Tuesday, 3 January 2012

You, boy!

The world outside is working its way through elemental costume changes today. Howling winds, skies collapsing in heaps of grey, and slanted rain too over-the-top for any gothic hero to face. So it's a good day for reading, especially my neglected blog list. At first, Tim Footman's post raised a smile, but out of the murky roots of Ronald Searle's humour, a few ghosts materialised from my own schooldays.

When I hear myself telling a tale of how I had my ears boxed, witnessed classroom comics being dragged from seats by their hair, turned away as a sadistic Maths teacher took a run up to slipper boys backsides with a size ten, even I remain slightly sceptical. Surely, somehow, time has tricked me. The distance across all those years has afforded me room to exaggerate. But, no, unfortunately my recollections are all too accurate.

The twisting of my ear for chewing in a biology lesson was executed perfectly, like an artist signing off a piece of work. The Master in question, a former member of an RAF bomber crew and pugilist of some note, regarded it his duty to prise potential out of his classes, with hard discipline. If it couldn't be twisted, poked, or slapped free, there was always humiliation. Snide references to an awkward boy's pubescent physique would draw forth more than enough earth-swallowing embarrassment to do the job.

Those who compiled the tables of grips and tortures at my old Secondary Modern, were definitely more Scarfe than Searle.


  1. Oh yes those days definitley existed. I remember a master who actually picked up a boy (aged about twelve) and put him in a square metal paper bin - bottom first! The same teacher took the contents of my friend’s pencil case and emptied them out on her desk. Now why do I remember those events? I also remember some of the pupils being horribly cruel and bullying to some teachers and reducing them to nervous wrecks. These days we can’t even offer a small child a cuddle or a comforting pat on the hand because it would be misconstrued.

  2. Little Nell - I remember at least two teachers who were reduced to tears. One of them, a sweet man, later had a breakdown. In the interest of balance, I can also recall one or two inspirational members of staff. But mainly we were saddled with an 'old guard' who, in fairness to them, probably had ongoing issues related to their war experiences.

  3. I went to close to a dozen schools while growing up, and while I will never forget two specific teachers who singled me out for humiliation, I am grateful that I did not have the teacher my sister did, who pushed her down every chance she had...


  4. I remember one teacher who used to throw the wooden blackboard rubber at unruly kids. Another who used to publicly berate and humiliate a girl with learning difficulties, until her father came in and gave him a thump.

    It wasn't just the teachers though. There was one girl who had a thing for the art teacher. Not quite sure what happened there but she burned the art class down. And another teenage boy who beat up a male teacher.

    I went to a rough school too. LOL

  5. I have to say that going to school in America in the 1960s and 1970s we were never hit or pinched by our teachers - but sometimes humiliated. And it went both ways. One friend of mine shocked me when she said that on her last day of high school she'd put dog poo on the door handle of her most hated teacher's classroom.

  6. I too remember seeing a teacher take a run-up before striking a pupil... Teacher's were provided with a regulation 'strap' a piece of thick brown leather about the thickness of a saddle girth, evil!

  7. Sounds horrible :( I only remember one particularly stressed teacher (a nun, would you believe it - it was a long time ago) who lost the plot and chucked a nylon string guitar across our room and started yelling and ranting.


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