothes, makeup, be friends with the right people, organize unforgettable roof raising raves and things would fall into place. Basically become everything I’m not. (As much as I’ve made her out to be unforgivably cruel, she’s not that bad! )

Feeling even more trapped I asked my brother what to do. Ben is a living legend in his own mind. He is the big brother to end all big brothers. He’s such a big kid-I think he became a pediatrician to stay that way and socialize with patients of the same maturity. He has always been supportive, compassionate and hilarious. This is kind of why his advice was invaluable. He told me that being myself is not an overrated, cheesy idea invented by scriptwriters at Hollywood thought up. That it was a genuine key to happiness and success of any capacity. My first day was a total nightmare.

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