"Londoners" by Craig Taylor (Ecco, February 2012)

"Londoners" by Craig Taylor (Ecco, February 2012) Credit: Handout


I love my debating club. They were on the television last Thursday -- my debaters.

I am very proud of them. They're really, really good. I went to a normal comprehensive and I did debating. I was forced into it because I talked a lot and someone said, "Oh my God, give that girl an outlet to go and do this." So I started this debating club and I've got a really lovely mix in there. I've got one girl whose mum and dad are teachers, middle-class upbringing and really, really lovely. And then I've got another girl whose mum was only fourteen years old when she had her and was kicked out of school when she got pregnant with her and she gets drunk with her on the weekends. This girl is really clever and she's like, I'm going to be a lawyer and I'm going to use this debating skill.

Those two are really good mates and they debate in a pair. It's just the best feeling when they're debating against these posh, private school boys. They had a debate on withdrawing from Afghanistan, and there's these two girls, very beautiful with long blond hair and Eltham accents, and they're like, "Ladies and gentlemen, you should really fink about it, because like you ain't gonna know nuffink and like Ahkmadinejad ain't gonna just like back off, he's gonna be like, no, I ain't backin' off." The thing is, what they're saying is really clever, but they have these heavy accents, and there's these boys across from them have their floppy hair and their ridiculously expensive clothes. You can see that when they start talking the boys just think, "Ah, ha, well, we've obviously won this." But about two minutes into the speech you see fear start to dawn on their faces while she's talking about, like, I don't know, community fragmentation or something. Then they suddenly start writing furiously.

There's about eight who come regularly to debating club. I had a three-year plan: in this first year I said I'm going to take you to loads of competitions and you're going to get beaten by sixth formers -- they were year ten. "You're going to get beaten by kids much older than you, much posher than you, all the time, and you've just got to keep going. That's fine, that's fine. They started getting beaten by all these kids and they had a horrid time. I would buy them pizza afterward and say, it's OK, come on, it's going to be good. But at the end of the year, they won this competition for all the state schools in London. The grand final was against a school in Enfield, on whether parents should be prosecuted for their kids' truanting. My kids obviously knew that parents already are prosecuted for their kids' truanting. As the motion was announced in this room, this girl whose mother was really young, just went, "That's status quo, innit, miss?" I was like, yes, yes it is. On you go. And they won.

It's amazing. Apart from getting your phone stolen every twelve weeks, this is the best job ever.

From "Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now -- As Told By Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It," by Craig Taylor. Copyright (c) 2011, 2012 by Craig Taylor. Published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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