5 a- side was played at lunch in a sixth form/staff league, as well as after school on Fridays
There was an 11 a-side staff football team too that played other schools and the Year 12 & Year 13 teams. We used to play Year 11 at the end of the year only if they behaved themselves over the year. It was a good carrot to dangle in front of any meatheads that you taught that were in the Year 11 team – “behave yourself, or you won’t play in the Staff game”. The staff team had a bit of a reputation for being a bit ‘rough house’ and had difficulties at times in retaining fixtures against other staff teams in the Borough after some ding dongs with the opposition.
The team did about three weekend tours (in the school minibus) every year to play other schools around the country that we had contacts with – Bolton School for Boys/St Bedes Grammar Bradford was the big one. The nightclubs in both towns have to be seen to be believed. The team even had its own kit sponsored by Snickers. These shirts were supplied by the chocolate bar company after the school sold 50,000 units from its vending machines – the Healthy Schools programme was still to come!
The day before one tour away the bloke who normally played in nets on tour injured his hand. The only last minute replacement we could think of was the lad who played in goal for the sixth form team. He was in my Year 13 tutor group, so after an invite in Friday morning registration and the “what goes on tour…..” pledge he turned up next day with a note from his mum and was on the bus. He is in his 30’s now and still claims that was the best weekend of his life!
Another great sporting event was the renowned crazy golf tournament on the field which was organised by the PE department. You had to chip over benches, hack out of the long jump pit and lob the ball over hockey goals around an improvised course. Mr Old School himself, Matt Morse – a teacher that called girls by their Christian names and boys by their surnames, used to carry a 7 iron around along with a plastic carrier bag of 9 bottles of Beefeater G&T mixers. He would tee off and have a scoop on each hole. This was a man who had a set of optics bolted to his upright piano in his music practice room. He would regularly spike his tea with a shot of the good stuff from one of the bottles fixed in front of him whilst tinkling away on the piano as he accompanied a scratchy Year 7 violinist. A legend.
Form trips were all the rage then. I took some of my tutees ice skating, bowling and sailing, even down to Loftus Road to watch the football. I always had a form Christmas meal out when I had a sixth form tutor group. They were often more fun than the departmental meals out. Green forms had only just started to come in then and risk assessments were unheard of. One Year 13 tutor group night out bowling ended in Zenith’s nightclub in Park Royal and I only had two kids in registration the next day!
This stuff used to be banned. One reason in particular was that the organic solvent used to thin down the correction fluid was abused by kids. The situation got quite bad for a while where students would put a few drops of the solvent on their blazer sleeve and sit and sniff it during assemblies. It became the latest craze. One could argue that the assemblies were so bad that the kids got driven to solvent abuse in order to get through them. It is ironic that these days we bang on at kids to wear their blazers in assemblies, whilst then the students were told not to wear them for fear that they would be “on the sniff”.
Now as promised I am going to list a few things that Bernie used to do on a regular basis that made him the stand out character that he was as and ever will be. But before I start I do not want it to look like character assassination. We all love BC and he is a Legend in my book – hence the poll I have set up above. These anecdotes may make him out to be a bit of a “special” guy, yet BC is a top bloke and he never fails to touch those that he meets in some way.
Onwards and upwards then.
The interests that Bernie had were nearly all sports related, and before I go any further it was thanks to Bernie that my club cricket career took the path that it did. He was the man that introduced me to the two clubs (Guinness and Harlington) that I spent very happy times with. He even got me a game down at Northwood Football Club’s veterans side – but my career there did not last that long after my team mates worked out that I was no good. I mean to say that my first touch was so bad; my next one was a tackle!
So Bernie’s foibles?
Ablutions – his morning started with a gym exercise routine in the boys changing room. He often used a few free weights. The thing that I remember about this daily event was it finished with him having a wash of his face, a brush of his teeth and a good old spit in the tiny Belfast sink set at floor level that was there for cleaning boots!
In the same shower room was a huge plunge bath big enough for a whole team to fit in. We are talking swimming pool here. Bern had a small adjustable spanner in his office that he used to get out before our regular Friday night staff soccer fixtures. The spanner was used to set the bath tap running very slowly as we were getting changed. He used to leave the tap running as we trotted out for the fixture and on our return after the match there was BC’s bath waiting for him!
Practice makes perfect – Bernie loved to practise his sport. On cold and often wet winter evenings after work BC and I used to stand about 20 yards either side of a football goal that had no net in it. We used to strike a football and aim to hit the cross bar and if it did not then the ball would glide over the goal to the person opposite in a nice long pass. This was well before Sky did the “cross bar challenge” and it was amazing how many times we hit the bar flush. This routine certainly improved my game and I lost count of the number of corners I struck in matches to where BC pointed, as he jostled for a chance to run onto the ball in the penalty box and burst the net with a bullet header. I knocked over a few crosses in my time and can still hear him scream “BC’s!!!!” as he launched himself at another goal attempt. Bernie could head the ball all right.
Pock marked gym wall – Bernie used to love his cricket. His batting was like my bowling, erratic. Equally I could bat a bit and he was a really decent seam bowler. So we were pretty well matched as practice partners for the “net sessions” we used to have after school during summer terms. Bernie was a very much a rhythm bowler, he was metronomic at times which had its plus points and draw backs too. When he had conditions in his favour he could replicate unplayable deliveries and get a bunch of wickets in one spell. On the other hand his regularity would also be his down fall as once a batter got after him, Bernie would get an awful mauling.
During our practice sessions I could almost anticipate his next delivery at times and if I had my eye in I would walk down the indoor cricket net and drive the ball straight back over his head. Often I would catch the ball he had bowled “on the up” so it meant that my shot would go straight on up and onwards until it crashed against the metal cladding on the back wall of the gym about 10 metres up. This would make BC a bit peeved so he would jog back to fetch the ball and then tear in from the back of the gym on a long run up. He was often a full throttle, nostrils flared and knees pumping when he came in to bowl at me again. The trouble was he would bowl faster but at the same spot so often the ball would ping off my bat and go even faster past his head to make another dent in the cladding behind him. It used to really piss him off and was one of the rare times that he was actually quiet playing sport.
Gum shield; Times when I wish Bernie would be quiet were when I batted with him on Saturday league fixtures down at Guinness CC. Bernie and I used to open the batting for two reasons. Firstly Bernie was madder than a box of frogs and sending him in first used to pay off – he scored fairly freely and could stay in long enough to knock the shine off the new ball. This meant that the better batters that followed got a slight advantage. The other reason that I went in with him was because nobody else wanted to as it was psychologically damaging!
Bernie was a terrible runner between the wickets and was always looking for the “quick single”. He had the potential to drop his bat down on the ball and dab it gently in front of him. Whilst doing so he would bellow “YESSSSSSSSSSSS!” and start to run. I would back up his call and come scurrying down his end only to find he had changed his mind! He would start shouting “Noooooooooo!” or “Waaaaaaaaiit!” At this stage I was in no man’s land, half way down the batting track, slamming on the brakes. Meanwhile a fielder would be swooping in to gather the ball ready to fire a throw at the wicket down at my end. I had to turn tail and run back to the bowler’s end and dive back into the bowling crease before the throw hit the stumps. With me dashing back, Bernie yelling and the fielding team smelling blood and shouting too it was complete chaos. All it needed was to have Clive Dunn run past in a Homeguard uniform shouting “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” and the scene would have been perfectly set.
The ball would fizz past me on its way from the fielder to miss the stumps as I dived back to safety. Having got up and dusted myself off, I would march down the wicket to have a word with my batting partner.
“What the f*ck do you think you are doing Bern?” I would enquire in an agitated state.
“Mwaah Fyysuayy sstumoppsut” came the reply.
You see Bernie was a tight so and so. He was paranoid about damaging some expensive bridge work in the front of his mouth, so not only would he bat with a helmet with a full face visor, but he also had a gum shield in as added protection! So it was near impossible to understand a word he said.
Laaaaaads! – a stock phrase of Bernie’s, so much so that it was mimicked by a lot of the boys he taught. Could be compared with the Estuary English vernacular phrase of “innit!” and used in a similar way particularly at the end of a sentence.
Have a good ‘un! – Bernie says this in a lot of ways, just in terms of its altering its length and intonation Bernie can imply a different meaning. He can say it glibly, in a very curt manor as a response to something that he agrees with or a piece of news that comes as no surprise – a sort of “told you so”. Conversely a long drawn out and slow exclamation can be translated as “Oh, my, God….” in certain situations
All staff that he played football with were called by their surnames with an “o” at the end of it eg Paul Simpson was Simpo, I was Morgo, the head of Music Judith Bridges was Bridgo. The only exception to this golden rule was the Head of Sixth Form, Brian Roberts was not Robbo, but Shergar based on his first appearance for the staff football team!
Luv – most women in authority were treated with this term of address which poor old Bernie thought was his way of being respectful. I remember an INSET day session where we instructed by a power dressed expert on assessment or some such for about half an hour. When the Q&A session started good old Bernie put his hand up and said “Right then Luv, I have a question about ….” You could see her bristle at the way she was addressed but good old Bernie did not see the signals. He used this term of familiarity a few more times and each time it made everyone in the room wince.
Listen!……….. This was often a long drawn out exclamation as he used to get pissed off that you were not paying him much attention. Bernie spouts so much garbage though that nobody listens to him!
The following trio were used a lot during PE lessons when he used to join kids 5 a-side games, to which he used to provide a running commentary
Don’t Move! – This was shouted out to a kid on the other side of the pitch who he tried to spray a pass to. Something like David Beckham would do. He had about a 50% success rate at completing the pass!
Done him! – a shout of glee as he would gallop past a kid with the ball at his feet. Not quite Brian Glover, but you get the drift!
Next Goal wins! – always a kids favourite this one, especially when his team was 7-3 down at the time!
The Legend that is Bernie Cronin.
People who come into contact with Bernie are always struck by what a character he is. The good things about so called “characters” are they can brighten up your day and make you chuckle. The flip side is some of their actions and behaviour can cause irritation beyond belief, but that is what makes them unique.
There are three things that I want to get off my chest about Bernie. Firstly his stock phrases, second his weird and wonderful habits and finally his “one offs”
I will come back to these at a later date, but meanwhile people may want to click on this link to a Facebook discussion about Bernie to whet their appetite.
Those were the days Part II
An “old school” teacher of what was then called Woodwork & Technical Drawing (I think it is called RM now, or is it D&T?) had his own personal policy with regards to cover.
The school had an 8 period day and cover was managed by a member of SLG. No computer networks then, you got given a slip of paper the cover details on it. These dreaded cover slips got delivered by students that ran around the school looking for you at the start of the day. When the said “old schooler” got given a slip he would often be found in the T-club (see later) having a snout. The bloke would squint through the smoke drifting from the fag drooping in the corner of his mouth and say ‘That’s number 6 lads now – not long to go’.
He had a large bulldog clip hung on a notice board in his workshop. It was used to collect cover slips. When he reached 8 that was it. The next full teaching day he had, bang, he would be “ill” – in his reasoning 1 day of cover = 1 day off in lieu. He would always take a sickie on an 8 period day to get his full pay-back.
The man would do this regular as clockwork, and it did not take long for him to clock them up, as the school was a little less gentile than here – so there were long term absences and also supply teachers would turn their noses up and a day of work there.
Cover got so bad at times that I covered the same maths class 4 weeks running. When I went to the HOD to ask what to do in the last week as we had finished the chapter – he replied ‘any chance you can set them a test?’ I was even asked for appointments for parents’ evening from some of the students in that group as I had taught them more than the regular teacher.
There was an art to using these. The real trick was not go too slow, or the ink smudged; going quick was the way, but too fast ended up getting the machine jammed.
The staff room had different smells and sounds then. The big Banda machine certainly provided a lot sound and that characteristic organic solventy smell when it was being used at full pelt.
Geographers loved them – all those colours!
Bottom set year 11 loved them – scratch and sniff!
Drinking was a cultural thing when I first started teaching. The last day of the Christmas term was notorious and one would often get invited to various gatherings.
A typical day would start at
8 am Port and Stilton in Music with the legend that had his own optics.
Break Gin slings in the Maths office or
Mulled wine & mince pies in Science
The mulled wine was cooked up using a tripod, gauze & Bunsen burner in a large Pyrex flask and served in 100ml beakers.
Lunch the kids went home and the Tea-club Christmas dinner started.
In addition PE would be an all day ‘open house’ serving cocktails & nibbles – a young suave blonde(then) Head of Boys PE was host and maître d’. Hawaiian shirts and flip flops were part of the dress code to the PE department one year.
When one mentions a Gentleman’s Club these days, people think more White Horse on the West Wycombe Road than The RAC Club.
The Tea-club was an ‘old school’ gentleman’s club that was based in a metal work workshop. Club membership was granted to me only after I wrote a letter of application that was seconded by a club member.
There was always tea available that was brewed in a big enamelled tin tea-pot. No women were allowed in the club – not that many wanted to join! Other colleagues that needed to speak to a club member would often knock and wait at the door if they paid a visit.
Typical members were Matt Morse the music “optics” teacher, the metalwork ‘cover’ teacher and my mentor, Richard Michaels who got me in to the tea club. Before gaining membership I would not have to knock before coming in.
President of the T-club was a salt of the Earth head of technology. He would often cook himself breakfast on the top of the ceramics oven. This oven was used to roast the turkey for the end of term meal. The President would get into work in the early morning to fire up the bird, the spuds were popped in during lesson time and sprouts & veg cooked on top.
At the end of school on that last day we had had a few drinks beforehand, by the close of the meal it was carnage. The traditional after dinner game was to try and get from one end of the workshop to the other without touching the floor. Only half the room had work benches, the last half was the tricky bit. You had to either climb over the machinery like lathes and bandsaws, which was nearly impossible. The reckless alternative was to jump up and monkey swing from the service pipes and cables on the ceiling. This manoeuvre was made more difficult by being pelted by uneaten sprouts as you tried to reach your goal! As darkness fell you could see the wives and girlfriends sat in their cars parked up at the back of the workshop with the engines running waiting in the cold to take their better halves home.
The Tea-club Christmas meal bit the dust circa 1991 when one of the deputies (Reg Ball) paid the Tea-club a visit to try and call things to a halt. “This cannot go on” he told us. “People are making comments about it” After delicate negotiations where the Tea-club view was it was a tradition and in fact had “become custom and practice” The resulting stand off was broken by Reg when he said “Ok. What is it going to cost me to get you boys to cancel the Christmas dinner and get yourselves to the pub?” A £50 cash donation from the deputy to start the whip was enough to break our resolve and the gents went to the pub instead that year.