1987: A Birthday, Bletchley Rugby and Denbigh

Friday 18th September 1987

Diary entry

Cream cakes for team. Duty in main playground. Sort out first assignment assessments for “A” level group. Fiona to pick me up at 4.30. Bus to Stony Stratford for 6. Crawl: Vaults bar, Bull, Fox and Hounds, Crown, White Horse, Bekash for curry, taxi home. Joined by Roger S and Tim in Vaults on return. Up early tomorrow for visit to MIL this weekend. No Rugby or cricket so R.T.W. and a bit of stately home or beach visiting.

A Friday night and my 29th birthday. What to do? We decided after school without a plan that a beer and later curry in Stony Stratford would fit the bill of not getting blind drunk but having a celebration with friends who might happen to be around. The drinking crowd in the Vaults usually included fellow teachers, in this case Roger Siewert and Tim Hawkins. Eileen Brackenbury came in later as did Tim Gulliver from Leon. Alex dropped in for a short while but left to do Kate duties in Northampton. Later in the year I would be his best man but for now he was still in the “impress the girlfriend” stage of getting to know her.

Working on your birthday was nothing new and not something one is likely to remember with any great fondness. I had just started at Denbigh School as teacher in charge of Geography. This meant nominal charge of a team described by the head as “disparate”. For the second time in my career the new job coincided with a new head teacher. Temporarily Jean Dove was in charge but soon to arrive was the whooshing of Gillian Parkinson’s broom to sweep away many a cobwebbed corridor. In my small corner of the new Block Tower I had Deputy Head Chris Scrivener, Exams Officer Pete Dolan and Wendy Hibble as my team plus various reluctant recruits from senior teams to also lead. Chris Scrivener welcomed me to my first Head of Department meeting with the ever so charming “Don’t expect any favours from me.” Fine, if that’s the way you want to play it. My political head was pulled from my new briefcase and screwed on straight away. Pete was in the distrusting camp. In hindsight I recognised he had to put up with far more Scivenerisms for far longer than I had. We knew each other from outside school, i.e Cricket for the town, and I was very much the young upstart expected to be Scriveners lap dog. It took me a long while to disabuse him of that opinion. Pete would look to help the department change by agreeing to everything and then just getting on with things exactly as he had done for many a year. Wendy was totally helpful and competent. She just did the job and then moved on elsewhere. If Denbigh was to make me a good teacher it did a pretty poor job. In hindsight my career was successful despite my time here. It did throw experiences at me. A change of school site, experience of creating new things like Humanities departments and work experience programmes. I left extremely unhappy with the school and teaching in general. It was not missed or revered by me. Denbigh as an institution was a place that made me harder, less collaborative and generally sceptical. Three aspects of which I was not proud to possess. I made some good friends and a few teaching enemies. Thankfully there were more friends. Most of the enemies held senior posts and responsibilities.


Denbigh New Block

My domain was on the top floor to the right

I need to talk about something positive before we all start getting depressed. The upcoming Rugby Season was probably the one where I enjoyed the game the most. I decided to do some training, or more importantly the club recognised that I did plenty of exercise in the week and had enough basic fitness to cope with the exertions of first team rugby. My real opportunity was down to the first team of its best years losing some of the older players. New Zealanders headed home and spaces being available in a side in transition. I played at No. 8 out of preference. In important games I would be shifted to the second row to accommodate an occasional back rower. Bletchley played a game based on rucking and kicking into corners. I preferred to engage in an open running game which sometimes meant myself in a clash of style and interest.

Bletchley clubhouse today


 I recognise my boots.

What an excellent  off load to Nigel Surman. Don’t pass it to Alban. Don’t pass it to Alban no hands Turney. What did he do? Start again.


My record of this season At Bletchley Rugby Club. Games played as Friendlies, Southern Counties League or Heart of England Merit Table matches.

Or more clearly:-

Sep-26   2nds Bacavians H W 34-0

Oct-03    2nds Banbury W 19-0

Oct-10    1sts Oadby Wyggestonians H L 9-3

Oct-17    1sts Bracknell H W 18-15

Oct-24    1sts Chinnor A W 19-9

Oct-31    1sts Marlow A W 8-3

Nov-07  1sts Oxford Marathon W 26-0

Nov-14  1sts Ampthill A W 19-7 2c

Nov-28  1sts Hemel Hempstead H L 30-3

Dec-05   1sts Wigston A W 15-10 2p

Dec-12   1sts Buckingham H W 40-13 1t 1c

Dec-13   1sts Chesham H W 56 -3 1t 1c

Dec-19   1sts Leicester Vipers A L 20-6

Dec-31   3rds Colworth House  II W 22-6

Jan-08    1sts Redingensians H L 0-14

Jan-16    1sts Aylesbury A W 4-0

Jan-29    1sts Northampton BBOB A L 10-7

Feb-05   1sts Bicester H W 12-3

Feb-13   1sts Marlow A L 10-3

Feb-19   1sts Towcestrians H L 15-9

Feb-26   2nds Luton A W 11-0

Mar-04  2nds Harpenden H W 26-13

Mar-11  2nds Olney H L 37-0

Mar-25  2nds Wimbourne H L 18-13

There were a few other oddities about this season. You will note conversions and penalties on the points scored notes. It was not a regular thing but I tended to be given the honour of lumping it long distances on muddy pitches. It is also interesting to note the fixture list contained some teams that have raced through the league pyramid. Ampthill away and 2 conversions in the sand in a 19 -7 win felt good even then. Losing at Leicester Vipers did not. Chiltern are now Amersham and Chiltern while Chinnor bear little resemblance to the village side we played here.

Selection policy looks a bit harsh. Dropped after a game at home to Towcestrians? Really? Coincidentally of course, the 1sts barely won a game until I returned at Shipston on Stour. I was still “overlooked” for the final game of the season versus Stamford for the seconds. 1 conversion and a penalty in a 9-0 win? All ready for the firsts next season? Nah, thirds it was then at the start of every season for this cricketing stroller.

A Typical Saturday in the Rugby Season went something like this.

Light breakfast. Toast and tea, more tea and then off to school for 9. If before Christmas coach a Rugby team or after it a football one. By coach at Denbigh I mean stand on the line and organise the subs or referee the match.

By 12 head off to the ground. Walk around Manor Fields football pitch and down to the clubhouse for 1. If it was an away match leaving earlier then we might meet at 12. Lunch would inevitably be something from Mick and Marie’s chip shop in Fenny, eaten on the grass slope of Manor Fields Football ground.

We tended to be changed by 2.15 for home games and go for a light pitch warm up before 2.30. By light we mean kick / pass a ball around, stroll a few lengths of the pitch and run through the oh so complicated line out calls. For away games this depended on the map reading skills of your driver. Not the line out calls but having time for a warm up. It was important to avoid certain drivers who were offering lifts. Worst of all was a journey on the team coach that meant you were trapped to the third team schedule and prone to stopping off for a beer on the way to the game. Post-match at home it was a good tea and beer drinking in the bar until Fiona arrived to pick me up. Later on it would be Shirley Townsend picking up Rick and myself. I rarely made my own way home and was never home before 9. This was when she knew I loved her as I would tell her this fact at least ten times before we got home to Bradwell. If Fiona had been working we might have a final pint in the Vic at Bradwell. If the away coach had been victorious then many was the time that Fiona was waiting for me when it finally came back to base well after 9. On these occasions I had the club in general, and Tony Poole in particular, for looking after my wife while she waited impatiently. No amount of loving would get her private approval.

If I were to make up my favourite team of players few would actually have played in the first team. You want to know that team? I’ll go better than that and put up the two teams to play each other. My team of favourite team players versus the best 15 I have played with. With the exception of the odd forward all the players in my favourite team could run and pass the ball. That cannot be said of the Best XV.

Stedders Favourite XV V Stedders Best XV
Tony Poole 15 Tim Peacock
Roy Haynes 14 Andy Fair
Paul Buchanan 13 Neil Dodds
Haydon Coggins 12 Ian Wedderburn
Mick Brown 11 Paul Daley
Rick Townsend 10 Phil Cue (PHS)
Paul Morrison 9 Gareth Pobjoy
Richard Stedman 8 Pete Gubb
Pete Garrett 7 Ian Nobes
Dave Lyon 6 Ian Brown
Jack Moseley 5 Pete Garrett
Neil Bird 4 Nigel Surman
Neil Falconer 3 Neil Falconer
Cliff Webster 2 Mark Sharp
Steve Swift 1 Steve Swift

There was no Rugby this particular weekend.  I didn’t start playing until late September as we still had cricket games on the Sunday for Rickley Park. As it was my birthday we decided to go away for the weekend but leave on Saturday morning.

 R.T.W. (Return to Warehouse or Royal Tunbridge Wells)

We left fairly early and I drove our Metro in time to arrive late morning. We decided to go for the coast, to Bexhill, where we could sit relatively unbothered on the beach and watch the world go by. M.I.L is Mother-in-Law or Kathleen. Earlier this summer we had celebrated her 60th birthday and this was our first visit since that day. I really enjoyed these days because they were pretty relaxed and an easy routine. We would comfortably do the same every time. Bexhill involved sitting on the top of Galley Hill and watching trains run along the coast. Then a walk around the town centre and a sit on the seafront. On this occasion the Telegraph Crossword was my escape from the mother and daughter catch up session going on throughout the day. They talked most days on the phone but still found fresh stuff to repeat at the meeting of like minds.


 Sounds like you’re going to cry when beached? (5)

The evening would involve some red wine and MIL’s legendary meat and potato pie.

On Sunday we headed off home fairly early because Fiona wanted enough time to get her school work done. While she marked anything that moved I would be filling paper work and retro planning lessons from last week. The most important bit of the scheduling would be the Department meeting agenda and notes prepared for the Tuesday Night. The same Tuesday that we would of course need to be training if I wanted to play for the firsts next week. People reading this who know me from those days will not believe this next sentence. At 6 I went for a run. Shall I say that again? At 6 I went for a run. A three mile jog around the parks from Bradwell Common and back in time for a Sunday evening Gin and Tonic. The perfect end to a 29th Birthday weekend. If I was feeling guilty and running to compensate then heaven help me when a significant number like 30 crept up on me next year.

On this Day:-

1982       3rds St Ives A W 11-3 1t

1993       Rotherham A 1-1

1994       Stony Stratford H W 44

1999       Oldham H 3-2

2001       Southend H 2-1

2004       Lincoln H 0-0

2010       Dagenham and Redbridge A 3-0

2012       Plymouth A 1-1


  1. Ha ha, like Fiona I always marked anything that moved (and then could hardly find time to plan the next lesson… but you, retro-planning lessons from last week…what was that about? Was it to window dress your records for an impending internal staff assessment? Or a desperate attempt to remember what you taught so you could know what to do the next lesson or for next years’ students of the same topic?


    1. Jane Denbigh was paper work city. Everything had to be recorded. Hardly ever did the same lesson twice but probably due to my lack of enthusiasm for micro planning. Retro planning is an exaggerated statement of how it felt . Nikki. No doubt about the great students and don’t get me wrong, had some great times.


  2. It can’t have all been bad at Denbigh….we were there! You were a breath of fresh air to us pupils. The teachers that you didn’t get on with were all we’d experienced before you came.


  3. Good to hear that you are still in the land of the living. I have often wondered what happened to you, Jane, Alex and Storky. I keep in contact with a few from our era after Leon. Great to read some of your memories Rich.
    I did not engage in the institution of marriage until my early forties but finally got there 20 years ago. I have two kids, Charlotte, 15 and Ben, 17. It was the latter who came home today with his discovery of ‘Stedders’.
    Would be great to hear from you and even better to meet up. Still follow Wolves and the way they are playing, they could be playing Rovers next season.


    1. Wow Tim
      Great to hear from you. We must meet up and have a beer or two. Just triggered some good memories of Leon life and your place in Fenny. Had a sneaky look a at the Kidderminster school pages and your headmasterly style when trying to find background for the blog. The Leon years were pretty good fun at times despite the strikes and hassle. have you kept in touch with (Mark?) Botham or Mark Julian? Are you still working? Questions? Questions? We really must get a beer and do it properly. As you will probably see I have plenty of time to meet up and only commit my time to watching Rovers home and away.
      Would love to know how Ben stumbled across the page.


      1. Great to get the response. Happy to meet up whenever it suits you. I retired in 2014 and now heavily involved in ‘daddy day care duties’ and voluntary work with a number of local organisations. Have plenty of flexibility though. Saw both Mark’s several times last year, both on the south coast.
        My son, Ben sometimes googles my name to remind him that his dad once worked (OK, had a job!). He did this yesterday and came across the section of Sixth Form photo you had inserted and then discovered the rest.
        I have remained an ICT Luddite engaging in emails and WhatsApp only, for communication purposes, so would have not picked it up.
        Hope to speak soon.


        Sent from my iPhone


      2. Hi Both of you,(Richard and Tim,) just thought I would let you both know that I have just received an email from WordPress with the two comments below on. It seems to be antediluvian in response times if your comments were made today, Richard as I added a comment to this at least 2 years ago!!?? I don’t quite know why I now got sent this email as it doesn’t seem to be aimed at me but between you and Tim. Anyhow I hope you are both well and feel free to email me either of you ( I don’t have an I-Phone but only a wind up mobile) and if you are likely to be in our area (Northants…… or MK as its not too far away) then it would be great to meet up and catch up. Jane (and Joe)



    2. Hi Tim. I don’t know if you want to get in touch but Stedders will pass on my email to you or you can find me on facebook on my Jane Joseph author page. Passed through Kidderminster on our way to Ironbridge last year and wondered if you still lived in that area. All the best, Jane and Joe


      1. Great to hear from you Jane. Give my fondest regards to Joe. Would look forward to meeting up with you. Let me know when. Still see Mark Julian, Tim Read and Mark Botham with some frequency and Val Evett (Farman) and Debbie Parks every so often. I see Bruce’s wife, Jenny when I occasionally visit MK and I exchange Christmas communications with Trev Garner. Saw quite a number of ex-staff at Bruce’s funeral, including Paul Salver and Trevor. Not sure whether you remember Roger Fooks and Phil Evans but they ended up working in Worcestershire, not far from me. Still see them on occasions (last time at my 60th). Speak soon.


  4. Sad to hear you didn’t enjoy your time at Denbigh, you were one of very few teachers who inspired us. Hope things are going well.


  5. Hi Ruth,
    Great to hear from you. All is fine here in Bristol. Retired early and happy. How is “Jessica”? Successfully running the world and still keeping tabs on Christopher? Often think of your dad. He was one of the good ones and a good friend to me.


  6. Mum (Shirley) has retired, although hasn’t quite managed world domination yet. Chris is now the sensible one in the family! Hope you have a good summer.


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