15 August 2018
I’m considering tidying my study at the end of that summer term 1980. Three years almost done and dusted, it contains anything of my world that isn’t at Orchard Cottage. The detritus of school admin lies cheek by jowl with correspondence; lesson plans; old essays; class lists; mark books; cricket scorebook; paraphernalia. There are piles of play scripts, scattered across the floor. A box labeled “Mum.”
Simon and Garfunkel play quietly on the cassette…
31 July 2018
I’ve been home for Christmas. Mum’s feebler. Small voice. ‘Can you get your own tea tonight?’
The Lent term of 1980 starts depressingly. January blues. I can’t even bask in the reflected glory of “The Mikado.” Full houses, bursting. ‘More!’ Even buying a new album – “The Return Of The Durutti Column” – filled with optimistic spring sounds, can’t diminish my sense of loss.
I spend dank dark afternoons freezing on the hockey playing fields. I should be more motivated, but really I’m finding my concentration telescoping into two areas. Drama and cricket…
24 July 2018
The smoke from the encore of the opening night of “The Mikado” is still hovering. The auditorium’s gradually emptying. No sign of The Big Cheese.
‘Well done, sir.’ Someone from stage crew scurries by.
‘Thanks. And well done you guys as well. Very slick.’
‘We’ll get more encores tomorrow. And Saturday’ll be mental.’ He grins and hurries away….
17 July 2018
At half six on the opening night of “The Mikado”, I’m standing with my notes, facing the auditorium which is filled with a kaleidoscope of Japanese, nervously chattering. The orchestra’s fiddling quietly. Tuning. Biggles is whispering to one or two. Is he nervous? Am I? Mrs Undercarpet’s making a song and dance about pinning something up. ‘Hold still.’
Gandalf’s in his tightest shorts yet. He’s standing right next to me, centre stage, shielding his eyes up into the flies. He knows I want to start. Shouts. ‘Move that parcan a couple of inches to your left!’ High profile…
9 July 2018
Shortly after my first half term break in Uppers, I receive a hand written missive commanding me to appear in front of The Big Cheese for a Royal Audience.
Now what? More “restructuring”? What have I done wrong? Is he about to sack me after all? Last in first out. My chest thumps.
Can’t seem to get a song from “The Mikado” out of my head.
“…defer, defer to the Lord High Executioner…”…
3 July 2018
A few weeks into the new academic year, I’m still grappling with teaching Uppers English literature. Some of them catch me out. ‘What do you think Larkin means when he describes work as a “toad”, sir?’ Good question. Warty? Slimy? Buried under rocks? I’ve taken the idea of playing music in lessons into Uppers while they write. Have still to work out whether the older pupils find it a distraction – a snigger? – rather than a help. ‘It’s by someone called Michael Hedges.’…
26 June 2018
September 1979. Year three.
I’m at my first Staff Meeting in Uppers. There’s gentle idle chatter as we wait. I’m sat next to Biggles who leans in close. ‘Saw the Master earlier. Looked majorly stressed. We could see fireworks this morning.’
Oh? I peep down to the front of the lecture theatre, where the Big Cheese is checking his watch, eyes flicking to the door where the staff must enter. It swings open and BJ walks in.
‘Have you got a death wish?’ It’s The Big Cheese, shouting, red in face, eyes bulging. All conversation comes to an abrupt end….
19 June 2018
I’ve just returned from a cricket match at some school across the county. My team’s off to a bright start; two emphatic wins and a good draw.
I’ve overheard God Like Status talking to Biggles on the boundary at our last home match. ‘Some decent cricketers here. Well drilled and keen.’
Today’s been warm and sunny. Proper cricket weather. In an attempt to get over the terrible news of Keith Moon’s death, I’ve also been into town at the weekend and bought a new stereo system…
12 June 2018
The second half of Lent term starts with an Extraordinary Staff Meeting called by The Big Cheese. ‘What’s it all about?’ I ask Biggles when we meet up the night before at the pub.
He shrugs, poring over the jukebox. ‘Search me.’ Then punches buttons. ‘About time they refreshed this. Haven’t heard this for a while though. Happy music for Spring.’
We find seats as Sergio Mendes kicks in.
“…the moon is like a tangerine…”
Ha! They don’t write lyrics like that now!
12 June 2018
Over half term back at home, I receive a small package in the post.
‘Someone’s got nice handwriting,’ says mum.
Opening it, three recognisable letters fall out. There’s a message attached. “Thought you might like these back.” And a photo, of a tanned smiling Venus, under an umbrella, honey hair to her shoulders, in a pair of loose fitting black trousers, gathered at the ankle above high heels, bare brown midriff and plunge black top under a short red jacket, standing by a suitcase outside “The Acropolis Taverna.” On the wall, the clock reads nine o’ clock…
30 May 2018
“Darkheart” has come and gone. Cheers and whistles. ‘More!’ Miss Dazzle hugging me. Biggles all smiles. Matron ecstatic. Spicy red faced, pumping my hand.
‘Fuckin’ great,’ says BJ, loading the pipe back at Walnut Avenue. ‘Here. Got my girlfriend to send us some stuff. Put some music on then. Your choice.’
On with some Peter Frampton. “Do You Feel Like I Do?”…
22 May 2018
Before I know it, it’s the week of performances of “Darkheart.”
The Sunday before the Thursday opening night, I’ve spent the afternoon with Biggles and his band.
‘They sound fab. Really professional. A bit loud perhaps?’
How could my youngsters compete? They’d surely be drowned out?