Lord knows I have racked my brain for her name but it is long gone. Which is a damned shame because, of all my secondary school teachers, hers is the name I’d most like to recall.
She taught Chemistry and, most importantly of all for us burgeoningly pubescent boys, she taught the girls netball.
She was young. She was fit. She was pretty.
And in the words of The Streets, my God didn’t she know it.
Most of my teachers at secondary school had had all of their emotion and sensitivity long scoured out of them by year upon year of having to teach the magic of knowledge to a zoo full of barbaric ingrates who were driven purely by the dictates of their hormones and the desire to be first in the lunch queue for chips. They looked upon us young scholars as mere animals, subhuman at best, with little chance of redemption by the examination board. We were Neanderthals in school ties.
Miss Chemistry (as I shall call her) was different.
She gave us boys knowing looks. Secret smirks. The raised eyebrow that suggested she knew exactly what we were thinking most of the time (every 8 seconds apparently) and felt a little frisson because of it. She was playing with fire to be sure. Possibly though I am reading far too much into it. Possibly I am merely tapping into the murky adolescent communal fantasy that flourished during her employ at Manor Hall Secondary School.
Whatever, she was different. She was human. And she seemed to look upon us as human or variants thereof too.
There was Chemistry indeed.
One of my most enduring memories of her is watching her referee a netball match between the 5th form girls one Wednesday lunch time. The match was held in the “tennis courts” – little more than a concrete yard fenced round with that weird plasti-coated green wire fencing. Word got around fast and within minutes the perimeter of the fence was populated by a hundred, silently slathering boys who gripped tightly onto the fence with their fingers and drank in every bounce, jump and wobble. It was like being at a dog pound – only with the desperate pups being on the outside looking in.
She played up to us for a good 20 minutes before the comments got a little too bawdy and she blew her whistle – ah those lips! – and moved us all on. I remember her looking highly amused as Mr Evans the “gardening” teacher shooed us all away before lingering himself. Just to make sure we didn’t return, I’m sure.
The story that went round the school just before she left for pastures new was that during one Chemistry lesson she’d been fishing round in her handbag for a tissue when something long, smooth and intimately cylindrical rolled out onto the laboratory desk.
It wasn’t a Bunsen burner I can tell you. It had a compartment for batteries.
By the end of the day she’d earned the nickname “Buzz”.
By the end of the week the 5th form boys were shouting “buzzzzzz!” at her every time she walked by them in the corridor.
Her position had become untenable.
She was gallingly replaced by a weird moustachioed guy in a tweed jacket who looked like Michael Fish. He thought himself a right comedian but jokes – even good ones – could never replace what we’d lost.
I often think of Miss Chemistry now and wonder where she is. What she’s doing. What happened was a tragedy. But the tragedy was on us boys.
We just were not man enough.
That’s what all those knowing looks and smirks were about. She wasn’t laughing with us.
We just weren’t man enough...