I went to the same school as Alan Bennett you know, albeit that he had left the hallowed North Drive Ring Road gates some 18 years before I would walk through them on my first day, but barely nothing would have changed at Leeds Modern Grammar School in the meantime, notice how I give the school its full name, us Old Mods do that you know, its so that you readers and listeners realise that its a Grammar School we’re talking about and not some cheap Secondary Modern, it matters.
I probably sat in one of the same chairs that Alan Bennett sat in for the furniture at Leeds Modern had not been changed for 100 years or so it seemed, so yes, I can proudly boast that I parked my 11 year old arse on a seat that had once borne the weight of one of our most esteemed playwrights, or indeed John Cravens arse for he is an Old Modernian too.
I’d love to be able to say that Alan Bennett and I shared a common English Master, but we won’t have for in 1968 as our new intake of first formers sat fearful in our first English lesson of the year we came to realise that the whole of the English department that year consisted of an also new intake of fresh faced newly teaching qualified young men, all of the English Masters that year were fresh out of college and only a few years older than us, although in the main bearded in that trendy English student way of 1968 whereas us 11 year olds could only dream of sideburns and goatees, but they would come, oh yes, for most of us our sideburns would be in evidence by the end of that first year for we were a pretty god-damn trendy crowd.
I still ponder a-while sometimes at how the whole of the English Department of such an old traditionalist Grammar School like Leeds Modern came to be replaced wholesale in such dramatic fashion in that autumn term of 1968, what awful tragedy could have befallen the English department during the summer of ’68, where other departments had legions of old fogey Masters almost as old as the school, the English department had been replenished wholesale and I could only sit there and wonder if there had been a terrible coach accident on a field trip that previous summer resulting in such decimation and employment opportunity for our fresh faced English Masters.
It comes as a shock to the system to realise that those fresh faced Masters in their first weeks of employment as Grammar School teachers will now be long retired, or dead, the school too, demolished these past ten years and replaced by a building that wouldn’t strike fear into anyone or anything and what use is a school of Grammar education if it doesn’t strike fear into its first formers ?
Anyway, Alan Bennett, I listen to his ramblings a lot whilst painting.
Shoot me when I start to sound like him though won’t you ?
As I surely will…