Saturday 21 October 2017

Fwd: Fw: OWT 96 October 2017

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EDITORIAL   2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Wyvernians, and hopefully we will reach OWT100 during that year.  We have come a long way since that first informal evening at The Harrow, Thurmaston.  I remember it well for a couple of reasons.  I had made myself a name badge on a lanyard, and when I visited the gents a youngish chap at the next urinal commented, 'Oh look, it's Paddington Bear.'  I did not know (and still don't) whether he was making an innocent joke or trying to provoke me.  Whatever, I merely smiled weakly, finished what I was doing and made what I hoped was a dignified exit.  Second, when I booked the room I had not realised it would clash with a major annual event at my place of work - stocktaking. This was a major event, all hands on deck, no excuses.  We were taking our dog for a walk when Stephanie said, 'Won't that school reunion clash with the stocktaking weekend?'  Too late to alter the date, so I had no alternative but to go cap in hand to my boss.  Fortunately we had an excellent relationship and the matter was glossed over, but my colleagues were not so happy.  Strange what things we remember.
OBITUARIES   The following was received from Mike Ratcliff   I have to report the death of Robert (Bob) Rhodes who was in the same year as myself.  We were at CBS 1958-64, then we found ourselves on the same HND course in electrical and electronic engineering at Leicester Poly.  In subsequent years we both spent time working at Taylor Hobson, and for a few years actually worked together.  Bob died in September 2017.
Alan Lancashire (1938-45)  Passed away August 2017
Mick Morgan (1958-63)  Passed away August 19th 2017
The following was received from Dave Winter (1960-67)   I don't know if you know about this already but I've just learned of the untimely death of Martyn Heighton. He was in the year above us and I think he was head boy, too. I remember him playing the Mayor in the school production of The Government Inspector, with Michael Kitchen as Khlestakov, the 'government inspector' himself.  It was a Tony Baxter production….1963 or 64 I should think.  Haven't got the programme, alas.  I bet someone has, though. He clearly had a very successful career, though, judging by the obituary in the St Johns College Cambridge magazine.  Martin passed away November 6th 2016
FROM SIMON PARTRIDGE  1966-72   (Continuing Simon's memoirs - Ed)  Mr Wardle could have asked if I had spent too much time socialising in the rear lounge bar of The Magazine, Newarke Street, which was quite a lively place.  The bar at the front was occupied by the likes of Dave Burrows, Bomber Bayes, Eddie Gadd, Geoff Campion etc and was very lively.  Burrows was a fine soccer player with an equally good sense of humour.  Geoff was well-read and highly intelligent, as well as being proof positive that not all the most able pupils were to be found in the alpha stream.  We shared an appreciation of the rather esotoric Incredible String Band, who seemed to play quite regularly in Leicester at that time.  In the second year VIth (1970-71) The Princess Charlotte became a very important watering hole, but this was before it became a small but serious music venue.  The rear bar of the Charlotte could not be seen from the street, which made it ideal for extended drinking and card games.  The Town Arms was used to a lesser extent, whereas The Rutland and Derby was popular with Wyggeston.  And as for Yates Wine Lodge, the less said the better!  Finally there was also music at the polytechnic, university or De Montfort Hall.  Sadly I was too young to attend the Il Rondo in Silver Street.  At the poly, on May 8th 1971, Rod Stewart and the Faces, Atomic Rooster and Sam Apple Pie played at the May Ball.  This was on a stage built out from one of the floors of a teaching block, and the audience stood watching from a lawn enclosed by a quadrangle.  Bruce Bennett, Head Boy, was in attendance.  It was warm and still, and the sound percolated along the Soar Valley giving rise to complaints from Birstall and other places that Rod Stewart could be clearly heard there.
Mr Wardle was correct in his assesment of me (See OWT95) For most he will be associated with his trademark apology, Sorry, wrong room, that is until the day finally came when the classroom door flew open to Sorry, right room, WRONG FLOOR!  Here I was, almost nineteen, and retaking Religious Education and Geography  (Economics was a non-starter in the third year VIth, which I always knew was never going to be a success)  November 25th 1971, Led Zeppelin played the Percy Gee building at Leicester University, and things became even better when in the last week of the year I was given a place at the then City of Cardiff College of Education.  I thanked EJWB and was gone from CBS, where Tony Baxter had ensured I had the vital maths 'O' Level - and some acting experience, which was to become equally helpful.  Due to illness I did not arrive in Cardiff until two weeks after term had begun.  I had been assured by one of my teachers that a college of education would suit me down to the ground, and warned there was not much depth to the work but there would be lots of it - far more than at university.  My problem was New Testament Greek, had I been able to start at the beginning of term it would have made no difference.  Geoff Elliott had already performed a near miracle by getting me through French 'O' level, which he felt would be border line.  To avoid New Testament Greek I decided to change my first main subject to Drama, at the same time retaining Religious Education which I was destined to teach.  The latter was studied as an additional main subject which no longer required NT Greek.  I enjoyed the acting, theory, theatre history and literature, which included ten thousand words on Serjeant Musgrave's Dance.  That raised a few eyebrows as I had chosen a single play, not a selection of the chosen playwright's work.
The most galling experience was working for BBC2 as an extra.  We spent a whole evening as part of a crowd trying to enter a Welsh chapel to hear Evan Roberts, a preacher.  The £5 fee would have paid for ten nights' drinking in the student union  bar, but as most of us were in receipt of a grant the college sequestered the entire fee.
My first job was as head of RE in a Cardiff comprehensive. This was not as grand as it sounds, because the school was closed six years later, which was not altogether a bad thing.  It was an interesting school, one which had been unable to appoint a head of RE.  The head teacher had contacted the college, and the faculty head explained he was not going to send any of the thirty six girls for interview (out of sensitivity and human decency, not sexism)  Of the three boys, one had failed, one was going to teach PE, the other was me!  I turned up with a hangover, it being the end of finals, got the job and was driven into Cardiff by an officer of the authority to complete the application form  (To be continued - Ed)
FROM RICH WAKEFIELD  1961-68   (In OWT95 I said I did not get the joke about the Latin word DUM)  The Latin lesson.  Quite simply the man entered for our first-ever Latin lesson and bellowed the word DUM (Latin for WHILE)  This was greeted with blank looks, so the master picked on one pupil, called him DUMB (Same pronunciation, different meaning) and turfed him out.
FROM BRIAN COPE  1954-62  The culture of a boys' grammar school was certainly very distinctive. Music was a case in point. I recall that when grammar schools were abandoned more or less overnight in Nottingham, the cultural impact  was marked - the classical pianist of the old GS in one instance replaced by a guitar-strummer in sandals in the new community comprehensive.
On the other hand it meant that someone like Bill Sykes was unlikely to have had a job in the new dispensation. I lasted one lesson with him, when as soon as he discovered a pitch less than perfect I was sent to the back of the class to dwell on the imperfection of French verbs. Thank goodness the rest of the staff did not follow his 'educational' prescription, otherwise the corridors would have been filled with French Irregulars whilst maths and science teachers focused on their Oxbridge Scholarship candidates!
My memories mainly revolve around sport. My proudest achievement was to be skipper of the team which bowled out E M Wright's X1 for 57 and went on to win by 9 wickets. Their team contained a clutch of Mundens so no mean feat. I was a novelty bowler and a batting nurdler who was lucky enough (on account of age merely) to hold the fort between two outstanding cricketers, Whitelam and Davenport. Pressed into service as an opener, what a pleasure it was to watch Davenport quietly take oppositions apart with his mental strength and silky cover drives. (It was no surprise to find later that he had settled in Bradman's Adelaide)
There were only two co-educational experiences available on the premises - the school play, where real girls gradually took over from bewigged male adolescents and -where I was involved- the inter-school debating society held in our library once a month, when speakers from all the Leicester grammar schools took part. A History teacher from Gateway, Mr Bond, and I ran the show.  I have no idea whether it lasted long after we left. I remember Garth Pratt from Wyggeston, whom we all assumed would be PM one day, and Delia Balls from Collegiate who caused many a flutter.
FROM ALAN MERCER  1959-63  (STAFF)   As it was my first job I greatly appreciated the examples set by older teachers.  But there was one I didn't take up.  Mr (Chas) Howard never checked his addition of pupils' marks at the end of each term.  In his words, 'I don't need to check them because I never get it wrong.'
FROM KEITH HILL  1954-62   Henry IV Part 2 is still my favourite Shakespeare play.  It was our school play in April 1957, and I was Doll Tearsheet. 'Does your mother know what kind of woman you're playing, Hill?' asked Ron Smith,  the history master, as he applied make-up just before the first performance.  The penny then dropped, but only to some extent.  I was an extremely naive thirteen-year-old in 4 Alpha.  Although she had kindly provided me with a padded bra for a bosom, and a thigh garter for my knife, I'm not sure my mother knew either.  When we took the play to Krefeld, the mother of the family I stayed with certainly did.  'You are a lady of the night,' she said with a twinkle in her eye. I admit that I did perform the part with some gusto. I remember depicting a heart shape with my feet as I lay across Sir John Falstaff's chest embracing him.  In Germany this provoked our headmaster E J W Ernie Bell into appealing to me: 'I say, Hill old chap, could you tone it down a little?' Our producer, George Franey, overheard this and was incandescent. 'Don't take any notice of him' he said to me, and I am sure he added 'Silly man'  The play is dominated by two commanding figures: Henry IV and Falstaff. Tom Williams, with his sonorous bass voice, played Henry ('Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown'). As a prefect his speaking of the Lord's Prayer could be heard above all others at morning assembly. I remember asking him if he was very religious. 'I hate mumbling"'he replied. Tony Baxter was a towering Falstaff, an amazing performance from an 18-year old about to go up to Cambridge.

Falstaff's immortal opening line in the play is 'Sirrah, you giant, what says the doctor to my water?' The 'giant' in question was his page, played by Steve Buckley. Steve went on to study fine art at Durham University and became a distinguished contemporary artist. One of his paintings, Dancers, was purchased by the Government Art Collection. When I was appointed the nation's housing minister in 2003 I had this huge and lovely canvas hung on my office wall. I invited Steve, then Professor of Fine Art at the University of Reading, to visit my rooms in the Old Admiralty Building in Whitehall, and we spent a convivial evening contemplating his great work.  What an ensemble we were – the denizens of the Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap: Richard Makins as Mistress Quickly and Tom Williams (again) as Ancient Pistol; and the Country Justices Silence and Shallow. Silence ('Alas, a black ousel') was played by Richard Paynter and Shallow ('Jesu, Jesu, the mad days that I have spent') by the excellent John Page. Tragically my friend Richard Paynter died of peritonitis on 6 November 1957. For many of us this was our first experience of premature death. His headstone is by the porch of St Luke's Church in Thurnby.

Despite this sad association, I clearly have the warmest memories of my first school play. I remain very grateful to George Franey and the school for giving me the opportunity of so many great parts in so many stellar school productions: Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream, de Stogumber in Saint Joan, blind Tobit in Tobias and the Angel, and Sir Oliver Surface in School for Scandal. There are some who might say this was good training for my later career. It is true that from time to time I would startle my civil servants by telling them 'It's all showbiz, after all'! (Keith Hill PC was the Labour Member of Parliament for Streatham 1992-2010)

AND FINALLY...   My sorry career at CBS, involving truancy, lies and deceit, has been well-documented in these pages.  For the benefit of newer readers, by the spring term of 1960 I had been demoted from 1 Alpha to 1A This followed a meeting between my parents and Mr Bell, and it was hoped I would find the going easier.  But the die had been cast, and my reputation preceded me.  Demoralised and ashamed, I was soon demoted to the B stream.  Looking back, as I have done many times over the years, it is obvious I was my own worst enemy.  Always a secretive and solitary child (characteristics which, to a lesser extent, have followed me into adulthood) I confided my problems to no one.  Not my parents, nor my brother and sister, not the teachers.  Perhaps, in these more enlightened times, someone would realise I was struggling.  'Poor little chap, what's the matter?'  But in 1959 we were expected to be made of sterner stuff, and whilst I did need help everyone simply thought I was bone idle!  So the first, second and third years were not much fun, though things did improve in the fourth and fifth years.  Looking back, there were a lot of good times as well as bad.  Forging excuse notes for games, which usually meant a pleasant afternoon in the library.  I hated team sports, but quite enjoyed cross country.  I had written a 'permanently-excused' note for swimming, so was able to sit on the balcony at Vestry Street baths every week.  Surely Jock Gilman was not really taken in!  The lunchtime Crusaders meetings, run by Alan Mercer, were a highlight.  In 5F the last period on Fridays was geography with Ken Witts, who was always in a good mood presumably in anticipation of the weekend.  It was a nice way to finish the week.  One of the sixth formers came to school in a bubble car, which could be driven on a motor cycle licence.  He was allowed to park it in the little yard by the entrance to the canteen, where Mr Franklin parked his blue and white Fiat 1500.  Watched by a crowd of boys waiting for first-sitting lunch the sixth former fired up the bubble car, which to his consternation failed to move.  A couple of boys has lifted the rear end off the ground!

Dennis J Duggan  October 16th 2017