The Prescotian Webzine

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Wordsworth celebrated his Inward eye; my inward eye very often takes me back to School as it was from 1933 to 1940. Truly, my heart with pleasure fills (as GP prefers it not to dance) - and with gratitude. Enough of inward eyes: we all have inward noses, much neglected I fear. My inward nose takes me back to the thirties. 1 invite you to '........Come. smell with me.'

First, the unforgettable, unforgotten building smell - apologies to RB, That virile smell of the preservative soaked dark brown timbers, bleached bare and there by summer suns, still resinous in places and - regrettably so 'flammable. The new gloss paint, the new matt paint smells left by the decorators in the form room - particularly when the heat was turned on again.

Come down the steps to the boiler-room, to Mr Beesley's pride and joy. Smell again the fuelly smell of the works that kept us warm. No continental malodours from the toilet block as we pass; just Jeyes Fluid and chlorine whenever we went to drown the bee. (That's rhyming slang - not Cockney but Lancastrian.) This is the groundsman's shed where Bob Ariss presides; sniff the oil, the petrol and the mower itself still warm and grassy following Bob's ministrations to his sacred square.

Up the front steps and we find the staff-room door open. Whiff..- but don't inhale the noxious miasma billowing from the sanctum. Just put it down to Herb's pipe, to Eddie's pipe and to the cigarettes of Drugs et al. I still treasure the warm welcome which I received in that room when I had just disembarked from a troopship back from North Africa

Nearby, past the corridor pictures of Captain Oates and Lawrence of Arabia, we come to the tiny P.T. cupboard. We have the keys and unlock the door: we smell again the linseed oil-soaked cricket bats, the leather case-balls and the talcum-dusted rubber bladders with their confounded bits that would never tuck in easily..... and the lacer, blast it, that would so easily pierce the bladder.....a push too far and once more to the puncture outfit with its rubber solution, rubber patches and - more talcum powder.

In the Hall there's always the smell of the gym apparatus, the hide of buck, box and horse: fibre mats and occasionally the unconvincing pungency of Sloan's linament as a malingerer pleads. 'I can't do gym today. Sir. I've got bad knee,'
'Tell me another.......get changed!'
Now, near the stage where the newly-painted flats and backdrops have their distinctive smells (remember Walpamur?) as do the library and the changing room where grease-paint and spirit gum tell of their current use as green-rooms for the Dramatic Society.

The Art room. Listen to Nanny Huckle explaining the use of the colours in our newly opened boxes of Reeve's water colours. What a lovely tinny, bland, pigmenty smell. 'After yellow ochre you have gamboge tint. Use it weakly to paint the outlines of your pictures and you can then work it into your final composition.' No harsh HB pencil drawings and colouring-in for her.

Turn right; smell the sulphur? It becomes worse as we enter the Chemmy lab and Drugs allows us to open the stinks cupboard. Ugh! Hydrogen sulphide, sulphuretted hydrogen, bad eggs - same thing; - H2S or something! A bunsen burner is a bunsen burner is a bunsen burner in that it will still give off a foul stench if the gas and air supplies are accidentally maladjusted or deliberately maladjusted by the maladjusted. Somehow, heat. light and sound, and mag, and elec. are not particularly odiferous. but here in Juddy's half of the laboratory condominium, the candles still smoke waxily as their images flicker, lens -re versed. Blobs of paraffin wax drip from heat-expanded metal rods - something to do with conduction and coefficients of linear expansion - and ebonite rods, well rubbed on blazer sleeves, become slightly niffy and attractive to innocent bits of confetti. Juddy calls this Electrostatics.

That's the bugger. Sorry. Mr Brigg,. the buzzer. Time for lunch. Out we to up more steps. Don't turn left to Charlie Fennl and the sweet smell of fresh timber, sawdust and of the oily rags used for cleaning woodwork tools. No - turn right, hand in your dinner ticket. (4p per day) see the white table-cloths, be a Bisto Kid and savour the five-star cuisine of Mrs Shawcross, the roasts and the veg., drool over her baked jam rolls and custard - particularly the gable ends - as Jack Smith did. Sight, smell and taste in perfect unison.

Back into the main building, to the cloakrooms with their solid cast numbered pegs which in summer carry little other than our dusty blue and black quartered caps which in the winter, so rain-doused, that they look completely black together with our sodden macs smelling steamy till home time.

This is the stationery store. At the end of the day, Fab or Scotty or some other master will open up and release that unfailing smell of new exercise books, new graph and writing paper, boxes of chalk, pristine blackboard dusters unused in any way. Ouch! (Joe Egg did me once for using an apostrophe S in my French homework.) Requests made known, used books are exchanged tor new, 'May I have a new C.W.B. (Class Work Book) please, sir ? C.W.B - that reminds me. Can you hear the clatter of boots as Richie approaches to deputise for an absent colleague, subject and level immaterial, shouting as he passes. 'Form IVa ! Take out CWBs and pens.'

Richie, that great eccentric. Pate, spectacles, collar, pockets, boots and a flower in his buttonhole whenever possible, and often a rose.

What prompted his choice; form, colour, scent, before he strode across the field to begin yet another day?

Geoffrey Dixon once said that teaching under C.W.H.R. was an experience he would not have missed for worlds. Today, men who were boys at PGS when I was a boy at PCS will say that learning under him and his colleagues was equally an experience not to have missed. Indulging all our inward senses proves this.

Carpe diem.


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