|Annexed huts in 1984, shortly before removal. The hut in question|
was next in line to the left, but was gone by the time I took the photo
Algebra was never my strong point. I wasn't helped by the
fact that I seemed immutably incapable of applying myself to subjects
in which I had no interest and, to me, algebra was far too abstract a con-
cept, the academic absorption of which contained no obvious benefits that
I could discern. Therefore, mastering the intricacies of a slide-rule lay be-
yond the meagre limits of my interest or abilities. I say "subjects in which
I had no interest", but that's simply because they failed to interest me -
the fault was therefore surely theirs (or the teachers who failed to
imbue them with that particular quality), not mine.
simply that I couldn't. Whenever I attempted to turn on the metaph-
orical tap from which intellectual waters should abundantly flow, no such
waters were forthcoming - only faint creaks, feeble groans and dry, dusty
puffs stirred in the internal water-pumps of my mind. Alas, I was a hope-
less case; except when it came to subjects that were accompanied by a
built-in set of jump-leads to kick-start my interest (or teachers who
made them interesting) - and algebra just wasn't one of them.
One day, in maths class, we were tasked with working out an
algebraic equation. I might as well have been given cuneiform tablets
and asked to translate them, such was the impossibility of the enterprise
set before me. A blind and deaf five year-old infant with an IQ of minus
300 would've had a far better chance of performing keyhole brain surgery
than I had of even comprehending what was being asked of me, far less ac-
complishing it. The teacher passed my desk a few times in his perambu-
lations around the room, and then, seeing my difficulty (but with no
offer of assistance), made it clear to me that if I hadn't worked it
out by lesson's end, I'd be in trouble.
|The space where the huts had been was left bare for many years,|
before, eventually, a different design of annexed 'huts' took their
place, but running 'longways' instead of 'sideways'
flickings, but no welcome beam of light cast its illumination over the
darkness of my incomprehension. I tried staring at the problem on the
blackboard in the earnest hope that sudden inspiration might strike, but
it was useless. You can't make a snowman without snow, and although,
when it came to algebra, my poor brain was as cold as ice, there was just
no snow to be found. When the bell rang at the end of the period, the
teacher, seeing that I hadn't completed the complex calculations,
dismissed the rest of the class and then ordered me to raise
my hands so that he could belt them.
I refused, of course. To be punished for not doing what I
was incapable of doing seemed immensely unfair to me, and I
said so. Not to be thwarted, the teacher took me over to the head-
master's office (Dr. COOK, as cold and as severe a man - despite his
claim of Christian convictions - as any celluloid Nazi officer you've ever
seen), who promptly ordered me to comply with the teacher's demands.
I was trotted back to the classroom in the annexed huts at the back of the
school, where, in the cloakroom, five or six over-enthusiastic whacks of
the tawse were administered upon my upturned palms. I can only as-
sume that he was a cricket fan, such was the run-up he took for each
stroke. Perhaps this was the part of his job that he enjoyed most;
in retrospect, a disproportionate number of these teachers
seemed to be sadists.
I've related in a previous post the magnificent and unbowed
manner in which I endured such punishment; I looked the teacher
straight in the eye and didn't flinch. Not for me the dropping down
or drawing back of my arms in a sad attempt to lessen the blows. My
palms remained upraised through each stroke; and 'though, no doubt,
my face (and hands) would've reddened slightly with the pain, unlike
other pupils, by sheer effort of will I refused to be reduced to a sniv-
elling, whimpering wreck. I'm not too modest to reveal that I yet
enjoy a sense of achievement at the way in which I thwarted
such attempts to humble and humiliate me.
|I only noticed the existence of these constructions|
in the last few years of the school's life. The photos
were taken around 2007, not long before complete
demolition of everything within school grounds
Anyway, it's no exaggeration to say that the teacher was
simply stunned by the staunch manner in which I had withstood
his assault. (And, nowadays, that's just how it would be regarded.)
Strange as it may sound, he seemed impressed, and suddenly adopted
a friendly, ingratiating manner. Putting his arm 'round my shoulder, he
walked me over to the door, saying: "Gordon, I only did that with great
reluctance and for your own good. I don't get any pleasure out of it, but
I know you've got it in you to do far better in this subject than you do.
I'm only trying to encourage you to achieve your full potential."
Okay, that's unlikely to be a verbatim account of his words (it's
been over 40 years, after all), but you can be assured that
it's pretty much the gist of it.
I no longer recall his name or I would readily identify him
for your righteous condemnation. He was of a slightly weathered
appearance, with steely-eyes, a determined jawline and wiry hair. I
can still see him in my mind's eye, and I've a feeling that he resembled
an actor, who, if I could only remember which one, I'd include a picture
to give you all a clearer idea of what he looked like. In fact, on reflection,
he was roughly in the same mould as a middle-aged SPENCER TRACY,
but with hair of a darker hue (with hints of grey). I'm not saying they
were twins, mind, only that they were similar. Couldn't say whether
ol' Spence likewise enjoyed inflicting pain on adolescent
schoolboys, but I'd consider it unlikely.
So there you have it! Yet another Schooltime Scandal from
the dim and distant days of my journey through the hallowed halls
of Academia. Have you had enough? Then say "We submit!" and
hand over all your tuck-shop and dinner-money!