From my perspective, study leave was an excuse to stay home, play computer games, and draw comic strips. By that point I was all but done with education. The 12 years I'd been at school were quite enough, and most of those years had been an ordeal.
The only downside to eschewing revision in favour of bringing my summer holiday forward by two months is that I had nobody to hang out with. Inexplicably, all of my mates seemed to use their study leave to do studying.
Still, having done zero revision, I somehow left school with four more O Levels than I deserved - for a grand total of four O Levels.
These were English Literature (I wrote a book report on Ian Livingstone's Deathtrap Dungeon, a choose-your-own adventure, because I figured it meant I wouldn't have to read a whole book), Sociology (somehow winging it enough to get a B), Art (I realised I could rush through the final exam if I did my piece in pastels rather than paint), and Graphical Communication, whatever that is. My final piece for Graph' Comm' (not my abbreviation) saw me designing packaging for a cheese-flavoured fizzy soft drink that I called 'Cheese Drink'.
I'm still waiting on the call from PepsiCo.
I'd finally realised that punching people in the face actually stopped more people punching me, and this coincided with somehow achieving a begrudging quasi-respect by staging a series of ridiculous, sub-Monty Python, teacher-mocking, comedy revues.
A few of them were impromptu performances in the playground, others were held during assembly. A couple more were held for charity, and we actually managed to raise a few hundred pounds for Cot Death Research. In the few years since my niece's death, my mother had taken to hosting meetings for groups of bereaved parents, so I figured if I bunged them a few quid them might stop showing up at my house with their inconveniencing grief and tears (you try playing Jack The Nipper when all you can hear is people sobbing about how much they miss their babies).
School had been a straightjacket of other people's perceptions, and leaving meant I could finally start figuring out what I was for without expectations being heaped upon me.
Much of the abuse had been physical, but it was the name-calling that had been most profoundly constricting and damaging. I hope that whomever came up with the rhyme about 'names can never hurt me' was called something like Miriam Jizzfart, or Plankton O'Tinyballs... and spent the remainder of their life hitting themselves in the face with a monogrammed baseball bat.
At some point I'd inadvertently acquired a nickname - one that spread swiftly to be used by students, teachers, and supposed friends alike. This happened despite being blessed with a real name that didn't exactly lend itself to any obvious nicknames, and in spite of sharing the school with a boy called Ian Grewcock. How he ever escaped any sort of mockery still baffles me to this day - and to add further insult to injury, he was even ginger.
No offence meant to gingers, incidentally... but if you are ginger, you probably know what I'm talking about. I had glasses, a bum fluff moustache, and was six feet tall, so I stood out like a benign, goofy-looking, lighthouse. The more bland and part of the herd you are at that age, the more you can just blend in and avoid the attention of arseholes. Which, when you're surrounded by other teenagers, is literally everyone.
Something I learned during this time is that while you can punch one person for kicking you between the shoulder blades while you're tying your shoelaces, there's not much you can do when you've got an entire school calling you something that turned your stomach every time you heard it. Except, y'know... enacting that whole cliche about making sure they laugh with you instead of at you.
Hence the teacher-mocking comedy revue shows. Going on stage and ejecting a mouthful of pretend vomit on someone was my way of surviving. Frankly, nothing much has changed.
In the summer after school I applied for a bunch of part-time jobs (including one that would've been three hours a week sweeping floors in C&A... sample interview question: "Why do you think you can do this job?"... er... because I'm not yet dead...).
However, what landed in my lap was far better: a position doing computer graphics for Ladbrokes Racing. My cousin Sue had worked there in the accounts department at head office, and heard they were looking for a new graphics person up in the grandly-titled Communications Centre (a room laid out like the deck of the USS Enterprise, with more computers than I'd ever seen in one place).
My cousin knew I liked to draw, and arranged for me to go and see the department head - a man who laughed like a snake, called Ray. I took along my portfolio (which included various Star Wars sketches, a painting of Marillion's guitarist, and lots of cartoons), and Ray offered me a job there and then, for £15 per half day.
The company never stipulated exactly what half a day meant, and to me half a day meant as little as I could get away with. Ray's bad cop-style deputy eventually cottoned on that I was bunking off about an hour after arriving, and put a stop to it.
Meanwhile, having little enthusiasm left for education, I waited until the last possible minute to enrol for college. Consequently, I was left to mop up the fag-ends of whatever courses remained.
The ones I really wanted - Art and Drama... basically the A Levels I thought I could either just doodle or mess around through - were fully booked, which meant I had to take Art with Art History, Drama with Theatre Studies, and Film Studies. All of which meant writing essays, which was just about the last thing I wanted to do at that point.
I lasted three months of hiding in art department store cupboards and not turning up, before dropping out altogether and convincing Ladbrokes to take me on full time.
I say with no degree of defensive justification that leaving education was the best move I ever made.
I was 16 years old, earning £6,500 a year from a job where I got to draw pictures on a computer all day - and much of my work was influenced by the computer and video games I'd grown up with.
Ladbrokes had a multi-screen layout in their betting shops, and my job was to provide visuals and animation for those screens. It was higher resolution than the system offered by teletext, and had a few more colours... so when I did finally come to learn teletext editing it was a bit of a comedown.
With Ladbrokes' software - called LES (Ladbrokes Electronic Service) - it was possible, using some very basic programming, to employ all six screens in sequence, allowing a horse to run from one side to the other, or a cricket ball to bounce from one screen to the next.
Though I only ever had 12 frames of animation to play with per screen, I could reuse each frame as many times as I wanted. It allowed me to have Olympic athletes running across the screens and lighting the torch, snooker players potting balls, and - most proudly - a multi-screen, first-person Formula 1 animation inspired by Namco's Pole Position and forgotten, three-screen classic, TX-1.
Ladbrokes was also my first brush with the world of celebrity. Or so I was told.
Though I knew nothing about sport, and had zero desire to learn, people who I was assured were famous sportsmen would often come into the office to be interviewed by our in-store radio team.
One member of the team was a young eccentric called Angus Loughran - he eventually became better known as Statto from Fantasy Football. In the five years I worked with Angus, I twice witnessed him pretend to fall off a chair.
Jockey John Francome, footballer Trevor Brooking, and various cricket blokes, were the calibre of people we'd have walking through the office. However, my favourite was Channel 4 racing pundit Derek Thompson, who was usually in several times a week.
He had a habit of asking how you were, and replying "Good, good," without really listening to what you'd told him. Gradually, I took to returning the hollow query with "I've got leprosy, Derek" or "Not so good, Thommo - I've gone a bit blind", or "I hate you, Derek".
"Good, good," he'd say without fail. Lovely bloke though. I've still got an 18th birthday card signed by him.
While at Ladbrokes, I got my work on the TV for the first time.
In the debut episode of Michael Palin's Around The World In 80 Days, the globe-striding Python visits a Ladbrokes betting shop to get odds on his chances of success, courtesy of Ladbrokes pundit Ron Pollard.
An animated Terry Gilliam foot comes down and crushes those odds - which was all my doing. As a lifelong Python fan, it was quite a moment.
Ladbrokes was also where Turner the Worm was born. Those of you who remember Teletext may remember the Turner the Worm cartoon strip that I wrote and drew on the kids pages (and who - for one day only - was to feature on Digitiser...). He had his origins in a purple worm character who cropped up in my Ladbrokes animations - popping out of golf holes, or snooker table pockets.
He became sufficiently popular that, when he didn't appear in our displays, store staff would ring up asking where he was.
Sometimes, the store managers rang up about other things. Such as an animation I'd put together for the company's Chinatown stores, which, instead of reading "Happy New Year" in Chinese, actually read "BLOOD". I blamed a dodgy fax machine.
But I loved having that job. Nobody called me that name, or any name but my own, and nobody had any preconceptions of what everyone else had told them I was. For the first time, I felt liked by my peers. And best of all, I was loaded compared to most of my mates, who were still doing their A Levels.
Inevitably, the first thing I bought with my first full paycheque was the console of the day: the Sega Master System. My days as a ZX Spectrum owner were no more.