Pen licences. (And other pathetic achievements).

Rick Morton


I was about to cross the road recently when a passing bus mirror shaved past my face and led me to experience my first near-death moment since I’d become an adult.

My life did what it was supposed to do: not end, and flashed before my eyes.

Starting university, graduating high school, first love, last kiss … pen licence. Record scratch. Excuse me?

I went to a Catholic Primary school and we were already rather more fond of pomp and ceremony than we ought to be. But I remember the day our beginning class of Year Seven were handed our pen licences like it was a bloomin’ coronation.

The teacher slow-stepped into the room (were bagpipes playing? I can’t remember. Probably) and turned at right angles to face us like a lead in the Scottish Military Tattoo. Her face was grave, burdened with the responsibility of inducting us into the pen licence hall of fame.

A year before we’d been grunts, pencil-pushers in Year Six fantasising about writing in ink. We moaned and we begged our teacher: ‘but we’re responsible‘ we petitioned, irresponsibly. Someone had Blu-Tac up their nose.

The Year Six teacher stared solemnly. He knew we weren’t ready. Johnson had stuck a ruler in a fan not two days ago, damn it!

I couldn’t wait to get out of that lead infirmary. Just a few years before we’d had a teacher who had banned pencil sharpeners. She stalked the aisles between desks with a Stanley knife, brutally hacking our HBs until the tip was blunt and fatter than a pipe cleaner.

I couldn’t write like that. I needed the ink. Nobody could hack my pen.

So there we were before our Year Seven teacher as she was about to make her announcement, on our best behaviour. Did we have to kneel when she gave us our pen licence? Would she anoint our shoulders with a two-handed blade like knights?

“You may all now write with pens instead of pencils,” she told us at once.

The composure in the room cracked like good porcelain on a bad tile.

We’d made it. And we were unjustifiably proud.

Alright, be honest, what pathetic achievements are you most proud of?

00:00 / ???