1974: Patchway High, Plays and Mr Poad

Thursday 6th June 1974

School was as interesting as ever. Mr Howe wouldn’t stop going on about returning the script for Penny for a Song. I don’t have copy 18 and, even if I did, why I would keep it as a souvenir? That has to be the last time I do anything on stage. To be honest I am pretty crap at it. Mr Howe can also go and take a running jump if he is going to try and play me off with the cricket team over rehearsals and practices. There are far better actors in the school. David Merritt and Stuart Hibberd are genuinely funny. I enjoyed doing the play but for all the wrong reasons. I liked the idea of being the revolutionary and looked up the stuff about the French Revolution as background reading. The play had good audiences and they seemed to like it.

We had our last Maths lesson before the actual exam. Doing Maths a year early is good because we can do Additional maths next year. I do worry a bit about the grade but I should get a 1 or 2. Watched a bit of the cricket when I got home from school. It has rained and England are 116 -4 at the close of play. Watched Top of the Pops, Sugar Baby Love No, 1, I ask you? Who buys this rubbish? Watched Dad’s Army and then Play for Today. It was about the impact of Oil discoveries in Scotland. At least everyone kept their clothes on this week and Mum didn’t turn it off.


penny for a song

I discovered I did have copy 18 and it has stayed in my book shelves ever since. I don’t think the play was actually performed at this time but it was obviously on my mind.

The Cast list for Penny for a song is as written in my inadvertently mislaid copy of the script.

cast list penny for a song

 Produced by the boss. B.M. Howe

 Lights and sound by B Franklin

                                         I Coles

                                         K Hawkins

                                        C Coupland

                                       Mr Dennis

 Make up by Miss Robins and her harem


Sir Timothy Bellboys                          Keith Clarke

Hallam Matthews                                Robert Gane

Edward Sterne                                     Yours Truly

A Small Boy                                          Robert Lane

Lamprett Bellboys                              David Merritt

Dorcas Bellboys                                  Erica Lawrence

George Selincourt                               Lewis Clifford

William Humpage                               Stuart Hibberd

Samuel Breeze                                      Glyn Lewis

Joseph Brotherhood                           Nicholas (The Bishop) Hayman

James Giddy                                         David (Typecast) Ley

Rufus Piggott                                       Neil (Typical Irish) Catford

Hester Bellboys                                    Helen Wilkins

A Maidservant (Pippin)                     Mary Summerfield

Gavin Gallop                                       Gavin (The totally immodest) Madle

Over the school years we did quite a few productions.

I recall:-

  • The Car; I played a union official and we had to reclaim a lost scrapped car from the fields in Hempton Lane as a centre piece for the play that was performed in the round.
  • Penny for a Song: As described above.
  • The Murder of Maria Martin. Or The Red Barn: I quite enjoyed this melodrama.
  • We were going to do Zigger Zagger but it was banned by the head teacher and Governors There was a pupil protest about censorship and the injustice of it all.
  • School Reviews; Not so funny sketches and songs in a variety act show. In my final performance I reached the dizzy heights of playing a squawking bird that gets kissed at the end by the charming young girl (Erica Chamberlain). No words to remember, just act the fool on stage. I got the message and didn’t audition again.

In the evening we all would watch T.O.T.P.. It wasn’t cool to like any of the acts. That was easy for the Rubettes, The Wombles, The Osmonds and the Bay City Rollers; all of which were in the charts this day. For now the coolest thing in the charts would be Sparks or Brian Ferry. I would likely be listening to Supertramp later in that year. I bought my copy of Crime of the Century from Dingles in Clifton after we (a shocked Studs and Me) listened to Bloody Well Right in a booth in their record department. My first album was ticked off there and then.

We always watched Play for Today. This week it was called The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil. In other weeks when there might be any hint of nudity or sex we had to suffer the huffing and tutting of disapproval across the room. This was usually accompanied by a question. “Are you enjoying this Richard?” Never Gerald of course. There is only one answer to be given to such a loaded question. You say no and the television would go off. Say yes and you were open to further questioning on girlfriends and who used Dad’s shaver? I never did, by the way, but it became a bit of a byword for growing up. As Harold’s children got to the age of interest in girls, Gillette started making less than perfect razor blades. It was so much easier to say no and read a book instead.

Brian Howe was an odd teacher. He was always in my compass as English teacher, play producer or as Sixth form tutor. He was our initial English teacher and gave us the spiel about high expectations. He shouted Oxford University and had the non-Bristolian rather than received accent to go with it. What stood out to all of us was his sarcasm that verged towards sadism at times. If he found a bone of weakness in a student he would pick at it mercilessly. My weakness was in having multiple loyalties. When they clashed he had me running between teachers in a frantic attempt to try and resolve a clash of rehearsal and practice time. The rest of the class would be in on the joke that would be purely at my expense for being too much in demand. I risked losing a place in the team or the play. In retrospect I should have told him to stuff his play. Later on he had an important role in coaching me through the Oxbridge entrance examinations. Looking back, he was as much out his depth as I was in this matter. We did practice papers and he challenged me in mock interviews that were nothing like the real thing at Hertford. When I returned unsuccessful there was nothing in terms of follow up to find out what needed to be done better. He did have one saving grace. He loved to encourage a debate. I am sure he would come to lessons without a lesson plan and just let us go. This suited me perfectly. As a class we would divert him from English Grammar lessons to any sort of topic of conversation and he would willingly play the devil’s advocate. On my list of top ten teachers at Patchway he merits a place for not so always admirable qualities.

For the record my top five are-

Larry White – Geography Guru and top fieldtrip organiser

Bob Janes – Political mentor and all round good egg

Mr Cumbleton – History Teacher at ‘A’ level, a young and thoroughly decent keen new member of staff.

Barry Potter – PE teacher and fellow midfield stroller for the old boys. I owe him many, many beers. I can hear him now shouting ” make the ball do the work” a mantra for all my later sporting exercise.

Colin Chamberlain – Maths teacher and a bit of a father figure when things needed a different way of thinking. An unknowing school mentor before schools had school mentors.

For the record my bottom five were :-

Mr Poad – Chemistry . New at it and very accident prone. It was funny at first but positively dangerous by the time I decided to give that one up.

Bill Bailey – Maths. Fortunately I only had him a few lessons. He taught at the school for many years. How he did so was the only thing about his teaching that amazed me.

Eggy Davies – Maths – He specialised in Country Dancing? Really? For fun? He took ‘A’ level Maths and was totally lost. He would retire to his office when the going got tough. You never wanted to be invited in to get his retribution on a Monday morning when we had to explain the working out of a homework problem.

Mr Robins – Something about him and me just didn’t work.

P.E.G. Isaacs – The Headteacher – A man less suited to comprehensive education you will struggle to find anywhere. He had the inspirational talents of a cabbage. He did, however, give us a lift to our Oxford Interviews. John Butler, Neil Catford and myself in a car with him. Hardly a word spoken either there or back, from anyone. Dreadful! He did have but one moment of deep thought that has stayed with me for life. “The acid test of a good cricketer is the colour of his socks.” Not white but cricket sock grey is the shade required to score those extra runs.

1975       ICI 47 W

1976       Southmead Hospital A W 12

1978       Boycott’s B’s W 39

1981       Eastville H D 16

1990       MKACA H W

1992       New Bradwell II H L 11

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