I was crap at PE.
I once overheard the following exchange between BB and an Unfortunate Student:
BB: Aren’t you supposed to be playing football?
US: I haven’t got any boots, sir.
BB: I don’t care if you haven’t got any legs, get out there and play football.
He was a great enthusiast, and lots of diverse sporting activities flourished under his jurisdiction. We were constantly stretched to invent sports that were not actually on the curriculum. I believe that underwater snooker was mooted, but never implemented.
In my day, he was known as Butlinham, because of the myriad bizarre activities that he would try to inflict on us poor campers.
Unfortunately, the poor man could not relate to those who did not share his enthusiasm. (I did not share his perspective about the glories of sport, and to this day eschew exercise, although the invention of remote control devices has brought a strength and subtlety to my fingers that is the envy of many a professional athlete. I am proud to be the only person in my year (1962 through 1969) never to have taken part in Sports Day. I was once seconded to my house rugby team, when there were only 15 people available. I was placed at fullback, not because I combined the power of Lomu, the speed of Blanco, the tactical awareness of Healey with the goal kicking ability of Dusty Hare, but rather because it was considered to be the place on the field furthest away from the action. Not so! I saw several people running past me, quite close, and someone once suggested that I should try to stop them. I chose not to.)
“Now look, you people” was the standard preface to any of his utterances.
When the school swimming pool was opened, he declared to a large number of us gathered together in the school hall “Now look, you people, I’ll have you all swimming by Christmas”. I took that as a challenge, and never went within 50 yards of the place.
I could have been Duncan Goodhew, but, thanks to Bazza, I can not swim, and become seasick if I see a glass of water more than half full.
I was crap at Art.
Having once struggled to produce a work that I considered to be in the style of Monet, she told me: “That’s a nifty piece of footwork”
I could have been David Hockney, but, thanks to Mrs Dowdeswell, I am compelled to pay people to decorate my house.
I was crap at Physics.
My memory is not what it was, but double Physics always seemed to take place on Monday mornings, cold Monday mornings in February, where this strange breed of men would attempt to explain phenomena in a ludicrous and deranged fashion. I never believed any of it, but I suspect that they did. I eventually achieved a grade 3 CSE in Physics, and that remains the only academic achievement of which I boast to this day.
I could have been Stephen Hawking, but thanks to these guys, instead I have a deep-seated mistrust of all of the laws of Physics, and have taken to wearing very heavy shoes lest the law of gravity is repealed.
I was crap at German.
Mr Still was a glittering eccentric, whose clowning glory was the creation of the “German Song Club”, the most wonderfully extraordinary extra-curricular activity in the annals of Longslade, out-Butlinhamming Batterham. No one ever met anyone who was actually a member of the German song club. In the 1970’s they changed their name to “Black Sabbath” and enjoyed some commercial success.
I could have been British Ambassador in Berlin, instead, thanks to Mr. Still, I learned the phrase “Ich habe es nicht verstanden, konnen sie es wiederholen bitte?” for my oral examination in O level, and it is the only phrase of German I know. (But I can’t spell it).
I was crap at English (actually I was OK, but it would disrupt the flow of this article)
This man was the first PhD I ever came across. He was doctored while at Longslade, for writing a thesis on Chaucer. For a long time I could not understand what he was doing teaching in a secondary school, seeming somewhat out of touch with Youth. He was (or seemed) older than most of the staff, paced up and down the class room in squeaky shoes, and cracked jokes about Chaucer that were too erudite for even Chaucer to understand. He inspired a campaign by some of my contemporaries to claim that he was the sexiest man on earth, and the slogan “I love Dr. Adey” defaced many a desk. He never regularly taught me, but when he occasionally took my class, I really enjoyed his style. I think he took up a position as lecturer or professor in a Canadian University.
I could have been Martin Amis, instead, thanks to Dr. Adey, I find myself churning out drivel such as this.
I was crap at French.
Mrs Smith would enter the room, and typically say “Alors!” We would reply “Alors” (you see, it sounds a little like the way people in parts of Northern England say “Hello” – geddit?). This was the only humorous or interesting thing that ever happened in French lessons. I have since visited France. It is a pointless country, and nothing humorous or interesting happens there. If only I had listened to my teachers, I could have saved myself the trouble of going.
I could have gone to France and excelled in any field. Merci bien, Madame Smith.
I was crap at Chemistry.
This man should never have become a teacher. I think he was fundamentally shy, and never really seemed to keen to communicate anything. His failed experiments are referred to elsewhere on this site. I remember him getting some highly explosive compound (Of course I can’t remember what it was, I learned nothing in Chemistry), stuffing cotton wool in his ears, and hitting this substance with a long stick, and jumping about in shock every time it exploded. Thus was Morris Dancing invented.
I could have been (insert name of famous chemist – I learned nothing in Chemistry), instead, thanks to Mr. Morris, I find it difficult to dissolve sugar in tea.
I was good at geography.
So was everyone else. There were some magnificent teachers at Longslade, and this man is up there with the best of them. He was a tremendous communicator, and despite his Yorkshire origins had a wonderful sense of humour. Unfortunately, geography is a totally useless subject, and the hundreds of us who chose to study it because of the influence of Mr Liddle, found ourselves engrossed in the investigation of topics which bore absolutely no relevance to human existence. I think that the teaching of geography has now been criminalised nationally, at least, that is the impression I get from viewing the matching of cities, counties, states and countries to each other that I see in databases that I encounter in my professional life.
You see, I can not continue with “I could have been…” because no one ever, in any galaxy or parallel universe, let alone on the planet Earth, ever found a use for geography.
Another geography teacher, who was young and trendy (not necessarily a term of abuse). He had interests outside of geography – cycling and blues. Blues because realising that you are a geography teacher must be depressing, and cycling in a doomed attempt to find a use for geography (“I am going out on my bike, and I will be able to find my way back”).
Another of my favourites, a committed and enthusiastic guy who seemed to be more of a friend than a teacher. Like myself, a cynical lefty, who would be proud of my losing interest in academic pursuits, dropping out, becoming a drug-crazed hippy and failing to amount to anything in this world. Unfortunately, he can not take all of the credit for that.
I haven’t got any recollections of anything other than a personal nature. He was a splendid teacher, and very kind and helpful to me. He and his wife were friends of my parents. Because of the existence of this web site, I was able to track him down, and spoke to him recently after nearly 30 years. It was a real joy. I am happy to report that he seems to be in excellent spirits and health.