The Prescotian Webzine

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One of the funniest events in my seven years at PGS occurred during our final year, 72-73. A number of Upper VI formers had congregated in Room 19 for a free period. I can't remember everybody who was present but certainly Bob Connolly was there. Others included were probably Tony Lucas & Ste Ryding; altogether there were at least ten of us.

It just so happened that next door Mike Harvey was taking his Upper VI History Class. It all started so innocently. A bored and restless Bob Connolly began a quiet, solo, repetitive chant of that most favourite expression of Beak's, "Now,er,hey-yeh".

Dreamily, one by one, the rest us joined in so that before long there was a steady rhythm of this simple refrain.

"Now,er,hey-yeh Now,er,hey-yeh Now,er,hey-yeh Now,er,hey-yeh Now,er,hey-yeh".

Against this monotonous and hypnotic backbeat some of us began to experiment and improvise, again taking the lead mainly from Connolly. Before long, bizarre, crescendo-style phrases of "Now, Er, HEY!" rising through about two octaves were punctuating the growing frenzied mantra from a room full of half-crazed would-be Beaks.

Sporadically Connolly would throw in an abbreviated staccato "Hey!" , "Hoy!" or "Hi!" . These effects were delivered fortissimo, imitating a rather angry and protesting chimpanzee, or more reflectively like a curious but suspicious parrot.

Within a few minutes our quiet study period had become a celebration of the very essence of Beak-speak. We were totally carried away by the emotional spontaneity of the event; we were oblivious to the possible effect our music making was having in the next room.

Fortunately, and appropriately, we had our own history correspondent on the inside. Mike Roberts was in the group being taught. He picked up the very early audible clues that a memorable event was in the making. Over the last 28 years he has been able to recount, on many occasions and in many pubs, what was happening in room 18 as the general volume of our chanting and ad-libbing grew.

Beak was doing his usual pacing up and down, keeping up his own inimitable historical drone. A steady monotonous list of possibly related or unrelated events, Parliamentary Acts, Laws, Treaties, Wars, Battles; all of this accompanied by slow nodding of the head, hand in front of chest with index finger pointing, and the furrowed brow of concentration:-

"Catherine of Braganza, yeh.... Line of successionah.... Bastard Dukes of Guimares.. Charles, eh.. Alliance with Portugaleh... Arranged marriage, yeh."

Against this was the gradually increasing chorus of mimicry coming from the rest of us next door. At first Beak was deaf to it all but Mike and the rest of the group were not. Mike could recognise all the individual voices creating the different effects and fought to suppress laughter. He told us that the rest of his group was in general not amused. In particular the ever serious and prematurely mature John Mercer repeatedly, and irritatedly, muttered comments like "children!" and "...ruining our education!" .

After a while Beak became aware that something was going on. His furrows deepened and his face became set with displeasure. Then the gradual dawning, the expression relaxing to that classic nodding mix of frown and half-knowing, half-suppressed grin. Finally as the volume of the chanting increased the smile faded, replaced by an expression of imminent rage. Suddenly he charged at the door to room 19 and burst through it to be met by:-

Instant silence!

And a room full of innocent and studious 6 th. formers, so oblivious that we didn't even seem to notice him standing there. He glared about the room taking in all the faces. Gradually the expression softened. The slow nodding realisation returned. Without saying a word he backed out of the room, eyeballing us all in turn with our wide-eyed expressions of innocence and incredulity.

The door shut and we all struggled in vain to suppress our bladders and the inevitable giggling that followed.

Simple pleasures for simple minds!


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