Before the complaints come trickling in. The apostrophe IS in its rightful place.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Bear with me. I am writing this in Spain in a ‘Cyber Cafe’. A vile and loathesome place peopled by well-off, but badly-behaved and foul-mouthed delinquent Spanish teenagers, and (forgive me, for some of my best friends are …) surly Poles and Rumanians. I can hardly hear myself think above the din of Air Hockey, Pool and Table Football; and the associated arguments and squabbles. I am tempted to keep the lot of them back at the end of the evening until they can show me how to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. It will be their own time they are wasting … So if I’m not up to my razor-sharp best there’s the reason.
I’ve been in Spain and I’ve been thinking a lot about Clive.
Clive loved Spain.
He died out here, suddenly just over a year ago. I worked with him: or at least taught at the same school as him for 10 years or so. I miss him terribly. We weren’t ‘Best Pals’ but we did spend a lot of time together. Like many others we fought against half-baked thinking and the inadequate grasp of fundamentals in education, nay in human relationships, and especially so when it came from the unleavened Mrs Fajita. (See ‘Dopey Cow’) Hapless management, more so in later years, made our day, but at what cost?
We shared some of the same interests in music, although it has to be said we didn’t agree on everything. On another note, I have forgiven him for, unbeknown to me, turning my trusty WEM Dominator amp off while he did some acoustic numbers at a social do in the school hall. We then took to the stage where I spent the first eight bars trying to work out why my amp or guitar: one or the other, was goosed.
‘It was ‘Buzzing” he said.
‘It’s a 1970s British valve amp.’ I said ‘ It’s what they do!‘
Ooooooh I was cross with him.
I enjoyed his blog ‘Going to the Dogs in Swindon’, while Clive was complimentary about my writing (if not my spelling) which meant a great deal to me and gave me the confidence push it on a bit … come to think of it, he has a lot to answer for …
We were tutors in the same (Sixth form) year group. I remember a right old day out in Southsea. Ostensibly, a Sixth Form end of term trip, we skidaddled straight away and during the course of the afternoon – this is before the arrival of my uninvited guest of course* – drank a bucketful of beer, ate the second largest plate of fish and chips I’ve ever seen (It takes a lot to beat the Waterford Arms at Seaton Sluice) chewed the fat more than somewhat, and ended up on some hideous ride/torture machine at the funfair. By then, we had met up with other staff, who though sober, still accompanied us. Poor Denise B. I’ve never seen anyone go soooo green
Then there was that memorable day in Valencia. Of all the people over the years who have said ‘I’ll pop across and see you, I’m only in Javea/Denia/Xativa/Valencia/Almeria/Extremadura/Santiago de Compostella/Wherever ….’ Clive and Sue (and Tim Brown) were the only ones who ever did – come to us I mean. We ate paella (which, if you have never had the real thing you have no idea …) To round off the day, I gave our eldest a dollar for the fruit machine, and he won the bloody jackpot ¡Ay caramba!
He loved the Simpsons, and in particular, Homer’s half-witted, lugbrious attempts to be a real father; wholly the opposite of Clive . I remember descriptions of his readings of bed time stories from ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ which were gripping enough to ‘reel – in’ neighbourhood kids and passers-by!
We laughed at the same kinds of things, both of us unashamedly cynical. But he never let his … ‘worldliness’ let’s call it, cloud his teaching. He was a great teacher to those who were prepared to listen – and often those who weren’t ….
Clive turned me on to Irvine Welsh, (when he was good) ‘The Watchmen’, which I read cover to cover. Not bad for someone who hates comic-books, while I used to love hearing his tale of how he booked Paul Simon to play at the folk club he ran in Swindon. I assume this must have been 1965, when Simon was living over here. As Clive recalled, it was not long after this that with Art Garfunkel, (Quick check – yes it is spelt like that) he began to achieve his first major success.
Anyway, the story I am about to relate is true, and it happened at a West London/Middlesex secondary comprehensive during a friday morning staff meeting (A time when most present were still actually in a deep state of unconsciousness) Not Clive. No, I think Clive had been preparing himself for some time for that particular morning’s meeting; one which was to be chaired by the school’s First Deputy, Greg Hill.
Now, the reason that the responsibility for the weekly staff meeting – indeed the whole school, lay in Greg’s capable hands was that Headteacher, Dick Duggan, a man of principle and honour (if also worryingly long sideburns and crispy fried seaweed comb-over) was not in school, but attending the Hillingdon Association of Secondary Headteachers’ conference. Or ‘HASH’ as it was known. (I swear I’m not making this up)
Calling the meeting to order, with a most unfortunate turn of phrase which he to this very day swears blind was unintentional, Greg booms out:
‘Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dick’s out’
To which, quick as a flash Clive replied:
‘Is that an order?’
Now, I don’t know whether you have ever seen a teacher spontaneously awake from a profound slumber; let alone half a roomful. It is not a pretty sight. It’s very funny, as those awake enough to get the joke first time – then watch the spectacle of their colleagues variously choking on dentures, hot tea, coffee, spilling same over weeks’ worth of marking, exam papers and in one or two cases even wetting themselves – will attest. Very, very funny.
But it is not a pretty sight.
Staff meetings, like assemblies are always worth staying awake for (if you can) in my experience, as it is often at these gatherings that you can make the ‘catch of the day’ And so, there you have it. A priceless moment from one of many. Sadly missed. Clive, this is for you with the hope that we may one day chew the fat again like we did down at Southsea.
I’ve looked at Life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s Life illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all
© 1973 Warner Bros
*Parkinson’s – if you are still trying to figure it out
© Andy Daly 2011