Category: Humour

Those were the days Part 30

The Hod carrier in flip-flops

After completing my teacher training I got a placed in the pool of recruits in the London Borough of Hillingdon. When I pitched up in July 1991 on my first day as a “probationary” teacher I in my newly assigned school was joined by a 35 year old ex- hod carrier, who had also just retrained and joined the profession.

William Davids was a huge bloke who had switched codes from a blue collar trade to a white collar profession so to speak. He had done a few things since studying Maths at Bristol University and the last job he had was in the building trade. We both had the Bristol connection – he knew about Natch cider and Clarks pies, so we hit it off immediately.

As an individual he was very strong willed with an inherent sense of right and wrong.  If a system was flawed or unfair in his eyes he would always question and rebel against it. He kicked against the system. Management did not like him much because of this.

He was a generous man with his time and energy. He loved working with students who were willing to learn, but could not stand the odd one who would not bother at all. Kids loved him. One year he did a great version of Right Said Fred’s “Deeply Dippy” that brought the house down at the Staff Talent Show in Charities Week.

Despite being teachers in different faculties our paths crossed a lot during the working day.  We both started as Year 7 form tutors and followed our pastoral groups right the way up to the 6th form. We both had long commutes to work and so got in early. We always met at the local greasy spoon before school on Fridays for a fry up before the weekly staff briefing. I remember that we also used to jump in the car and buzz down to Southall for a curry before a parents evening as there was little time to get home and back in the interval between the end of school and the start of proceedings.

We even did break duties together on the playground.  Which had its ups and downs. At least we saw the kaleidoscope of outdoor conditions that  the British weather can bring.

Not one to turn down a challenge. He would be up for anything slightly rebellious.

William and I used to sit together at the back of the Friday morning briefing – it is strange how schools survived on calling together staff once a week to discuss and inform the staff of major issues within the school.

Now briefings are called daily in most schools. It means that this meeting is no longer a milestone event that it once was.

After one meeting William and I got talking about dress down days that were a regular Friday occurrence in the private sector. We could not agree on what a dress down day meant in our workplace in terms of what would be acceptable attire. There was an unwritten rule that you could wear pretty much what you liked on a normal day, so if we dressed down, how far should we go?

Through further discussions William and I decided to push the dress code boundaries each Friday and see what reaction we got. It was a good day to try it as we would be seen by all staff and may cause the desired reaction.

We did our experiment in stages we started by not wearing a tie on the Friday of week 1. Then it went to no tie and no morning shave in week 2. A polo shirt replaced the more formal shirt the following week and still nobody batted an eyelid, so we pressed on with our quest. It continued for weeks and we had progressed to a t shirt, shorts and trainers accompanied by an unshaven face, but I called a halt when William suggested ditching the trainers for flip flops for the following week. Teaching whilst looking like a beach bum was fine with me but it was not a sensible thing to be doing science practicals “open –toed.”

William carried on the baton for one more week, and I think we took a photo of him sat in briefing in his beach ware as well as his flip flops! He always pushed the boundaries.

flip-flops-design-your-own-21062011

Classic One Liners…..6

foamexmen-ss-01

Warning – the punchline is not a typing error. Try reading out the dialog out loud in a Wurzel like stereotypical West Country accent, it might help.

Another home defeat for my football team and Dad and I are left to trudge back up the terracing to the exit from the stadium.

The ground is emptying pretty fast of fans, who had stayed to see the bitter end of another dismal performance by the team we called our own. The fans’ expectations are not high and pretty resigned in first place, but there are a lot of long faces to be seen amongst the people making their way home. Dad and I weave past the odd groups of supporters who were still stood around to boo the team off the pitch. We do not look back or say anything until we get to the top of the concrete terrace.

“Got to go for a quick leak” I tell my Dad as we passed the Gents. It is a 2 hour drive back home for me. Enough said.

The toilet is not as jammed as it can get before the match. This is particularly true when everyone piles in after a walk from the pub before the start of the match. It is quieter now. Nevertheless you can still hear the odd catcall from the enclosure below. Two old boys shuffle into spots either side of me at the metal trough that we all share.

It is a bit quirky in a way, but blokes as a rule do not look around when they use a public urinal. They just stare forward for some strange reason. This is why commercially minded pubs put advertising posters at eye level above their urinals. It is a crude form of subliminal messaging.

The two old boys are obeying the stare forward rule. Rather than look at each other they just look straight ahead and talk to the wall. Having me between them and in the way does not help, but they chat away as if I am not there.

“Well Bill, that was crap” says the bloke on my right whilst looking straight at the breeze blocks in front of his nose. He is a Bristolian you can tell by his local accent.  Bill replies in an equally broad West Country drawl “Yeah, proper rubbish.” there is a pause whilst he thinks for a while, just stood there also gazing at a point ahead of him. He zips up and adds, “In fact I will go so far as to say, that is the worst side I have ever seen down here,”

Bills mate nods philosophically in agreement as he too turns to shuffle out.

They start to look at each other again as Bill finally concludes “and I can say that without any fear of contraception.” They both walk off into the night.

Classic one Liners……5

fagsThe one liners I come out with seem to have a theme – they are always blurted out when I am in the queue at the Co-op. My latest quip came as I was stood paying for a few bits at the fag, booze and lotto kiosk during a busy time in our local store.

It was about 6 pm and a train had just pulled in at the station around the corner. It had thrown out a lot of hot and bothered commuters, who added to the queue of punters wanting a mid-week lottery ticket, or to buy a packet of fags as well as to pay for a few groceries.

The man on the till serving me is a nice bloke.  He is a bit of a jobs worth, but always outgoing and polite and has been working there for years.  I punched in the PIN number to my bank card on the payment machine and as I did our man made a big announcement for the benefit of the customers queuing behind me.

“Sorry folks” he declared in a loud, confident voice. At this point he stepped back and pointed, so people could see that behind him next to the rows of vodka, gin and whiskies there was a big empty space in a whole section of the shelving,

”If you are here for cigarettes, we have none.”

He had a lot more interest in his announcement now and whist still gesturing he continued. People hushed up for a second or two.

“I am afraid to say there has been a break in last night and we have had all our cigarettes stolen…….”

“…….by a teetotaller”

I finished the sentence for him, loud enough for all to hear.

He did a double take at me as he stood there still pointing at a void next to bottles of booze. His hand dropped as soon as the penny did. I made a sharp exit.

booze

Classic one liners………. 4

I was in the car yesterday, listening to Test Match Special and  at one point between overs the chit chat between Jonathan Agnew and Geoffrey Boycott centred on being to sea. It was a bit of a random conversation, but at one point Agnew paused and mused

“You can’t swim, can you Geoffrey?”

“No, but fish can’t bat so we’re even aren’t we,” came the reply

A great comeback that caused a few chuckles in the commentary box.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Alan Border! The former Australian cricket captain, who is 58 today was quoted in the week as saying about the current team’s batting in the Ashes series so far :

“Our major concern right now is the performance of the top six. I could honestly say the nine, ten and jack [No 11 batsman] looked more competent than our one, two and three. If that was me in the top three, I’d be embarrassed.”

Chin up mate and enjoy your special day!

Caption Competition.

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Great photo from REUTERS/Philip Brown of two blokes who could play a bit in their time, but now just enjoying the day at Edgbaston yesterday.

But what were they saying?

My guess is that Warne was saying to Vaughan.

“Hey, I reckon that the Aussies could bat for a day and a half in an extended game over here this Summer.”

To which the ex-England skipper replies, “Yeah right, maybe against Scotland!”

Any other suggestions?

David Bowie had a flat in Schöneberg!

David Bowie had a flat in Schöneberg!

Well I am surprised at that one, as it was never the most jumping part of Berlin from my memory of living there in the 80’s. I do remember an Arthouse cinema being down there that was about 8 seats wide and 40 deep. Inside the auditorium a well dressed tailors’ dummy sat permanently in one of those seats.

I do remember that there was also a very good sausage stand in that part of town that people used to travel to from all over in order to grab a famous “Kurrywurst.”  Nevertheless Schöneberg was not the edgy, dark side of  the city like Kreuzberg was. Schöneberg was ‘safe’. No self respecting anarchist, or draft dodging student from the “West”  would want that sort of Postleitzahl.  Even posh neighbourhoods like Charlottenburg were more bohemian. Wedding and Moabit were working class districts. Schöneberg was just dull.

It was famous for one thing though. JF Kennedy  once stood on a platform outside Schöneberg’s town hall and declared to the huge crowd gathered there that he in fact was “a doughnut”!

 

UPDATE……………….

I found this page of information about Schöneberg at an ex-pat website. I think it is quite amusing that it appears to be as dull as I remember. Still each to his own. Berlin was a really crazy place to live with its distinct districts having their own flavour. Maybe there was a “scene” there that was “out there” in Schöneberg when Bowie lived on Hauptstrasse. I just cannot see him living in a flat near the sausage stand!

Those were the days Part 27

Staff talent show.

The Staff Talent show was something that students eagerly anticipated for weeks leading up to Christmas. This lunch time performance was hotly contested affair, which always took place on the Thursday of Charities Week (See Those were the days Part 26).
The winner was chosen by a panel of judges that was not quite of the same caliber as that from X-Factor. Teachers used to dodge the honour of appearing on this judging panel as it always used to end in tears and tantrums from the Staff band in particular if they did not come out on top.
Your brief as a judge was basically to decide if the Staff band had done enough to defeat a less talented, but very determined bunch of reprobate teachers (mainly teaclub members) that locked horns with the band every year. Other groups of staff performed various party pieces, or mimed to tracks of the day from performers such as Rick Astley. Invariably these side acts were poor and often slightly toe curling. Therefore it always boiled down to a straight shoot out – The band versus the “Tea Club Boys”.
The Band was pretty tight and would bash out an Oasis cover or something similar. The Rake 2 for further stories from the band’s exploits.

The lads in opposition knew their limitations, but would use props, bribes, humour and what talent they had to try and win over the audience. One year they built a life size Cadillac out of MDF for their performance of Grease Lightening.
The vision that I still have of one of their best shows was of the four of the reprobates lined up, wearing tutus, leotards and ballet shoes performing a series of demi plies to the soundtrack of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The whole front row of the audience was screaming in shock and blind panic every time the lads bent their knees to lower their torsos gracefully and sweep their arms upwards. This was due to the fact that one of the teachers had burst his tights in a rather crucial area and so every time he stooped down his scrotum squeezed out of the hole for a gentle airing! This was the cause of the screams of terror from the Year 10 girls who were copping an eyeful of this in the front row.

Those were the days Part 26

Not only could Jim Chinnor teach, but another string to his bow was he was in charge of the school’s “Charities Week”, which was an absolute blast. Charities week was traditionally held on the last week before the Christmas holidays.

This whole week had a semblance of chaos about it, but it had a tried and tested format.

In fact how Jim pulled it off each year I will never know, but he knew how to delegate effectively; each Year 11 form took responsibility for an event during the week. Jim briefed them and let them loose on their projects. Publicising the events, production and sale of show tickets, the rehearsals (where a lot of the weaker acts were weeded out), booking the Hall and such like were jobs that the kids had to do. It was all part of being a Year 11 student. They just did it.

There were student talent shows set up for lower & upper school kids to have a shot at the big time in front of their peers. These shows were held at lunchtimes – tickets were sold by Year 11 students.

Two of the members of Scouting for Girls played at one such school talent show and one lad brought his Dad down to play at another show!

The staff talent show was the highlight of the week – that is another future post I think.

Tickets for the Charity Auction were always particularly sought after. Held for a double period between break and lunch on the Tuesday, the auction was presided over by Reg Ball, a deputy head who was an auctioneer and antiques dealer in his spare time. The auction was always a hot ticket, because possession of one got you out of lessons 3 and 4 on that Tuesday.

The Year 11 form in charge of the auction would write to businesses, sports clubs, even celebrities to ask for donations of goods and services that they could put up for auction. In the days before e-mail and the internet it was amazing to see what the kids gathered in for the event.

Musical chairs competitions were always arranged some time during the week and they were often brutal, almost gladiatorial affairs. Jim Chinnor somehow always managed to organize and control these sessions without a hitch . He would get a whole year group down into the school hall and make all the students to cough up a quid to enter. Then Jim would get about 100 chairs slung out in the middle of the hall, get the 240 or so students from one specific year group to trot around the outside edges of the hall and you can guess what happened when the music stopped! Anyone remember that children’s television programme hosted by Mike Reid “Run Around”, if so you catch my drift.

Risk assessments and health and safety were not de rigueur then needless to say. The students got whittled down to a single winner in a cauldron of noise and pure energy. The din in there could be deafening as the tension built with students cheering on their favourite.
On one occasion in the final play off one student, who clearly could not get to the last chair in time, pulled the seat away from the winner as they tried to sit down. This made Jim mad as hell. He tore into the guilty student whilst the rest of the year group looked on. Half way through his rant he spat out his false teeth and in a blink of an eye caught them in one hand and popped them back in place without pausing from delivering his verbal dressing down. It was one of those jaw-dropping moments where you double take and turn to the person next to you and ask, “Did you just see that?”

Those were the days Part 22

Those were the days Part 22

“Bosnia”

The West London comprehensive school where I first taught had a few Science labs that were situated on the ground floor of the “sixth form block”. Above these labs were the sixth form common room, offices and three classrooms where languages were taught. “Languages” was commonly known amongst some staff as ‘Bosnia’, as it was truly a war zone up there. On regular occasions I would be invited over to help sort out kids from my form who were messing around in class. Consequently the joke was that anyone taking a trip over there could be regarded as a UN peacekeeper.

I was lucky not to be timetabled in that block. The main reason being if you taught below a language lesson it was quite disturbing at times due the chaos occurring above you. Regularly school bags would be hung on the blinds cords and left to dangle out of windows so that they were seen swinging outside from the labs below. The kids would eat up there all the time and chuck their leftovers and other bits of rubbish outside too. The occasionally rejected sandwich would land outside the lab downstairs whilst the odd crisp packet and sweet papers would drift past on the breeze. You always had to go up and sort things out if you were teaching below.

Luckily I did not teach in these labs that often, normally it was for a room swap. On one occasion I had to cover a test in one of the labs. The kids in my class were quietly doing the task in hand, whilst it was clearly kicking off upstairs. All of a sudden a large, dark shape wizzed down past our windows and landed on the playground outside with a huge thump. “Oh my God!” shouts a kid, “someone has fallen out the window!” It did look like it, and certainly sounded like it. Pandemonium broke out in my room; one kid started screaming. I dashed out the fire exit to check, only to find that the premises manager was replacing some carpet in an upstairs office. He had lugged out an old roll of underlay from an upstairs window onto the playground to save carrying it downstairs!

Panic over.