First-year history, lesson number one. It is a day that I remember only too well. Every sixth period on a Monday was allocated to a thirty-five-minute lesson of History. My hatred of that particular weekday was born here.
Monday lunchtimes were uncomfortable affairs. I ate little, my stomach a hive of butterflies. No matter how much I prayed for the lunch break to continue ad infinitum, it always ended quickly.
7-2 had their History lesson in period five. I considered them to be lucky. Many times I sat through Mr Perry’s ad-hoc music lesson, a conflicted mass of envy and fear. 7-2 could enjoy the teachers rendition of The Gendarmes Duet free from the dread of a looming History lesson for at least another few days. I cursed their good fortune.
The first time Mr Perry dismissed us, I saw pity on his face. He knew what we were about to endure. This was a ritual that repeated, year in, year out since his reign of terror had begun. This was a right of passage all pupils suffered until the day Geoff Irving hung his tweed jacket from the back of his chair for the last time. You see, Mr Irving hated first years. He loathed them with an unbridled passion. First years were vermin, an uneducated stain of misplaced joy and enthusiasm that blighted his pristine classroom.
Even Primary school was not a safe haven, his wrath extended to all corners of the county. I do not know how, but the warning about him always got out. If you were going to Painsley, you were going to cross paths with Mr Irving. That last summer before secondary school began, was one haunted by dread for all prospective Painsley students.
Back to the first lesson. We lined up outside of his classroom. His was on the top floor, set back in the furthest reaches of the building. It was further isolated by having a shared corridor with the home economics classroom, (I was not much for that subject either.) 7-2 filed out in silence. None would meet our eyes; all looked to the floor, shaken but relieved to be heading into the welcome respite of a music lesson.
“In,” came the command.
We filed in and stood behind our desks in twos.None of us uttered a word. This was one of the first moments in my life where I realised that my fate was set, and I would face it head on whether I liked it or not.
“Who told you to sit?” he barked.
One stood back up.
What followed was without a doubt one of the most fearsome lectures that I have ever experienced. There was no sense. There was no logic. None of the trembling wrecks in that room had ever wronged the man, nor were we ever likely to. It was a tirade of hate, threats and insults the likes of which only those who attended school before the PC brigade came to power, would ever have experienced. It was also the longest thirty-five minutes of my life.
I persevered with History through to GCSE. I will admit; those classes were some of the most gut-wrenchingly traumatic of my young life. Several times he reduced classmates to tears, such was his ferocity. His tactics scared me to an A in my final examinations. I was very happy with that.
I’d like to go for a drink with him sometime, should our paths ever cross. True, I’d likely still be terrified of him, but he was one of the greatest influences on my education, and I’d like to thank him for the job that he did.
Also – Kudos for scaring generations of Painsley students witless.
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