Secondary was a rude awakening following the relative ease of primary school, I had grown my way through the hierarchy and there I was again, pond scum at the bottom of the pecking order.
The central courtyard was big surrounded with orange brick two story buildings, untreated aluminium frame single glazed windows defined classrooms. Most of the buildings were connected at the first floor, bridges which joined the buildings sheltered glass door entrances.
The home economics building had a third floor and was much older than the rest of the school, looked as though it was built around c1900, the remainder in the 1960s. Leaning against the music and drama hall was a small blue wooden tuck shop that opened at breaks, a few steps lowered the centre of the courtyard. A handful of apple trees sprouted through the concrete.
A shadow cast over me whilst spectating along with the crowd, two girls beating the sh*t out of each other, most kids were shouting and egging them on. I turned around to see why the sun had disappeared, he was over 6 feet tall and looked as though he weighed 30 stone was bald with glasses wearing a navy blue suit and tie, a giant. As he walked past the crowd and I parted, he grabbed each girl by the scruff of the neck who by now were on the ground, lifted them to their feet pulled them apart and practically dragged them away, the crowd dispersed. Mr Owen commanded respect.
I got to know him personally in his later life, a posh French restaurant in Dulwich is where we would meet for brekkie which occasionally lasted into lunch, he was always a great teacher and believed in education, but moreover he believed in me. He was warm and generous, caring and without an over inflated ego which I have come to expect from people with power, albeit most of which is falsified. Without Chris Owens guidance and patience I would not be the man I am today.
One cold and wet Autumn lunchtime whilst sitting in his office in detention he asked “what do you want to do with your life?” I shrugged, “dunno - I like art”. Mr Owen put me in detention more times than I care to remember was hard on me and I respect him for it, though not at the time. He gave me a steady look through thin rimmed spectacles reached up and pulled down the Yellow Pages from a shelf and made me circle design colleges that took my fancy, the prospectuses arrived in the post and I chose the London College of Printing at Elephant and Castle.
Back then I couldn’t see a future, didn’t use my imagination and envisioned little more than what my next pair of trainers might be. My GCSE grades were crap, the tutors at LCP took a shine to me and let me in anyway based on the strength of my portfolio.
I’ve always enjoyed drawing, painting and creating something from nothing, a handful of times I had charged people a small fee for completing their art or graphics homework, I should have put more effort into my own. Luck was on my side.