More than four decades ago, I taught English
in a boy’s grammar, waiting for it to go
comprehensive. I can think of three
notable alumni: a Labour PM,
whose only school magazine piece was
‘Ephemera’; the lover and killer
of a fêted, controversial playwright;
and a cult film director (see below).
The classrooms were built round a courtyard –
as if the architect had worked to some
Mediterranean model. Mine
was opposite the staffroom. One lunchtime,
I was marking at my desk and looked up
to see the said director, furtive,
at the staffroom door. I continued marking.
I heard shouting and looked up again to see
a colleague pounding on the door. (There was
a gap between the lintel and the door
into which three large screws had been driven).
There was huffing and tutting and enquiries –
low profile to deter imitation –
by the Deputy, an overweight caner.
‘You were at your desk. What did you see?’
‘I was intent on my work,’ I said, grinning.
‘This is serious!’ ‘Indeed it is,’ I said,
laughing. Courtesy of Mrs. Thatcher,
the school never went comprehensive. I left.
It never occurred to me to betray
such a consummate piece of performance art,
such an exquisite act of irony –
the masters trapped in their privilege,
imprisoned in their ignorance – but rather
held the knowledge close like a password
to my identity. I disclose it now
I am almost certain who I am.