Part 45 - Given Circumstances

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Part 45 - Given Circumstances

May 1982.

A few more weeks of summer term and that’s it. Five years done. Where have all those years gone?

‘Fuck man, what you gonna do? Slit your wrists? Och. She’s all over you and she’s a real babe.’ …

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Part 44 - Given Circumstances

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Part 44 - Given Circumstances

September 1981.

‘So. Inspection.’ The Big Cheese’s addressing the staff at the beginning of my fifth new academic year. In full swing.  

My own relationship with him has gradually morphed from outright fear to grudging respect. In turn, he even occasionally tries to share a joke with me nowadays as if somehow, I too have morphed from dangerous deranged specimen teaching an irrelevant subject to a young radical bringing in valuable and valued new pupils…

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Part 43 - Given Circumstances

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Part 43 - Given Circumstances

The silence between Cher and I thickens; just the piped music insinuating.

“…sometimes I don’t know what I will find…” 

This is moving things on. Clive could be in here. Consenting adults. Like with the Femme Fatale. Is that what I want? Is that what Cher wants? Or will it just complicate things? Make things awkward after.

And then something clicks…

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Part 42 - Given Circumstances

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Part 42 - Given Circumstances

I’ve lazed the early weeks of summer holiday 1981 away. Bit of cricket. Bit of social. Lot of thinking. Bought a copy of “Face Value” by Phil Collins which is welded to my turntable.

To my surprise, on the morning of summer school starting, I’m awake early, a stirring in my guts. Why?…

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Part 41 - Given Circumstances

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Part 41 - Given Circumstances

Summer term. 1981.

I’m in my study listening to Pat Metheny on the cassette player, holding a letter from The Big Cheese, countersigned by the Bursar confirming a rise in salary next year. “In recognition of your contribution to drama at Fitzrovia.”

It’s warm June sunshine outside with the aroma of fresh mown grass through the open window; a presage to cricket nets in half an hour. At the sound of footsteps in the corridor I thrust the letter into my pocket…

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Part 40 - Given Circumstances

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Part 40 - Given Circumstances

Just before Christmas, “Bouncers” takes place.

‘Ticket sales are picking up,’ says Hovis Hair a few days before performance. ‘A slow burner.’ She purses her lips. ‘A friend tells me it’s quite violent. Bad language.’

‘It’s meant to be a comedy,’ I venture. ‘There’s an edge to it, but essentially it should be funny.’ 

She frowns. ‘My husband and I are coming on the Saturday. Is it suitable for children?’

‘I’d exercise some caution. Teenagers, fine. Younger than that probably not.’…

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Part 39 - Given Circumstances

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Part 39 - Given Circumstances

“…innocence raped with napalm fire, twenty first century schizoid man…”

Next morning I’m in my study, still assimilating how I really feel about the previous evening with Miss Dazzle, when there’s a knock on the door. ‘Come in.’

It’s Fizz; flushed in the face; looks as if she might have been crying. Red eyed. Puffy. She should be in school uniform, ready for Sunday chapel, but isn’t.

What’s going on? I turn down King Crimson…

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Part 38 - Given Circumstances

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Part 38 - Given Circumstances

The White Horse Hotel, where I’m to meet Miss Dazzle, is on the outskirts of town. It has rooms, and a reputation for decent food. ‘Reassuringly expensive,’ says Biggles.

I’ve taken a ridiculous time getting ready, changing in and out of clothes, staring at myself in the mirror, before getting a grip. Does it matter what I wear? Why not just be myself? Like I said I would be. And just what am I expecting – hoping? – to happen? In truth, I’ve stopped pining for her. Barely give her a thought.

 And yet…over the past few days…

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Part 37 - Given Circumstances

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Part 37 - Given Circumstances

September 1980.

It’s the start of a brand new academic year. My fourth at Fitzie’s. No more the new boy. Instead there are others who’ve arrived, fresh faced, new shoots, following more pruning by the Big Cheese. Out with the old; in with the new…

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Part 36 - Given Circumstances

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Part 36 - Given Circumstances

 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…

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Part 35 - Given Circumstances

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Part 35 - Given Circumstances

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…

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Part 34 - Given Circumstances

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Part 34 - Given Circumstances

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….

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Part 33 - Given Circumstances

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Part 33 - Given Circumstances

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…

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Part 32 - Given Circumstances

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Part 32 - Given Circumstances

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…”…

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Part 31 - Given Circumstances

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Part 31 - Given Circumstances

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.’…

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Part 30 - Given Circumstances

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Part 30 - Given Circumstances

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….

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Part 29 - Given Circumstances

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Part 29 - Given Circumstances

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…

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Part 28 - Given Circumstances

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Part 28 - Given Circumstances

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!

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Part 27 - Given Circumstances

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Part 27 - Given Circumstances

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…

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Part 26 - Given Circumstances

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Part 26 - Given Circumstances

February 1979.

“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?”…

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