Why am I being diffident?
It’s now obvious to me after the last two posts, that I’m actually putting off the inevitable. I don’t know whether by cowardice or shame or both. Perhaps looking for excuses and reasons for my behaviour that are not there, what I do know is that after starting this project I have no alternative but to finish it honestly and truthfully. In the last two, and this one I’m looking to give some insight as to what set me on the course I was given to steer. I’ll try and keep this lot as concise as possible but can’t guarantee anything, I’ve got a peripatetic brain that won’t sit still, likes to keep travelling.
Everything considered I think perhaps my secondary education was not exactly a happy time,I was compelled to participate in sport; cricket in summer, Rugby in winter, plus a PT session every week. The only thing I really enjoyed about those events was the lovely hot showers in the winter after rugger; the cold ones in summer after cricket didn’t do much for me. Like it or lump it I had to turn out for rugby training and I got put into various positions by the PT master but didn’t exactly impress.
Bertie Bright (Mr. J B Bright the Science Master and Deputy Head) just happened to be the House Master of “Red/Sheffield” and whilst watching training late one afternoon told the PT fellow to shove me in at ‘full back’. Nobody argued with Bertie. I found out much later why he did this to me after I’d become a sort of side kick to him, he told me that he thought I was a lazy player who wouldn’t move after the ball, but if I was the last line of defence and someone was running at me with the ball, I’d have to do something about it and stop him, especially as the other 14 boys on the team would be watching and I’d have to answer to them if I let the side down.
This is as good a time as any I suppose to explain the side kick; I’m not sure how it got started but Mr Bright (Bertie behind his back but no one game to his face) was a driving force, one of his passions was the ”Old Boy’s” Amateur Dramatic Society, of which he was the principle director, producer, actor, stage manager lighting expert, and whatever else was needed, and it must have been during one of our science classes when he asked/called for a volunteer to give him a bit of a hand after school and I naturally volunteered. I can’t help myself. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
At the final bell for the day I presented myself at the school hall as instructed and we went backstage and he got me to give him a hand painting some scenery, he had “A Midsummer Nights Dream” coming up and was a bit behind and was having trouble getting any of the old boys to come give him a hand. the painting didn’t need to be Rembrandt quality as from the audience it usually looked good.
So I had a fine old time and when I got home and told my mother why I was late she was really pleased with me for some reason and told me that if he needed me again I could stay as late as he required. It got to be that some nights I’d get home from school after nine close to ten, and everyone was happy, especially me. It got me out of doing classes that I abhorred, metal/wood work; I’d just get into those classooms and Bertie’s head would appear around the door if he didn’t have a class, and he’d just say ” I need Smith” and off he’d go, I’d get the nod from the teacher and in great glee would be off to join Bertie backstage.
We had a brilliant school hall, A proper stage complete with cyclorama, batten, lights, curtains, flats and fly’s we had the lot. The stalls could take around 350/400 and the Dress Circle another 150 or so and we always had packed houses. I never appeared on stage, there was always plenty that Bertie had for me to do backstage which suited me fine, He was the star ⭐ . There was one production we did I’ll never forget, not a great play “The Ghost Train”, just a one act play with Bertie in the starring role of the stationmaster of course. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ghost_Train_%28play%29).
One of the final scenes is the ‘Ghost Train ‘ roaring through the railway station (it’s not a train station, it’s a railway station!) and he had to come up with a train carriages lights flashing by the waiting room windows. We constucted a couple of small windmill type things, a wooden cross with a square panel nailed to the top of each point, bit like a double paddle anyway the idea was we’d squat down below the windows, have the sound runnng of a train approaching fast and start spinning the wheels which were set in front of a strip light, in practice it worked a treat. Bertie was not in this scene so he manned the stage right paddles and I manned the stage left, he also threw the switch on/off the lighting to give the impression, he’d give me the nod and we’d swing our wheel/paddle things in unison and the train would roar through the station. What a lot of fun we had.
Anyway the first night something happened that we weren’t prepared for; as the train roars through the station one of the women stranded in the waiting room screams picks up an axe or hammer I forget which, (and why was there one of these in the waiting room anyway? ), and she hurls it through a window, Now as we were working on a very limited budget we never threw the weapon through the glass window during rehersals, there was only the one actual glass window the rest were cellophane or something I forget now, and we had 2 replacements, the production was scheduled for 3 nights.
So I’m sitting under the window, Bertie gives me the nod we both start spinning, the train starts roaring, the woman screams and hurls the hammer whatever through the glass window and guess who’s sqautting right under it! Yes me, I got showered with the glass and clunked on the head and kept going til Bertie switched the lights off, he whispered are you alright and I nodded and he went back onstage. never had so much fun in my life. For the last two performances I squatted beneath the window wearing a fireman’s helmet. I liked and respected Mr Bright above all others and I suspect he liked me too, not that he’d ever have said.
“I need Smith” was enough.
There was one other teacher at the ‘Park’ who I got on with, a Mr Grey, for some ridiculous reasons the boys gave him the nickname “Pinky’ (which would not have had today’s meaning I’m sure). Mr Grey was our French Master and even in his class which I enjoyed I had my usual position, back row left corner, a position I had taken as mine from the very beginning. I didn’t like being right in front, there were those that did who liked to stick their hands/arms up in the air “please sir” cheee..
On this particular morning/afternoon I can’t recall which exactly I was pretty tired and not paying much attention, I normally did during the lesson with Mr. G. he was a good Master and taught well, called out to ask what I was doing, and I mumbled about having been out very late I was feeling tired. He wanted to know what and why I’d been out late for and I told him that I’d been to the opera with my Uncle Charlie and it was really late when I got home and I was still trying to catch on my sleep, I really loved my bed back then; “Went to the opera”! I think those words must have shook him, a boy from ‘Park Modern’ going to the opera? I’m sure he thought I was having a dig at him so he held me back at the bell.
I assured him that what I’d said was true and I’d been to the opera with Uncle Charlie and I’d loved it but was still tired out. So I had to tell him all about my first time and I wrote a blog about that sometime ago; (https://lordbeariofbow.com/2012/04/08/the-opera-my-first-visit/ ) so if you want the gen on that there’s the link
After this he seemed to take more interest in me, and when I went to more operas and told him about them and how much I enjoyed going we enjoyed a good chat together most times after class if we had free time. He was a bit sneaky, every now and then he’d break into French and start conversing in that language, I knew I was doing pretty well in the subject but this was a bit rich. It got to the stage where I became quite good and that’s probably the reason I got the offer as exchange student with a French child; which my mother negated! 😥 I did top the school in my final year in this subject my % being in excess of 50 of the runner up.
What a waste!
Enough of this time for me to get back to the series which I’ve been putting off; just a few more highs before the fall!