Thirsky was the teacher in primary school who’s job it was to introduce us to the concept of hard work, up until then it had all been about playing with sand, cutting out shapes from paper, making chinese lanterns for your mother to put in the bin one week later, and learning your times tables by singing them in a tuneless song.
Thirsky was the second to last year in primary school, he preceded Mouldy Moulton who’s job it was to introduce to eleven year olds the concept of the miserable old cow, seemingly forever plagued by PMT for 30 days of every month, Mouldy Moulton seemed to hate kids, why on earth she had ever considered that teaching would be a good career choice is beyond me, in fact she seemed to hate her whole life and just a few years later she morphed into Margaret Thatcher to wreak havoc upon us all.
But Thirsky it was who was to toughen us up in readiness for the Moulton year, Thirsky, a middle aged bald man who wore the same suit, same shirt and same tie every day of his school life, in fact I only ever saw him wear one different thing to his normal teaching outfit and that was when he referee’d the occasional game of football at which time he would remove his shoes and don a pair of wellington boots, tucking his suit trousers into them, we had the only referee in the northern hemisphere to wear a suit and tie during the game.
He had a large pimple right on the very top of his bald head and in the ever-so-imaginative way that 10 year old kids have, we called him Pimple Head, oh how we laughed.
Pimple Head tried very hard to bring some discipline to his classroom but in that ever-so-incisive decisive way that ten year olds have we saw straight through his hard man demeanour, within hours of arriving in his classroom on the first day of the school year we had him sussed, he was a man who was being forced to act tough whereas really, just underneath that very thin toughman veneer, he was a big softy.
He had to play the hardman role because at that time he was the only male teacher in the school, all the rest of the teachers, apart from Mouldy Moulton, were of the almost-retired-school-marm types, the ones who could just as easy be your grandma outside of school and who taught you in the time honoured fashion of “Be quiet children and listen to me for I am all-important and wise and you will learn something”, it was a way of teaching that had not changed in hundreds of years, you sat facing the front of the class and you sat still and sat quiet and you listened to what the teacher was saying while she taught you everything that you needed to know that year – it worked.
Ultimately though Pimple Head always struggled to control us, it was in Pimple Heads class that we stole all of the rulers in his stationary cupboard, hundreds of them for a class of 30 kids and it took him from September to mid-May to realise that they’d all gone, we’d been using them for sword fights outside for six months and when he really lost his temper that day he went around the classroom with a big box and got us all individually to open our desks and hand back every broken wooden ruler that we had, most of us handed back at least a dozen each.
And I’m not saying that it was a poor school, for it wasn’t, but every Thursday morning we had what was laughingly called “a music lesson”, it was a music lesson spent listening to a music lesson on a huge wooden radio that was dragged into the room on a trolley by the school caretaker – when I say huge I mean huge, like at least four feet square and permanently tuned into the BBC’s schools programming – until one day the music lesson teacher on the radio mentioned that our class could form its own orchestra by making its own musical instruments – Pimple Head’s ears pricked up at this and we all groaned, he’d had an idea.
The following week Pimple Head issued a decree, we were all to search our houses from top to bottom to find empty Fairy Liquid bottles and pieces of bamboo and a few days later armed with all of the rubbish in the house he initiated a “Craft Lesson” during which we were to make our own musical instruments.
Not many of us had brought bamboo, its not endemic in Cookridge although we did find some growing in a garden that had access to small boys via a circuitous route across lots of other back gardens at night, that garden didn’t have any bamboo growing in it the next day (what little bastards we were) but Pimple Head dismissed all of the canes we took to him saying they were too narrow and they needed to be at least two inches in diameter – where the hell did he think we lived, Borneo ?
So we all took empty washing up liquid and empty bleach bottles to school and Pimple Head got some dried peas from the school kitchen and in adding a few dried peas to each empty bottle of household chemicals (kids playing with bleach bottles, brilliant eh ?) we suddenly became an orchestra.
An orchestra of mainly rhythm players it has to be said for the only tune that you can get out of a bleach bottle with dried peas inside is the sound that a rattlesnake makes but nevertheless the following Thursday the bleach bottle instruments were brought out of Pimple Heads stationary cupboard and we all rattled along to Beethovens 12th or similar and a damn fine mess it all sounded too, Pimple Head was very proud of his new school orchestra and went to the Headmaster to report on this wonderful success at which point the Head actually found some money in the school slush fund to buy some real instruments …
…with hilarious results…