I’ve been thinking a lot about school lately. My Nanny used to say they were “the best days of your life.” Even as a child, that depressed me. “You mean, this is it?!” I thought. To be fair, I didn’t get off to a great start. Mum took on the wrong day and the classroom was completely empty. The following morning, I had to lock myself in the bathroom all over again.
But things began to look up when the title of the school play was announced. It was WENDY AND PETER PAN! The character after whom I was named! I was so excited. My moment had come. I – the one and only ‘Wendy’ in the school - would have an opportunity to shine. To go to Neverland with Peter. To save the lost boys. To bicker with Tinkerbell and fight with Captain Hook. It was the beginning of a dazzling career on the stage. At least, that’s what I thought.
We all lined up to be given our ‘parts’ and I tried hard not to look smug. (I even had ringlets and a t-shirt that said: ‘Wendy’s a little princess.’) But then, my teacher did something I’ll never forget. She gave the part of ‘Wendy’ to a girl called Karen! Yes, KAREN – the girl with straight black hair?!?! From that moment, nothing made sense.
“But I really am Wendy,” I tried to explain.
“No,” said my teacher, looking down her list. “You’re ... the crocodile.”
A crocodile? Was there a crocodile in Wendy and Peter Pan?! I was still trying to work it out when my teacher passed me a yellow fireman’s helmet. “Try this on,” she said. I did as I was told. But the helmet was too big and slipped off my head.
“Oh dear,” she sighed. “I think Angeline will have to go at the front.”
“Can I be something else?” I asked, pulling my best ‘Wendy’ face.
“You can go at the back,” she replied.
“The back?” I asked
“Yes,” she said. “You can be the crocodile’s bottom.”
Karen sniggered. (Well, actually, I don’t remember that bit, but if she didn’t, she should have done).
“Do I get to say anything?”
“Well, I suppose you can say ‘tick tock’,” she said.
So I did. And I was quite a good crocodile’s bottom. I said ‘tick tock’ in all the right places and got to wear bright yellow moonboots. (Mum – still feeling bad about the first day fiasco - bought me best yellow moonboots in the world).
And as I sit here now, writing about that day that I didn’t become a famous actress, something occurs to me. If I hadn’t been a crocodile’s bottom, I might never have become a writer. I’d have been far too busy under the glare of those bright lights.
There, you see. Things always work out for the best.