An English Teacher.

Into each life there comes someone special. In my case it was an English teacher I had in my last year at school, a character and brain of note.

So here I was in darkest Africa at secondary school and a very hard place it was. However I had now grown past the terrible new boy status and was in my fourth year when I really began to get to know this teacher. Up until then I had had very little to do with him, although had lot’s do with his lovely wife who taught, or tried to teach, young boys music. Now there must have been a frustrating experience? But I digress, so back to Harold.

Now as a prelude one has to understand that Harold was streaks ahead of his time, as far as teachers were concerned in those days. He didn’t believe in beating boys with canes for their misdemeanour’s, amongst many other things, for a start. He was a very good looking man and exceptionally bright, teaching Latin and English to the older boys in the school and those with some semblance of a brain. He also had the most peculiar walk I have ever seen. Akin to military marching back to front. So the left foot and the left arm went out in tandem together, followed by the right arm and leg in the same sequence. Oh, lo, alas all slightly out of time and sync. Does this mean he was ambidextrous?

Now I got to know him at this time as he was the third team cricket coach and as a fourth year lad playing cricket, albeit I should have been playing first’s (well I should), but, unfortunately had had a rather chequered school career till this time and the teachers were still in the pay back mode. All except Harold of course who never had a mean bone in his body. Now third team cricket was a passion in Harold’s life and they hadn’t lost a game in all the time he was coach and he was ‘dead’ proud of this. Whether of course this was due to the exceptional skills of the boys and coach, or to the coach’s sometimes dodgy (in times of acute peril), umpiring decisions, is of course open to debate?

So a classic example. We were playing Milton our biggest rivals and their opening bat was approaching his hundred, fast running out of partners and only one man left to bat. The game was almost theirs, so some fast thinking was needed. Said batsmen then faced a delivery wide of off stump. He went back on his right foot at the same time lifting his bat and letting the ball through. It missed pads, bat and stumps by the proverbial mile. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on which side you were on. The ball was taken cleanly without a bounce by our wicket keeper, the legendary Butch Ogilvie and a raucous cry of ‘HOWZAT’ was heard. Furious the Milton bat swung around and was berating poor old Butch. Fate intervened in the form of Harold. Now whether this was because he was making up for a dodgy decision by the opposing umpire against us? Or whether he was ‘dreaming of another time, a foreign place, the shifting image in a half remembered face’, and Butch’s raucous appeal had woken him from his reverie, God alone knows, but, the finger went up. The Milton batsmen was still berating Butch, who could see past him to the blissful finger going up so received the laconic reply. “On your horse boerewors.”

Startled and shocked the Milton bat swung around and saw the dreaded finger. Now Milton lads must be made of sterner stuff than we, because he silently and without protest took the long walk home to the pavilion. Harold promptly gave the next man in out on the first ball he faced, LBW. Oh what splendid times they were and thirds cricket had won yet again, again by the skin of our teeth and great bowling by Spook Moor.

Now every year the school magazine came out and Harold always wrote a piece on his beloved thirds. Marvellously written they were to and his wonderful sense of humour was always at the fore. In latter years long after leaving school I often used to read these again for some fun. Sadly I no longer have any copies, but, I do have some memories. One of my favourites being Harold was waxing on about the benefits of playing for thirds and he could never understand why any boy would want to play for any other team? My favourite:

“Maasdorp our best batsmen was often called upon to go and play for the seconds, where he fielded.”

As always, good point.

 

George Orwell and 1984.

 

Classic read, told by a classic teacher.


So I was now in my last year at school as a sixth former writing English Literature as one of my subjects. The English teacher being none other than dear old Harold, the great brain and humourist. Now we were more grown up then and got away with more. Harold had an old clapped out station wagon car known by all the boys as the ‘Rhino’. He was often seen driving around the school in this, always, and I mean always, with his wife in the back seat.

“Sir, why do you always chauffeur your wife around?”

Immediate reply, “look if she wants to be a back seat driver then surely she should sit in it?”

Another time, first day back at school.

“Sir, how is the old Rhino riding?”

Again immediate, “a lot better than my wife thanks.”

This then was the great man teaching us and one of our set books for studying was George Orwell’s classic novel 1984. We could not have had a better or more erudite teacher teaching us this. Now I sat in the left hand side of the class against the wall and near a window. Harold often used to say to me:

“I think the wall can support itself thanks Moor.”

Now before I go on I must mention that Harold had a classic English upper class la,di, da, accent.

Anyway we had reached the stage in the book where the two central characters were being brainwashed by the authorities, and chilling stuff it was too. Harold was impassioned about this and began waxing lyrical about it, as was so often the case with him. At the end of his long peroration he said:

” Now you are all young men about to begin your adult lives, and I implore you all to never allow this type of thing to happen. You are the last bastions of defence against this type of dastardly practice and I am sure, knowing you all so well over the last six years, that you will stand firm.”

By this time he was actually frothing at the mouth so impassioned had he become. He then asked the brightest boy in the class sitting one desk from the back.

“Now then Cowper what do you have to say on all that?”

Now Cowper was fast approaching (nay fully blown into hoodlism), so Harold got the well thought out reply of:

“Nothing much, I’m easy.”

Harold’s face drained of all colour, his arms extended, went fully rigid, and gripped the edges of his desk, and in his impeccable English voice, screeched:

“Yoooooooooooooooooooou,” and then a sharp explosive, “rat.”

He stood up with such force that his chair clattered into the blackboard and broke into a thousand moving pieces. He then advanced on Cowper with his odd walk like a Lioness who has suddenly decided, no more playing, it’s time for the kill. By this time Cowper’s face was draining of all colour as well. He reached Cowper’s desk, and proceeded to clap him on the head with all the force he could muster. Having done so, he marched to the door of the classroom. Stopped there, turned around and said:

“I refuse to teach a class with Cowper in it.”

We never saw him for the rest of the term. Now exams came up (the official ones), and when I saw my paper I realised that I couldn’t answer a single, solitary, question. Comes of only doing one nights study the night before writing the paper? In such times one has to box very clever? So I kept calm and thought to myself, ‘now what was Harold always waffling on about’? I proceeded to write. Lo and behold, believe it or not, I got a distinction for English Literature.

The moral of the story?

Listen to your teachers, especially when they know what they are talking about.

You don’t believe me?

Look around you at the World we now live in.

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About spookmoor

I'm a 61 year old happily married man with three grown up children. I lost all my hearing as an eighteen year old whilst doing National Service and then had a Cochlear Ear Implant twenty years later. I love trying to explain these things to people and bits about my life. I never thought so at the time, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Thus one gets Random ramblings from a man who has seen a lot with a touch of humour underlying all.
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32 Responses to An English Teacher.

  1. Gary Bowes says:

    Harold “do you know that the queen was a Bowes-Lyon”?
    Bowes “yes sir”
    Harold” well you more like Bowes cockroach”.

  2. Neil Lindsay says:

    Always enjoy the anecdotes of anything Plumtree offered us. Worth every smile.

    Dear old Harold; an eccentric but love able man. On completion of a good and (in his opinion) well deserved thrashing, I would often thank the master of deliverance for such a caning. This practice ended when Harold replied, “it was an absolute pleasure young man, do visit again.”

    What a character. Worth an encyclopedia of stories.

  3. George Azevedo says:

    I seriously doubt that you beat Milton at any game but…I will leave it as that for the time being.
    As for English teachers,I can’t complain…mine was hot! She would do anything to get my math grades up(I was top of the class in English) She went out of her way to help me with maths,even after school so ,I know what you’re talking about my friend…never a cane was needed in her class.
    As for the maths teacher…ahem…she even had her husband beat me in hockey…( he was my coach) .
    I once hit a ball so hard,it broke a window… guess which one…yep…math class window..Karma?

  4. George Azevedo says:

    Still looking up the meaning of “ambidextrous”.

  5. Tom Meakin says:

    I remember how he wrote a song for the end of year concert. It was a variation on the 12 days of Christmas. Instead of ” and a partridge in a pear tree he wrote “old Wilson’s up a gum tree. He clearly hated Harold Wilson and wasn’t afraid of delving into politics.

  6. tess says:

    Well that only made me think of a teacher that left an impression on me…..also an English Teacher, Miss Lamb. She loved to read out loud and the different voices she used for each character kept everyone in class rooted to their chairs until the next time…..alas she died in a small aircraft the following year. Thanks Spook…as always an enjoyable read.

  7. Bar de Ness says:

    Love it! Such great comments as well! And even one from a contemporary teacher at the time. Well done Spook old bean! 😉

  8. Tim Donkin says:

    “Spook” Moor. Although I never had the pleasure of teaching you, I do recall you vaguely. Lanky you were. so glad that you recall Harold’s teaching and how it has stayed with you throughout life. Inspiring for us pedagogues who used to do our best to impart so much more than the syllabus required. Yes, even in the Chemistry lab! Harold has an amazing intellect. The son of an undertaker, he realised that, in order to be accpeted i life, he needed to “talk proper” and so adopted the Oxford accent.
    Harold and Felix have been our life-long friends. They live in Cape Town where eldest son Tony is a doctor and Peter is deputy head at Bishops. The two girls live in Australia. Harold is very deaf and even more reliant on Felix than he used to be. In his 90s now, I think
    You may not remember that, soon after UDI, Harold’s car bore the “I hate Harold” bumper sticker.

    • spookmoor says:

      Why Tim what a blast from the past and I do remember you as you were a master in Grey House and loved your bicycle. I often wish I could get in contact with them again. I wrote to Felix for a long while after I left hospital and was as deaf as a stone and full of wonderful advice she was too. Delighted to see you here.

  9. During my umpiring career , I had the pleasure of umpiring a number of school games , much to the relief of the cricketers , as they had the pleasure of being given out in the same way as your Harold obliged . The best or worst of these to my recollection was Father Ken , bless his soul , from Saints , did you ever have the pleasure of his umpiring ?

  10. Maggi says:

    Spook, what did the brightest boy Cowper end up doing ? I read that book years ago, about time I did again, and possibly Animal Farm as well which my son did last year at CGS for English Lit. What happened to Harold ? Reading this took me back to Std 5 of all years. What an amazing teacher we had that year, Steve Clark. I learnt to play rugby that year, and swim properly and enjoy school as it is supposed to be enjoyed but not realising in fact he was teaching and we remembered.

    • spookmoor says:

      Well dear old Lung got caught kifing funds from the bank, courtesy of Diggiden Buffee working there but, the Judge let them off being lively lads and all. Think he is in America now, married late and moved there. Have lost touch with them all, sadly.Harold, far as I know is still alive and in the Cape where he spends his time writing letters to the newspaper telling them where they have all gone wrong. LOL.

  11. Unlike you Spook .. although I loved English Lit at O Level .. I opened the exam paper and the first question was “Romeo and Juliet were “star-crossed lovers”, discuss the meaning of this with illustrations from the play” .. I drew an absolute blank and wrote a load of drivel. Needless to say that, I had followed each and every play avidly (budding thespian that I was .. although not every play had a hunchback of Notre Dame cast), read each and every book with singular devotion, I failed English Lit like the proverbial train smash. I will also go on to say that I passed French first time and failed English three times !! I guess I was never really any good with the mother tongue 🙂 . Thank you again for sharing ,,, reminds me so much and takes me back to dim and dusty classrooms surrounded by the African bush and finger strained windows calling to me. I remember all too well the cloying smell and choking clouds of moist chalk dust that have stuck to my nasal passages for nigh on 40 years, that transport me back to those dreaded days of boarding school and my terror of peer persecution. Keep writing and we will keep on coming … take care my fellow scribe.

  12. sue stolk says:

    Thanks for sharing Spook! We truly were blessed with our schooling, teachers and environment – if i could, i would kick my own b hind, for not appreciating these very special times more, whilst we were in the moment .. I often wonder what it would be like to retrace those same steps now and what fun we would now have, with all the hindsight we have in hand. It was hard but it surely did much to shape us into the people we are today …Our generation produced some special people who went on to do extraordinary things …. we have much to be proud of ! I encourage you to keep on, keeping on …!

  13. Kathy Lobb says:

    Have sent onto his family who we are sure will appreciate it.Thanks

  14. bulldog says:

    This brings back so many memories.. I loved it… seen it somewhere before but enjoyed it again…

  15. Barry Bazza aka Rob Barry Nutty-Prof says:

    Wonderful rambling, Spookers …. Reading this took me straight back to the classroom of 1966. Different school, different country, but the same kind of experiences. Thanks for jolting the grey matter and dislodging a few ‘forgotten’ memories !!!! 🙂 Barry P aka Barry Bazza / Rob Barry Nutty-Prof

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