Slap happy

Warning. Early 1970’s sexism, and graphic scenes of violence which those of a nervous disposition may find distressing.

May contain nuts.

l have said before that my schooldays were a kind of ‘Kes’ in real time. Examination of Ken Loach’s treatment of former teacher Barry Hines’ book ‘A Kestrel for a Knave’ reveals a cast of teachers and pupils captured with just the right amount of lunacy and pathos. A snapshot of life in all its absurdities, which mirrored  our experience with uncanny accuracy.

Among the psychopaths, nutters and loonies at my school I was fortunate enough to find two sane lads who were into the same things as me, and who just happened to be the funniest people I’d ever met: namely Baz and Teck. Like me, a fan of Milligan, Baz is possessed of lazer-like wit, with which he is quite able to reduce his audience to pulp with his no-nonsense view of the world and razor sharp comments. Teck is far more lugubrious. His speciality is ‘The Rant’ along with silly words, sound affects and accents.

Thanks to the Interwebthingumybob we are still  in contact today. Apart from maintaining our friendship the beauty of this is that we are sometimes able to remember events jointly as they actually happened, and even describe what took place from a different viewpoint or perspective.

When looking back and all your instincts tell you ‘That can’t be true … I must have made it up …’ all it takes is a quick Facebook message.

Let me give you an example. I remembered a comical (well not so much for the girl involved) incident from 1972. We were in the second year  ( Year 8 ). The bell had gone for the end of break and we were all milling about in the Languages corridor. In theory we were lining up outside our respective classrooms, when in fact it looked more like a scrummage, complete with Scrum Half about to feed the ball (somone’s school bag) Through this melee of bodies walked Sarah one of the prettiest girls in the year with a group of freinds. In what must have been a catastrophic rush of blood to the head, because it was so out of character, a class-mate by the name of George, casually put out his hand and as Sarah and her friends passed, he cupped her left breast.

A horrified silence descended on the corridor, the two packs disengaged and looked on. You could hear a pin drop. Calmly and without breaking her step Sarah wound her arm back and with a confidence that suggested she was more than a dab hand at unarmed combat adminstered the mother of all slaps to George’s chops. It sounded like hitting a pound and a half of liver wth a cricket bat. The corridor was in uproar again until our French teacher Russell O’ Callaghan arrived on the scene and sorted us out.

Some 40 years later Baz,Teck and me are discussing the the incident in The Regal Moon pub and it transpired we had each been in the corridor, but in different places. Yet on inpection, our accounts of what happened matched perfectly.

And the thing that we each remember most?

That slap.

I bet on a quiet day if you listen carefully down at the bottom of St. Wilfred’s Drive, the estate of new houses built on the old school site, you can still hear the echoes of Sarah’s Super Slap today.

40 years on L-R Self, Kath, Angela, Teck. Baz, Mike

© Andy Daly 2017

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Would you like ice with that?

Ever had a bad day?
When nothing seems to go right?
I remember one such when I was still in the old Chalk and Talk racket.
Of all the school trips that I organised, one sticks in my mind above all (not counting the epic Tate Gallery visit, which you will find here)
My form class were a were a sporty lot and had won the annual school sports day every year, hand running, and were set fair to do it again in their final year. So I promised them a school trip if they managed it.
Well the upshot was that they did win it, and elected to go Ice Skating!
So Ice Skating it was. The plan was to use the two school minbuses and take them to Slough Ice Rink for an evening’s skating. Colleague Graham Atkinson their Head of Year came on board to help out with supervision. I booked the transport, the school’s two minibuses. Game On! I decided to take the old bus, a filthy old transit which smelled like a rugby players jock strap, and was covered inside with a thick powdery layer of dried mud, while I let Graham have the new bus which was cleaner and easier to drive. I got the parental permission letters, insurance forms completed. Mini bus booking forms filled in.
Dirty old bus

Dirty old bus

Finally the appointed day arrived. After school had finished I decided to collect the bus keys and give them the once over.
Problem. The old bus keys weren’t where they should have been; in a box in the first deputy’s office which he shared with the caretaker/groundsman.Eventually as the school emptied of staff, the receptionist,tidying her desk for the day came across a bunch of keys.’Are these the ones? Sure enough, they were with note tied to them which said ‘ Do not use’ Well what’s that supposed to mean? I had it booked, and it wasn’t due for it’s MOT or anything . I went out and did a visual check of the bus. Tyres – fine, lights and indicators – fine. I started it up – no sign of any leaks, engine sounded fine. I couldn’t understand it. Well no matter, I’d got the keys – time to get a wiggle on, I went home for a quick shower and got changed. By the time I got back to school, the kids were arriving and congregating around the buses. I gave Graham the keys to the new one and we loaded up. Graham set off first.
Slough Ice Rink, Montem Lane.

Slough Ice Rink, Montem Lane.

As soon as I started to accelerate from the junction outside the school it became apparent why the keys had ‘Do Not Use’ written on them. The bloody clutch was slipping badly. Would the bus make it there? And more importantly would it make it back? I decided to press on. I didn’t mention anything to the kids.
Well we got there OK, if a little slowly, debussed and made our way into the ice rink. Some of the kids were old hands and had been many times before, so the exchanging of shoes for skates was done quickly and they were on the ice before we knew it.
Graham and I had collected our skates and were about to put them on when some of the girls came up to us all in a tizzy.

Balance and Poise

Balance and Poise

‘Sir, Emma’s hurt her hand.’ Sure enough I could see Emma being escorted by a phalanx of our kids over to where we were. We called for Ice Rink staff and their First Aider took a look. In fact it was Emma’s wrist that causing the pain. We put an ice pack on it. Nearest A and E? Wexham Park Hospital. Right! Let’s go. I used the new bus: I was not going to risk anything in the old jalopy. Luckily it was not far, and well sign-posted,  I turned into the Car park and reversed into a parking space. I was concentrating on looking in my mirrors that I forgot about the little step that stands out of the back of the bus and pranged the car behind me. Which Emma thought was hilarious (I put it down to the shock)

Wexham Park Hospital

I helped her out from her seat and went to check the damage. Luckily both vehicles were fine.
I can think of any number of places I would rather be than a packed A and E department at Wexham Park Hospital. Our misery is compounded. After a short wait for triage we are told. that the wait for X – Ray is about three hours, and treatment (if needed) could be the early hours. The triage nurse suggested going to a hospital nearer to home. In the event we decided to ring Emm’s parents, have them pick her up here, the take her to Hillingdon hospital. So Emm and I sit down to wait. Then we had the only piece of luck all day. Suddenly there was a gap in the queue for X ray, so we jumped at it and she got it done. Thankfully it was just bad bruising. No breaks. It was a case then, of waiting for Mum and Dad to negotiate the M25 and find their way to Wexham Park. I was thinking about the rest of the party. The rink closed at 10, and it was already half past. Then Emma’s parents arrived. We explained everything and I made my excuses and left.
When I drove into the car park at  the rink was greeted with an ironic cheer.
We still had to get home, we swapped buses and set off back, me nursing the clutch all the way.
We got back to school safe and sound at about 11pm to be met with the inevitable group of worried parents. Soon Graham and I were alone in the school car park.’ Fancy a pint’ he says’ ‘Sounds like a plan. How’s your triple Axel coming on?…’

The Water Margin

Well, the other day I get a knock on the door from Gill, Roger and Ray; buddies from my days in the old chalk and talk dodge.
It turns out that they are up for a day’s ‘twitching’ down at the Barnes Wetlands Centre. Now I am quite the Ornithologist when I am in short trousers and I pride myself with knowing my Widgeon from my Wagtails. So without further ado I join the intrepid threesome as we make our way over to Barnes.

London_Wetland

Now it’s the first time I come to here and I’m no expert but it seems to me they make a pretty decent job of the Wetlands Centre. Especially when you consider that Hammersmith is about a mile away as the crow flies (so to speak) For all you know you could be in the middle of the countryside; at least I imagine that is what it is like – having a serious allergy to the countryside, I tend to avoid all things pastoral and green.
So here we are with lots of water and plants called reeds, and away in the distance some white specks; which could be ducks, geese or shoppers on Hammersmith Broadway, it is difficult to say as although I have my camera, like a clot I forget my binoculars.
However, help is at hand in the form of one of the Wetland Centtre volunteers. These guys tend to hide out in the hides (as it were) and pounce on unsuspecting ‘Twitchers’ to point out some noteworthy species with the aid of a powerful telescope.

The London Wetland Centre Celebrate Their 10th Anniversary

Like today. ‘See the Peregrine Falcon?’ ‘Oh yes’ we lie. We can see nothing but some lousy rooftops and satellite dishes. I begin to take a photo but can’t get anything in focus. ‘It might be better without the lens cap Mr Daly’. says Ray all laconical. You see? Ever the practical one? Well pretty soon we give up on the damned falcon. Gill, Rog, Ray and I compare notes about the roof tops and satellite dishes as we retire to the relative safety of the café where we sit and over tea and sandwiches discuss the migratory patterns of small children in ‘high-vis’ vests and the distinctive calls and cries of their teachers. Perhaps we even get a bit nostalgic, between us taking school trips a’plenty back in the day. All in all a grand day out, Peregrine Falcon notwithstanding, and one I will treasure for many a year.

Ray

Ray

A Peregrine Falcon. Not the Peregrine Falcon

A Peregrine Falcon. Not the Peregrine Falcon

Andy Daly

In loving memory of Ray. A true gentleman.

Come and have go if you think you’re hard enough!

Warning. May not be suitable for people of a nervous disposition. This post is issued with an 18 certificate. Features football violence and lots of bloody swearing.

Manchester United did their promotion hopes no harm at all after running out clear victors over a lacklustre Blackpool side at Bloomfield Road this afternoon; Forsyth, Macari, and Mc Calliog all getting onto the scoresheet. The event was marred by some crowd trouble ouside the ground when groups of United fans ran amok along the seafront and Pleasure Beach. Police said they made three arrrests. Blackpool nil Manchester United three.

21 OCTOBER 1974

A Monday morning on the furthest muddy reaches of the school grounds. Marked by a saggy chain link fence. Most of the pupils keep to the path as they walk towards the school gates. A small group of lads, however use the sag in the fence to climb through. They gather by a mature sycamore tree and some bushes, which gives them cover from the main gates. Their breath condenses in the chilly autumn air.

‘Come on, spark up’. Says one. He is wearing a feather-style haircut, parallels, black zip up platform shoes. His school blazer is done up with the middle button . Its badge bears the legend ‘Caritas’. His tie is tied in a ludicrous huge flapping knot.

Yeah C’mon we ‘aven’t got much time. Says another, wearing a cheap black crombie coat over his blazer. Brogues and red socks on his feet.

They all get out their fags, Feather cut takes out a zippo lighter and each in turn light their cigarettes. ‘Ahhhhhh….’ They let out a collective gasp of relief.

‘Did you see it then?’

‘What? ‘

‘Sat’day night’

‘What? I went out Sat’day night,’

‘It were fuckin’ hilarious’

‘What were?’

‘Finny. Din’t you see ‘im?’

‘Ont’ telly?’

‘No, what happened?’

‘Well, he went to Blackpool wi’ United and you know there was bit of a tear up with the cops? Well Finny was right at the front. So I’m watchin telly Sat’day night waiting for Match of the Day and on’t News, you know how they have a picture about each news story? Y’know? Behind Reginald fuckin’ Bosanquet. They only had a massive picture of Finny … leading the fuckin’ troops.I nearly fuckin’ pissed meself’.

‘Ey here he is now’. Finny skips over the fence. Hair like an explosion in a Ginger Nut factory. They all pretend to bow and scrape before him

‘We’re not worthy’ they cry.

‘All right stop all the bollocks you set of cunts. Who’s got a spare fag ? ‘

He takes a cigarrete and Feather cut lights it for him.

‘So, have you had any offers?’ Feather asks Finny.

‘What offers? What the fuck are you on about?’

‘Offers, You know, Hollywood? TV and that. I’d have thought that the producers of Starsky and Hutch would have on the phone after your appearance on Sat’day night TV’. They all burst out laughing. Finny attempts a half hearted kick, but Feather is too fast.

‘What did your Old Man say about it?’

‘He never saw it did he, he was in the pub. Fucking good photo though. Mind you the cops gave us a right kicking. I were black and blue Sunday morning’

Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.

Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough … Look at the flares!

‘Oh shite, look out it’s Harris!’ A teacher strides purposefully across the playing field, he has spotted them: too late, they try and dock their fags and pocket them.

‘You boys! Stay where you are.’ Mr. Harris affectionately known as ‘Bummer Harris’ is Head of PE and likes to throw his weight around a lot. ‘I thought it might be you lot. Have you any idea what it looks like from the staff car park? It’s as if the tree was on fire, clouds of smoke billowing out of it. Let’s have them’ He looks at Finny.

‘Finnerty, give’

‘I haven’t got any Sir, honest’

Harris pats Finny down – as roughly as possible

‘How about you Kinsella?’ Reluctantly the boy puts his hand into his blazer pocket and takes out his packet of ten.

‘Sovreign? Quick Burns?’ Harris says, turning his not insubstantial nose up at them.

‘Owyahh!’ shouts Feather, his half smoked cigarette is smouldering in his trouser pocket and has just worked its way through the lining.

‘You Goon!’ Yells Harris as Feather tries to get the offending article out of his trousers. (If you see what I mean) Harris adresses them all ‘ Mr. Baldwin’s’s office, line up outside, NOW!’

‘Not you Finnerty’. He grabs the boy’s shirt collar and backs him against the tree. Speaking close to the his face So that Finny is able to smell the stale tobacco on the teacher’s breath.

‘So, I saw you made the news on Saturday night’

‘Well, didn’t you lad?’

‘Yes Sir’.

‘Go on. Mr. Baldwin’s office with the rest of those idiots AND think yourself lucky that Mr. Baldwin was at a Parents and Teachers’ Association Treasure Hunt on Saturday night. And unless you want me to tell him how you’ve dragged the school’s reputation through the mud, you’d better keep your nose clean. Do I make myself clear?’

‘Yes Sir’

‘Now go’

As he trudged to the Headmaster’s Office Finny couldn’t help but wonder about what he was sensing from Harris. Something other than all the play acting about the fags.

It couldn’t be jealousy

Could it?

© Andy Daly 2015

An Inspector Calls

We used to make some shite in our Craft lessons at school didn’t we?

lollystick fruit bowl (executive model with posh base)

lollystick fruit bowl (executive model with posh base)

I once spent a whole half a term glueing lolly sticks together to create a fruit bowl. Other equally spectacular outcomes were a copper ‘matchbox protector’ (why?), and an orange plastic lampshade. Our bemused expressions on being asked to make them, only matched by those of our parents when we took them home at the end of term. Of course this was in the ‘70s, when you could get away with crap lessons like that, and an orange plastic lampshade didn’t look too hideously out of place in the average sitting room.

Lovely!

Lovely!

Let’s face it; most craftrooms back then were an irresistable treasure trove of exotica to be nicked and fucked about with. The tools! Lathes, drills, buffing machines, chisels, saws. The possibilities for causing death or serious injury were endless. Every time the teacher left the room (which was almost all the lesson in some cases) we would let fly. Pieces of wood, tools, metal, peoples’ ‘Jobs’ (as our work was quaintly known) would be pelted across the classroom. How the fuck we didn’t end up getting cut to ribbons I’ll never know.
All gone now of course. Replaced by the sober workbench and ubiquitous network of PCs. And Technology
All of which reminds me of a story told to me by a teacher freind of mine. She worked at Chantry, a special school for ‘maladjusted’ children as it was known then. She had a particularly difficult group who were almost impossible to get settled and concentrating on anything. That was until she introduced them to a bit of sewing or perhaps more correctly, needlework.

For miracle of miracles; when she got out the sewing kit and once they had got bored with trying to jab each other, they simmered down and got into some learning some basic techniques.
Well, it was into one of these lessons one jolly morning that a school inspector (This was pre-OFSTED) purposefully strode and took up her position to observe the lesson. Apart from making ‘V’ signs behind her back, the kids completely ignored the visitor. Meanwhile, the teacher explained to the students what they had to do, and they got started.

A relative calm descended. The teacher went around, helping out. As she did so Mrs. Inspector takes it upon herself to poke around and give the students the benefit of her expertise. She stood and looked for a long time over the shoulder of one of the boys, which had the visitor even the slightest awareness of body language and the intimate classroom dynamics of such a teaching situation is the boy she would have made a point of steering well clear of.
“Oh no no no!” said the inspector. Silence. The students looked from one to another, open-mouthed.
“Oh no no no! That won’t do. That bit there. It isn’t straight .” You could hear a pin drop.
Without looking up the boy replied: “Yeah? Well you’ve got a fucking big nose, but I wasn’t gonna say nothing”

As it happens the Inspector turned out to be the sister of one of this county’s great female sporting legends.
And she’s got a fucking big nose too.

Chelsea Makes West London Man’s Day

Full Story Below

I keep in touch via ‘Social Media’with many ex-students from my days as a Secondary School teacher of Art and Design.

The pupils I taught were in the age range 11 to 18, mixed ability, boys and girls from a variery of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

Now, I don’t make a habit of doing this, but I thought I would share this with you, because it was so out of the blue.

It came in the form of a message last Saturday morning from … let’s call her Chelsea to save her embarrassment. Although Chelsea and I have been ‘friends’ for years and I have always been a fan of her upbeat Facebook greetings (and occasional rants!) we have never corresponded. This is the first time and is reproduced word for word below.

Best art teacher ever. xx

Chelsea, I’m honoured!

Seriously though Mr Daly- best teacher I ever had. A true legend.

What’s brought this on?

Always thought it, but just thought I’d say. Only lesson I actually liked lol

Thanks. Made my day.

R u still teaching?

No. Had to give it up. I’ve had Parkinson’s for 13 years, so life is a bit of a battle.

Your’re a true inspiration sir- u were always my fav teacher. Loved your lessons and always an inspiration.

Thanks. Hope life is treating you well.

All good thank you. I hated school but looked forward to art- u taught me to express myself.

Well to help people to express themselves was all I set out to do. I miss it but when people say the kind of things you have I feel better.

U r a true legend sir.

Look after yourself Chelsea. I love your daily messages – ‘Good morning you gorgeous lot’ Keep ’em coming! X

I will sir- and keep being you! I have the up most respect for you xx

Look at that hair! and the tie ... What was I thinking?

Look at that hair! and the tie … What was I thinking?

A few words that mean a lot.

© Andy Daly 2013

Khan Stand Losing

Here it is, repackaged with extra content in a bumper Christmas Special. New improved title! Bits I forgot in the original! Proper ending! All mistakes corrected! The ideal Christmas gift!

Yes, yes I am familiar with the concept of Proofreading and faithfully swear to use it sometime. But until then, here is Khan Stand Losing (Formerly known as Khan Get No Satisfaction)

Back in the dim and distant past, before Harry met Sally, Snickers were still Marathons and if you wanted to go to France you had to get a boat or plane, I find myself teaching in a Secondary Comprehensive school in Middlesex. With, I’ll have you know, some very illustrious former pupils. None of whose names spring to mind at the moment unfortunately – except the girl who is in Grange Hill, and the girl on the local BBC news team; the one who’s married to the Sports Correspondent. Oh! and Fearne Cotton and Mick the Mad Cabbie …

It is an alright kind of school. In fact it is a grammar school, back in the day; when in order to gain entry pupils have to pass a tricky little exam called the Eleven Plus. I never take an Eleven Plus, which is just as well, as for me at that age school is a breeze, a place to meet your pals and have a laugh. Indeed, come to think of it, so are the whole of my school days – to such an extent I become extremely suspicious of those types who claim that ‘the Child’ is like a pot waiting to be filled with knowledge and facts. In my day I may be a pot, even a pot waiting to be filled, but not with knowledge and facts, more like Sherbert Dabs, Everton Mints, Spanish, Fruit Salad chews and so on.

Anyway so here I am a young, impressionable, idealistic teacher in his first school – of course this is arrant nonesense as both my parents are teachers, so I know the score as far as the old Chalk and Talk dodge is concerned from day one. However, it seems I make some friends in high places as for my second year there I find myself timetabled to teach Wednesday afternoon Fifth and Sixth Form Games. Now this is felt by one and all to be a great honour; and if the truth be known a bit if a wheeze. But great fun nonetheless. A chance to show your prowess (or otherwise) in the sporting arena and for the kids to see you in another light and marvel at your athleticism or revel in your buffoonery. The range of options available, clearly reflects staff expertise and is quite mind-boggling now I think back to it eg. Football, Rugby, Athletics (track and field) Cross Country, Tennis, Badminton, Squash, Golf, Ice Skating, Volleyball, Skiing, Climbing, Sailing. Canoeing, Kayaking, Weightlifting and Ten Pin Bowling. For my sins, at one time or another, I run the Ice Skating, Skiing, Volleyball and share Footy duties with my old mate Chawkey.

Well, it just so happens that the Girls’ Squash option is for many years the domain of Head of Geography, Mrs Croaker, one of the number of old salts from the grammar school days, who although she looks a bit of a ferocious old fossil who has a habit of shooting first and asking questions a couple of weeks later, is actually an OK sort of Judy once you get to know her.

Legend has it that one day she turns up at the squash club, in Northwood with her girls to find one of their courts occupied. Mrs. Croaker storms right onto the court demanding to know what the blazes and who is responsible and why this court is in use when the school has it booked every week since before Jesus is in sandals…

Jahangir khan

The two guilty parties, their epic battle interrupted stand looking at their trainers like naughty boys until finally someone comes down from reception to sort out the mix up. Which they quickly do, and in no time at all Mrs Croaker and her girls have forgotten all about it.

And the sheepish target of Mrs. Croaker’s fiery invective? The player who dares to take her court? Well, if it is none other than the then World Number One professional squash player Jahangir Khan from Pakistan, who is considered by many to be the greatest player in the history of the game. He wins the World Open six times and the British Open a record ten times. From 1981 to 1986, he is unbeaten in competitive play. During that time he wins 555 games consecutively, the longest winning streak by any athlete in top-level professional sports as recorded by Guinness World Records.

I wonder if it is worth looking at the odds on Jahangir vs. Mrs. Croaker, but figure no bookie would be sap enough to come within a million miles of such a contest. Old Mrs Croaker wins every time, hand running.

I think you can probably insert your own caption here

I think you can probably insert your own caption here

© Andy Daly 2012

A Fist Full Of Pencils

Now then. Long long ago when Professor Green was still  in the infants, a friend of mine teaches in a secondary comprehensive school in West London. He is an alright kind of teacher: not brillliant, but not hopeless either. In fact, he keeps his classes in pretty good order, which is the type of thing Headteachers and senior teachers generally approve of, because it means less work for them. Moreover, he gets on pretty good with the kids and their parents too, and is thought of as a safe pair of hands when it comes to the teaching dodge, which is just as well as he is at it for well over a decade by now. Besides, he teaches Art so nobody gives a cuss anyway as long as no-one is throwing paint around or walking about the school looking like Coco the clown.

For six years my friend is a Sixth Form tutor. This means the kids it is his responsibilty to register and look after in what is known as ‘Pastoral Care’ are of the older variety and studying for important exams such as A level, AS level, GNVQ, NVQ and FA. On the whole these kids are much more mature than the younger ones and it is usually thought of as an easier ride than having to cope with hundreds of ankle-snappers. Although what with sorting out love-affairs, hungover students, what radio station to have on in the mornings and the ‘ghost writing’ of endless UCAS applications for university and colleges the kids have no intention of going to, I’m not so sure.

Well it seems that someone is looking a bit too closely at the allocation of teachers to form classes and they spot that our hero is generally having a fine time; whereas they could put any old dipstick in to look after a six form group it is so easy; and use him far more profitably ‘up the sharp end’ let’s say, as a form tutor to a band new crop of eager-faced, enthusiastic Year 7 students. (My friend says there is nothing to make his blood run cold such as eager-faced, enthusiastic year 7 students.)

In considering this state of affairs, it is evident that his relationship with these eager-faced, enthusiastic year 7 students could last as long as 5 years: until they reach year 11 and their GCSE examinations. He ponders a while about the year 11s he teaches and the year 11 forms he knows and how he will be blowed if he has such a shower of shi – apologies I was about to use an educational term there which not everone would have been familiar with; he will be blowed if he has such a group of disaffected and disobedient pupils in his form in 5 years time.

So he figures on training up his new class of eager-faced, enthusiastic crumb-chasers so that they know things like what is right, what is wrong, where to hang  their coats and bags, to always carry their homework diary (signed) and probably most of all: to stick together in the face of adversity. And how does he manage the latter in prticular? Well on their first day in their big school, they get to go around and have fun taster lessons in subjects like science and technology. You know the ones which use all the cool equipment and apparatus that you never ever see again all the time you are at school. After that they have something called ‘lunch’ then go to their form rooms with their new teachers for ‘a de-brief.’

It is at this point the pencils come out. Right. Who’s feeling strong? (says my friend). Some hands go up (This is a good start. No 30 voices all yelling out together) OK. One is chosen and thrown a pencil. See if you can break it. Well, snap naturally, snap it is no big deal, snap. Anyone else? Hands go up. Snap, snap, snap and so on. After about 4 tries my friend chooses the biggest, strongest in the class and chucks them thirty pencils, tied together with 2 elastic bands. Now, have a go with that. Well, this guy ends up going purple in the face trying: he can’t do it. Eager hands go up again, and the next one has a try and so on and so on until they get to bashing them on the table and just as someone has the bright idea to drop them out of the window, my friend takes the pencils back.

You know what these are? He asks them. He sees 30 eager-faced, enthusiastic children staring back at him (in fact, he tells me to this day he still sees those same 11 year old faces and admits that if he was an old softy it would choke him up more than somewhat, but that thankfully he isn’t)

You know what these are? He asks again. These are like our class. We all stick together and look out for each other, for if we don’t, look what happens; at which he takes a couple of pencils from the bundle, and breaks them snap, snap like so. If we don’t stick together, people will be able to break us easily or wear us down. In this class we take care of each other.

Well, it seems to work pretty good, for although to begin with my friend plays the ‘Old Mr. Grumpy’ once he feels his class has got it together he begins to kick back a bit, and what do you know, by year 11, they are not a shower of shi – apologies, I have slipped back into complex educational jargon again. They are not a class of disaffected youth with a resentful, isolated teacher but best of friends who spend their morning registration time enjoying each other’s company (as well as sorting out love-affairs, hungover students and what radio station to have on)

In fact my friend tells me he keeps in contact with nearly all of that old class by something called Facebook, which seems to be a bit like the old town crier (You know with the bell and ‘Oye! Oye!’) but works with electricity and is much quicker and quieter. They are all grown up now, some are married, many have crumb-chasers of their own but they always remember the fist full of pencils.

Affectionally dedicated to AD and thanks to Chawkey for the idea.

© Andy Daly 2012

In loco parentis

I wonder what the founding fathers of Cheadle Hulme School,  Manchester, England, would have made of this. They adopted in loco parentis as the school’s motto in 1855. Latin for “in the place of a parent”, it refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent. Originally derived from English common law, it allows institutions such as colleges and schools to act in the best interests of the students as they see fit.

I don’t wish to to labour the point, and I promise not to reinforce it with yet another clip from the film ‘Kes’ but here is another example of the kind of every day lunacy which was typical of my secondary schooldays.

First day at our new secondary school, St. Wilfrid’s. New stiff uniforms, new classes with lots of new faces. Eagerness, trepidation. All our eyes are fixed on our new form teacher Mr. Bradley as he takes the register for the first time.

“William …. William Walsh?”

“I like to be called Billy, Sir.”

Bradley stares at him and begins to froth at the mouth.

“Do you now? Well, I’d like to be called George Best and have all the money and birds he has, but I can’t can I, lad?”

As the Spanish say “Loco comó una moto” which roughly translates as “Mad as a box of frogs”

© Andy Daly 2012

Thanks to Mark for reminding me of this

Time for a break

Now then, while visited by two old schoolmates recently we got to chewing the fat more than somewhat about the good old days, after which we came to the conclusion that save for some minor mental scarring our schooldays amounted to a hilarious, surreal experience – a sort of ‘Kes’ in real time. On pondering this I got a flashback the other day from my time at middle school which proves my point. I walked into the boys toilets just at the end of break to find 3 lads (for the life of me I can’t recall who they were), but of the two main protagonists One had his leg fully outstretched, shoe sole against the wall, while the other was taking short run ups and kicking the leg at a point midway between knee and ankle. The owner of the leg hadn’t done his Maths homework and wanted someone to break his leg, so he could get out of the lesson!