We were 13

The 80s soul playlist KEEPS playing Shannon: Let The Music Play! Reminds me of…

There was a boy called George Shannon in my English class at 13. He came from Ipswich (now I wonder where he lived? Christchurch Park, I reckon. His father was – I think – a doctor, doing very nicely to have afforded a ‘Westminster education‘…)

Well, in O Level English (we were so old-fashioned) we did a novel ‘continuous assessment’ thing that was worked out ESPECIALLY FOR THE SCHOOL (because it was ‘a good thing’ at Parents’ Evenings…). Shannon was clever. He had BRIGHT RED hair and a face which made him look like a lieutenant in wartime – basically young but grizzled (sort of, in my fevered imagination…) He got (capitals lock) A, A, A, A, A, A, A, A, A, A… in his homework. He clearly had enough As for an A in O Level (before the days of A1s, themselves made redundant last year…). And for the last item of homework, he just said: Enough… and (quite understandably) handed in a sentence of rubbish. Just to be funny…

He got an F…

How we laughed (corporately, though we didn’t know the word then…)

And then blow me down if it didn’t – SOMEHOW – count against him in the O Level. So he got a B in the final grade! As Donald Trump would say: True Story! (Probably/possibly…)

I haven’t thought of George Shannon for ages (and no, I don’t basically want to ‘get in touch!’… Not with ANYBODY from THAT SCHOOL… They’re all FOOLS who do GREAT JOBS, till they drop down dead…)

I think the ‘masters’ (no mere teachers at Westminster!) just wanted to PUNISH him for hubris. They didn’t LIKE him…

They were ALL gay, the English masters. Two of them came on to me (not seriously. It was ONLY the 70s…). One – Mr J – LOVED Evelyn Waugh (which – a bit – I inherited. A Handful Of Dust – that’s one of the Top Five or Six…) AND Samuel Beckett (not inherited AT ALL! Though he was quite cool with his brush cut… AND I once sat next to – on the Paris/Heathrow flight, c1985 – his house guest, an academic woman from America who was just SO GLAD I had actually heard of him, and proceeded to tell me all… zzzzz. It was barely an hour in the plane and – being 21 – I just thought ‘it’ll be a good story’ and slept with my eyes open…)

So, Mr J invited all his FAVOURITE PUPILS back to his flat… And I – using basic ‘flight’ mechanism – DIDN’T GO… And (unlike Shannon) it didn’t lose me an A grade. It was just never. Spoken. Of. Again…

As for Mr F (the other transparently gay English teacher) he was VERY GOOD LOOKING – and used to give ‘free lessons’ (I think they were called), in which some pupils SMOKED (it was 1977…). One such lesson, I remember, Nick Croft said to me: Cool For Cats.

Nick Croft was SO COOL! And ‘Cool For Cats’ was a reference to Squeeze (who were New Wave, and therefore GOOD) AND meant – or at least I took it to mean – a statement along the lines of: J Wrathall IS Cool (for Cats)…

I was insanely HAPPY!

As for Nick Croft, he had come to Westminster a WHOLE TERM before me, and was the SUBSTANCE to my SHADOW (oh, that WESTMINSTER SLANG that we had to be tested on in Grant’s). He became a doctor (natch) and was NOT COOL AT ALL when I met him at the funeral of Amanda in 2011 (ex-City Limits, breast cancer), which he came to as ‘moral support’ for Marc (with a ‘c’! He’s ALMOST French – except he’s Jewish/Iranian…). Marc being Amanda’s brother, also a doctor at the Royal Free where (you remember?) he was TOO BUSY to see me post-stroke for even one second out of six hours I waited in A&E (it had been rebranded as just plain ‘Accident’, but everyone still called it A&E, the same amount of syllables…). With an oedema that nobody had noticed – and that lost A STONE in weight when (eventually) I was prescribed water pills… Blah blah blah…

As for Mr F, he was famous for having had an affair with Adam Mars-Jones, who was just getting fame on the back of his ‘zany’ collection of short stories Lantern Lecture… As a schoolboy, natch! We all laughed (corporately) – and headed straight for the exit after the lesson was over.

Mr F once complimented me – ‘You look rosy-cheeked. And your lips are such a dark red…’ – in a way that was supposed to be enticing but was actually DEEPLY CREEPY… His whole smile was creepy…

Us sophisticated schoolboys just rolled our eyes and said: Ah, Mr F! Say no more about IT…

And we looked on knowingly – not actually having a clue what ‘it’ involved…

And my housemaster – an old Etonian called Mr Hepburne-Scott, who had a model-railway fetish AND the railway sign from Adlestrop IN HIS STUDY – was murdered by a rent boy ON SCHOOL PROPERTY. It happened in the early 90s, just before the Internet became standard. Otherwise it would have been all over it… instead of just a ‘diverse item’ in the Daily Telegraph…

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strokeofbadluck

I had a stroke on July 26th, 2013. I was a screenwriter. Don’t do that anymore. But have found another way to write.

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