Mr Poland was a young gentleman fresh and green from university. It appeared that he had very little experience working with children in a classroom environment and us being his first ever class were about to test his mettle to the limit. I seem to recall he was very fond of blue. He always seemed to wear blue suits, drove a blue car and wore a blue tie. Though this is probably just corrupted memory.
Mr Poland’s class was situated in a different building in a different part of the village in Watergate Lane. This suited me as it meant I didn’t have to walk up that bloody hill every morning. It was also handy for the school playing fields where the annual sports day took place. The school was built in the grounds of the old Woolton Priory which had long since been demolished. Rumour had it that there was a secret passage leading up the hill to Woolton Hall. All that remained of the priory was an eerie wood with an altar, some graves and a tomb. Excellent fun for exploring kids made even more enticing as it was totally “out of bounds”.
The playground of the Annex (which was what the school building was called) backed on to a relatively new housing estate and a large grassy area inhabited by spiders and other cool creepies. Clumps of grass also provided excellent places to hide toy cars but again, this grassy area was off limits. Why? I never found out. The actual playground surface was quite modern and was painted with lines marking out various game arenas such as tennis, soccer and rounders. The lines became excellent things to follow and play variations of Pac-Man. But of course I was still Mr Unpopular and wasnt invited to join in most of the time, so I spent most of my break and lunch times building little stone houses for spiders to live in. These would be trampled on purposefully by the likes of Guy McCauleyand David “My-Dad-is-School-Governor-so- I-Can-do-as-I-please” Griffiths.
David Griffiths was becoming annoying. Course, as he was one of the few people who would speak to me without talking endlessly about football or taking the piss, he was someone who I could mix with. That and Dominic Smith and Christian Keane had also become groupies of David Griffiths. What made David more annoying was he had at some point been given a BBC computer which of course meant he was school computer whiz despite me having spent the past few years programming my VIC 20. His continual sucking up to teachers and his status as golden boy and being moved into Mrs Kennedy’s class for exceptional children also made him more unbearable. As he was the schools unofficial computer whiz kid David had unlimited access to the schools Commodore PET suite.
The Commodore PET suite was situated in an empty classroom which contained broken chairs and potted plants. There were two PET terminals, (both reminding me of my VIC 20 only a bit more prehistoric) and a BBC. This was the golden age of the home computer console and I was one of the few kids in my class who had one. Christian Keane1, also a member of the Hitler Youth Mrs Kennedy golden children class, had a Sinclair Spectrum and was often seen lurking behind David Griffiths in the Commodore PET Suite. At the time such computers seemed insignificant and like a passing fad. But still, Davids privileged use of the suites really got me annoyed.
I recall Mr Poland reading to us a book called Balaclava Boys and other stories (Balaclava Boys has now been split into two separate novels, The Fib and The Swap, memories of a boy growing up in the north of England during the 1950’s (I totally recommend this book!). The short stories captured my imagination and still do to this day my favorite of all time is the story of the Aspic Jelly, but you’ll have to read it to fully appreciate why 😉
Mr Poland also taught us how to baptise a child. Like WTF?!? We were 9 years old! When would we ever baptise a child?! I’m now 32 and I still havent baptised a child ffs! But it was his lack of experience that was his downfall. I cannot recall a single day when Mr Poland didn’t have a wobbly shouting fit at us to be quiet. Things were to get worse though. Especially at Easter break when it was announced that we would be moving back up the hill to the old building because of concerns over the safety of the younger children in an old rickety building. The infants were to be moved into the Annex and the juniors grouped together in the old school.
So back up the hill we went. During the Easter break much had changed to the old building. Mrs Oakley’s classroom had been turned into a dumping ground for old chairs and desks, the wendy house in pieces in a corner and a tray of moulding milk cartons festered under the heating pipes. Miss Gradwells room had been commandeered by Mrs Kennedy’s Hitler Youth golden child scheme, Mrs Kelly’s class was now Mr Clarke’s class (more on him next time) and what was Mrs Harrison’s class (remember the mysterious missing class?) had become Mr Polands. It soon became clear that this was careful strategy put in place by the head master as the only access to the room was through Mr Clarke’s class and Mr Clarke was a fearsome chap that wore dark tinted spectacles and rode a Honda 125cc (there was no messing with Clarkey). The wall dividing Mr Polands new class from Mr Clarkes class was a thin wood and glass concertina affair that had last been “concertina”-ed in 1968. If there was so much as a peep from us Mr Clarke would come bounding through the door to bellow at us and give Mr Poland a nasty “Call yourself a teacher” glare. It worked though….
The pre-summer school trip was the most memorable, the 3rd year and 4th year juniors were treated to a day out at the Treak Cliffe Caverns in Castleton, Derbyshire. I had made my peace with Mr Poland, who had realised that my reputation was totally unfounded and undeserved and that together we had been dealt a nasty serving by the school. Mr Poland would guide me with confidence issues and his parting gift was a photgraph of me stood on the steps to the Cavern smiling for what must have been the first time in a while.2 I thoroughly enjoyed the day and learnt loads about how stalactites grew. I was to return to Castleton some years later with the wife (detailed somewhere in the archive but I can’t be arsed looking for it). The summer holiday came and with it the prospect of my final year at St Mary’s Much Woolton RC School and the sinister Mr Clarke. But that I’ll relay at a later date…
Mr Poland suffered one more terrible year before quitting teaching after having a nervous breakdown. I believe he became an accountant.
1 Chris Keane is now a Church of England vicar.
2 This photograph was lost in the great photo disaster of 1998