EDITORIAL Apologies for the late distribution of this OWT, but other matters have occupied my attention over the past few weeks.
For my money the top man was without doubt the redoubtable Ken Witts. Ken was, for me, a formidable presence and certainly not a man to give trouble to. I recall once, ill-advisedly, doing just that and I never did it again. But I respected him and learned well under his tutelage. He seemed to be up-to-speed with developments in his field (geography.- see what I did there?) and in my view put information across in a very straightforward and easily absorbed way. Like many however, I did question his rather avant-garde way of pronouncing The Himalayas, but notice that his pronunciation now seems the accepted one!
I recall whilst in 5F our form room, on the top floor of the science block at Downing Drive, was the Geography room. Ken was concerned at the speed with which stationery was evaporating from the store cupboard, so at the beginning of a lesson, when he heard furtive rustlings from the cupboard, he moved with the stealth of a panther approaching an unwary antelope and shut and locked the door. Clearly he had caught a suspect and made an academic arrest. Not many seconds later the stillness of the room was shattered by rattling and shouting. Ken opened the door to release a flustered and embarrassed Geography teacher number 2 - if memory serves me rightly, Dave Gilyean
The other teacher I rated almost as highly is the splendid Stanley Ras Berry... I had a piece about him in here before, but he truly set the seeds for changing my life for the better. My previous piece related to the time we were studying Emma by Jane Austen. The good man said how funny a passage was and read it out to a set of blank uncomprehending faces. We didn't see the funny side, he was non-plussed and abandoned the lesson there and then. For reasons I don't recall, I was doing English Literature for' A' level despite reading nothing except for Charles Buchan's Football Annual and the Beano. However the lessons this man gave led to my developing a huge love of Ms Austen's work, as well as many other classic writers and poets. I have loved literature in all forms ever since, and thank him for planting that love in my heart.
Finally a true maverick, a character, a one-off, in Brian Scott. In the 6th form I studied Latin. Now if you don't know, the Latin word dum means while. That is relevant!!! The first lesson, there were five rather nervous, not to say bemused, pupils sitting in the room as the aforementioned Brian Scott sailed majestically in bellowing "Dum... Dum... you're dumb, Smith... get out and wait in the corridor" Now the boys name wasn't Smith, I know what it was, who he was, but will not reveal it here. He then told the shocked survivors of that opening what Dum meant, and proceeded with the lesson. (I don't get it - Ed) He must have done a great job, because at the end of the year i came away with an 'O' level and a rather respectable grade
mass to a string of retrospective hits by The Shadows. 'Apache', anyone? By 5A, there was much reminiscing: a (supply your own grave) la recherche du temps perdu. Was this a symbol of maturity and reflection? It was possibly not, since some of us made a fleeting homage to the DeMont for the bill which included The Nashville Teens ('Tobacco Road') and The Animals ('House of the Rising Sun') but only as support for Chuck Berry (a late addition to the programme) and the 'legendary' Carl Perkins). In to the first year in the sixth form, with the redoubtable Steve Mellor (alright, mate?), the original rocker on his motorbike. We vacillated between Brit stuff and US black genres. At the back of the classroom was a little store cupboard which contained, of all things, a record player. Vinyl was brought in and listened to at any opportunity, not least The Kinks. In another entirely variant adventure, a large group frequently ventured out by bus to The County Arms at Blaby, where the standard fare was Soul (Ben E. King, 'What is soul?') I guess we were all heterodox. 'Black is black' was not quite apposite; we were all imbued with that little bit of black ('Say it once, say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud', The Commitments). One consequence was the general response to Ding Dong's invitation to a representative from the South African Embassyto address the sixth form about apartheid ('separate development'), which ranged from rational hostility (Dave Winter) to quiet bemusement ('What is this guy on about?'). (Ding Dong had some minor teaching engagement for the sixth formers on current affairs). Then another transition occurred in the second year of the sixth form: We all became Mods, in the vanguard Geoff Pullan (renowned centre forward). How far were we all duped? The anthem of The Who, 'My Generation', seems now dissimulation. 'Hope to die before I get old'? I suspect that, like me, Geoff has become an old codger. In acknowledgment, however, he also favoured The Small Faces, inspired by the late Steve Marriott. I do remember being admonished by Geoff as we attempted on the bus into town to sell tickets to the convent girls (the context must remain obscured). Geoff was one of my close friends at school, but he was equalled by that footballing legend, Bill Dixey, the advocate of real Blues, constantly evoking Big Bill Broonzy - in the same sentence as Leibnitz (or was it Spinoza?). Whilst we conformed to the crowd, Bill was sui generis. What does this random, self-absorbed narrative mean for life at CBS? I tcertainly indicates some amour-propre, some of the chip on the shoulder, the revolt against the cultural imposition of a dominant institution: the faux renegade, of which there were many (sales of stale cakes, anyone? nipping off to the bowling alley?) More importantly, it reveals how our lives were joyously enhanced in the face of educational adversity by the camaraderie of small groups, affinities which worked outside thecurriculum. Those figurations (Norbert Elias) changed constantly, but were vital support networks. For many of us, learning at CBS was a permanent challenge, one often not successfully met, and it is to those mates that we owe our negotiation of the difficulties: through collective avoidance, resistance, and occasional collaboration. I salute you all in retrospect. If there is a god (probably not), may he bless you. Play the music.
I noted a number of passed names in OWT 94 and all are recorded in the database, as follows: Leonard HARRISON, attended from September 1939 until July 1944, Terence Bernard WILSON, attended from September 1944 until June 1949, Raymond John WINTERTON, attended from September 1952 until July 1956, Martyn John HEIGHTON, attended from September 1958 until July 1965 .If anybody wants that database (as an .xls file) then I will be happy to forward it by email (contact - firstname.lastname@example.org) I do not recall now who painstakingly converted all of those record cards (viewable at most recent reunions) but the spreadsheet keeps on answering queries. I hope to see all again next year.