Skool Teekchers Wot Ay Haf Noan: part three – Maple Road Primary

My teachers at Primary school were a mixed bunch.  I’ve described the first two that I recall here. The third, Mrs Greening, was revealed here. Today we will end with Miss Hazel the psychopathic and the one man, Mr Hole the avuncular.

Miss Hazel was known as ‘Witch’ Hazel which, if you aren’t familiar with the same, is a medicinal product but, in our eyes, she was anything but soothing and restorative. In many ways she looked like my Gran – small, tightly packed white hair, puckered lips from less than well fitted false teeth. But while the chassis might seem the same, under the bonnets they were totally different vehicles. She was a rip roaring, snorting beast of a woman who terrified us even when she was looking down and we couldn’t see her eyes. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to medusa, well, she entered teacher training college in 1946 and ended up terrorising form 2 at Maple Road Primary.

Much like most pain, it is difficult to recall exactly how bad it was save by a comparison with every other teacher before or since – she set a new low, a personal best in egregious fear and loathing.

Miss Hazel loved loud noises. Mostly her voice, an instrument of delicious torture that had been honed as a template for the hands free phone; she could be heard miles away. But also, variously her ruler (on desks and hands), desk lids (slammed shut and be sure you got your fingers away because she wasn’t worried), classroom doors (ditto) and, somehow and don’t ask me how, closing an exercise book after she’d marked it.

I recall one poor soul – Angela something – caught talking to a friend across the gangway. Wholly innocent I suspect, but Senator Joseph McCarthy couldn’t have been more suspicious of Angela.

‘What is it, girl?’ The absence of a name was not a good sign, as if anonomising the culprit rendered them expendable.

‘I… er…’

Angela was traumatised, instantly rendered both mute and the subject of uncontrollable muscle movements. For some that meant an unfortunate leakage but, and history doesn’t relate why, in Angela’s case she lost complete control of her left hand. That can be the only explanation because the next thing we knew, Angela was whimpering with her hand bent at a peculiar angle across the desk. Somehow – and no one could do this if they tried – she had jammed her pinky into the inkwell. Even back in the dark ages of my school days we had moved beyond quill pens and ink-in-wells but the desks remained those from a different generation and thus contained a now redundant ink well.

‘What are you doing, girl?’

Even if she could have spoken, articulating exactly what she had done was clearly beyond Angela.

Miss Hazel approached the ensnared pupil and, having carried out a comprehensive health and safety and risk assessment, grabbed her hand and tried to yank it free.

Now, pausing here momentarily, we should consider that, while Miss Hazel was probably in her fifties, she still retained the residual strength of her simian forebears. The entrapped pinky was made of sterner stuff and refused to budge.

Unlike Angela.

It was difficult enough for her to both remain seated and have a finger embedded in a small china pot on the far edge of her desk – though standing up without permission was a crime no known punishment fitted so she had determined to remain seated at all costs.

‘All costs’, however, didn’t factor in the irresistible force of a psychopathic primary teacher with a fetish for free-to-view pinkies meeting the immovable object – viz the reluctant pinky. Two things gave at the same time. First Miss Hazel’s head tipped forward at speed and second, a beat behind, Angela’s bonce mirrored Miss Hazel’s. The clash was as inevitable as it was appalling. The sound outdid any created by Miss Hazel’s quotidian ill temper.

The two females flew apart, both holding the sight of the impact, both moaning in a sort of cranial plain chant. The kerfuffle that followed involved other teachers, the school nurse and, proof there was a God, early break time.

It was almost as if the spark was knocked out of Miss Hazel in the impact. Memory suggests that she never quite regained her former stature as gorgon-in-tweed. But perhaps it was the knowledge that even the most challenging teacher could be brought low by a well timed head-butt.

Mr Hole – aka Holey – was  a different kettle of shark entirely. He came from Dunstable, which, because he told us so often I assumed it had to be a sort of Valhalla – well until I visited it and realised it about as interesting as any suburban enclave. He wore wonky spectacles which he was always pushing up his nose, shirts that were congenitally untuckable, a string vest that appeared at tantalising intervals and the most infectious enthusiastic approach to learning I think I’ve ever had. Nothing seemed to be uninteresting. How windows opened, the contents of the bottom of Douglas Jeroboam’s satchel, a scientific comparison of knee cap scars, door mats and, most intriguing of all, the shape of drying puddles on the playground after rain.

He also got me writing. In his class I set up a form newspaper with three friends – the aforementioned Douglas, Christopher Grohmann and Paul Kirsch. We asked for copy and stuck the stories on large white sheets of paper – the Maple Road Times – which proudly hung from a small loop of string near the blackboard for its three or four editions before we ran out of material. And I wrote a series of plays – Sleepy Halt Junction, based loosely on ancient Will Hay films, especially Oh Mr Porter, here if you’re interested

Ah me. Happy days. Sadly, while he fired our enthusiasm in many ways, Mr Hole didn’t prepare us for our Eleven Plus exams, a monstrous conceit that channelled children’s futures as effectively as a lottery. Somehow, through the intervention of a rather delightful bear, I secured a place at a grammar school and, academically, my future was safe. It could easily, might easily have been so different. If you want to read about my marmalade loving rescuer, click here.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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28 Responses to Skool Teekchers Wot Ay Haf Noan: part three – Maple Road Primary

  1. Rowena says:

    Geoff, my kids have such normal, encouraging teachers with none of the foibles that teachers seemed to have in the past. I remember there was talk that one of the primary school teachers wore a wig as if that made her some sort of extreme weirdo and reject. In high school with had a religious studies teachers who made her own man suits. Her name was Miss Manwearing, which was rather unfortunate. In hindsight, I’d say she was dressed as a man. There were quite a few unmarried women teaching in our all girls private school, which has changed in recent years. The teacher in charge of discipline in the middle school was a Mrs Breitner and there was talk abot her being related to Hitler. I mean students aren’t known for being kind, caring and compassionate. I do remember that she saw me when I was upset once at school and she asked me how I was and revealed her humanity. Must’ve been a tough job.
    xx Ro

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ritu says:

    I’ve loved your reminiscences!!!!
    I remember most of myvtrachers go sky though there were those who had their foibles!

    Like

  3. Ritu says:

    I’ve loved your reminiscences!!!!
    I remember most of my teachers fondly though there were those who had their foibles!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. willowdot21 says:

    Good old Paddington the bear fruit Peru. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The good old days weren’t always quite that good universally it seems. At least you aren’t allowed to become a psychopath in the classroom any more 🙂

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    • TanGental says:

      no there in lies a plus for the educated if not necessarily the educating. Where you tyrant or tinkerbell?

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      • I think the classroom is no place for either tyrant or tinkerbell so I guess I tried to walk a middle line…….. I had a reputation with the kids as being ‘strict but fair’ and I tried to ensure every day there was a reason for a good belly laugh – I quite liked that! Many of my ex-students keep in touch, so it can’t have been all bad 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I’m sure you had your fairy dust moments though. But yes a middle line is usually best and from my memories of my kids at primary school the tough teachers were the ones who got the most out of them.

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      • There was a pithy motto in vogue when I first started teaching. Remember, our school year begins at the end of January after the summer holidays – ‘Never smile before Easter’ What it really meant was set your standards high, be respectful, kind and fair – and require the same from your students. Worked for me 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Up on this side of the planet no one smiles before Easter because it’s too darn cold and you risk cracking your cheeks with such extreme facial tectonics.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. JT Twissel says:

    I always had a hard time sitting still. Sometimes I’d tap my feet without meaning to – my teachers called me Mr. Bojangles.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Those inkwells! We filled ours with pencil sharpening and sweetie papers since, although we used ink cos they thought it made us try harder to write neatly, it came in cartridges.

    My junior school teachers had endless patience with all the things I snapped/trod on/rendered unusable. Thanks for the interesting trip through your junior years.

    My prize goes to Mrs Reeve who, when I counted up all the pennies and halfpennies which were the takings in the Kit-Kat shop we had once a week, said “Perhaps we will all do that one day”!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Those primary school memories remain so vivid

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Norah says:

    Angela did a great job in headbutting Miss Hazel. What a scene. I can just picture it. And an early lunch as proof there is a God – that’s for sure! Mr Hole sounds quite delightful, though perhaps he should have done a little more to prepare you for those exams too. A balanced approach is probably wise.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mr Hole? How unfortunate. Not as bad as my Geography teacher, Mr Mann, though. 😀

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