Inevitably, any reminiscence about schooldays involves thinking of the teachers you knew, who were such an important part of your life and who, with the odd exception, you never saw again once you left.
I was very lucky. I had very few bad teachers and only two truly dreadful ones (yes, Mr and Mme Davey, you are getting yours the next time I have a bad day). More importantly, from the point of view of this project, a lot of them were colourful personalities and some of them could almost merit a book in their own right.
One of these was Mr Bradley. John Bradley was my form master and physics teacher from the ages of 14 to 16. He was also taciturn, a coffee addict and a black belt in at least one martial art.
For physics, we all lined up in the corridor outside his lab. In silence. We then filed into the room whilst he watched us. In silence. As the lesson started, a lab technician would bring him a fresh mug of steaming coffee, and away we would go. Every week, twice a week, the same ritual.
Of course, we didn’t dare misbehave (we saved that for the student teachers who occasionally had to spend a few weeks teaching us) and one of my abiding memories is of the time that one of the school thugs ran yelling into the room, clearly forgetting where he was. He screeched to a halt as he realised where he was, turned pale and awaited his fate. Mr Bradley paused for a moment, pointed to the door and merely said “Out”. Never has one word so completely crushed a boy.
My second memory from the year after I moved on to sixth form college. I was walking with my then-girlfriend from Leamington to Warwick one Saturday night. We encountered Mr Bradley coming the other way, drunk and walking along the white lines in the middle of the road. A brief nod to one another and the world’s least vocal teacher wandered on and out of my life.
i didn’t pass physics. It wasn’t Mr Bradley’s fault.