I remember complaining to the headmaster about my D grade for English here.
Oh, no, I wasn't out of my depth in English Literature. I just wasn't interested in the texts we were studying. All the
literature of the English speaking world at our feet to choose from, and we have to end up studying bleedin' Shakespeare.
I mean, really! I'm not one of these 'Shakespeare is good for you' school. What a load of balls! Its text is so old, no one
really understands the jokes in it. Besides, we got the censored version to study, and had to risk life and limb crossing
a very busy Newport Road to Roath Public Library across the road to see the full text - but still didn't get the jokes. Someone
is just going to have to explain to me the humour of '...her C's, her U's and her T's....' in Twelfth Night!
Now why couldn't we get something modern to study - like The Naked Lunch? Now that is a powerful piece of writing
- such rhythm in its sentence construction. Almost like a percussion piece. And what about Ray Bradbury's The Martian
Chronicles? Such tender poetic beauty there, and a story as well. Bradbury is a very underated writer in my view.
Much, much more than a science fiction writer. Have you read Dandelion Wine? Give it a go sometime. Such poignancy,
especially the chapter on 'John Huff' going away. We've all had sad experiences like that I'm sure. I don't think it's
smaltzy at all (Pass the Kleenex. I've something in my eye).
I used to drive the English master here, Alwyn Evans, apoplectic whenever I used the phrase " I never! " when,
according to him, I should have used the phrase " I didn't! " Actually, we were both wrong, 'cos more often
than not, " I did! " I was just lying to get out of trouble!
He didn't like me very much, but I found him alright really.
" He is making a greater effort and his work is improving " Maybe so, but no thanks to that belt across
the face Mr Price (the history teacher here) once gave me. Can still feel it! There was a lot of that sort of thing going
on at Cardiff High School at the time - almost a daily occurrence. All against the rules and highly illegal.
Mr Price was apparently known as 'Spiv". I say 'apparently' as I never called him that, nor knew of anyone else calling
him that while I was there. His idea of a 'history' lesson was to turn up fifteen minutes late, then say to us " Copy
down what I'm writing on the board. " as he proceeded to chalk up on the blackboard some tome all in block
capitals at a truly phenomenal rate (must have been the only person in the school who could have kept up with 'Doug'
Riddell's dictation speed!) for about ten minutes, and then leaving us to copy it down in our notebooks while he went back
to the staff room, presumably to resume his 'fag' (more likely a small cigar in his case, I think) and cup of tea.
Some years later, I underwent some training as a telegraphist. I ended up transcribing reams and reams of five letter
code groups being sent at 20 'words' a minute in morse code, which is quite fast. I suddenly experienced a distinct case of
'deja vu' as I did so, as here I was, writing block capitals at a phenominal rate, just as Mr Price did! I found out
later that he won a DFC in the war. I wonder if he was a radio operator on a bomber or similar at some stage? That might
" Lacks confidence ". No I didn't - I just lacked a good retentive memory. That's all you need to be a linguist
- there's no intellectual skill involved at all, which was why I was always hopeless at it. I found having to learn things
by rote so bloody boring. So I didn't bother. The only French phrases I could ever remember were " Oui "; "
Non "; a number you wouldn't mention in mixed company, and " Vivre la Quebec Libre! " Ah, well, c'est la vie!
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