My English teacher's name was Mr. Michael Kidson, and were it not for Saint Winston Churchill, Mr Kidson would -- in my mind -- always occupy the very premier position in English literature.
I do not intend to be disparaging to the Shakespeares, Miltons, Keates's, Blightons, etc., by whom the English language has been graced over the years, but "Sir" was certainly in a class of his own.
I hope that I am not confusing you with names ?
Although my English teacher's name was Mr Kidson, none of us would ever have had the temerity to address him as anything but 'Sir'.
Surely, he must soon have become used to that form of addresss, because even now I can vividly recall innumerable small boys jumping up and down, tugging at his sleeves, waving their hands and desperately attempting to attract his attention, and all of them shouting "Sir! Sir!"
It may well have been that "Sir" was -- genuinely -- on that particular occasion, focussing upon something at the top of the trees at the far end of the rugby field, but this only re-doubled our individual efforts to capture his attention.
"Go away, you horrible little maggots !"
"Sir! Please come and play cricket with us, on the lower paddock?"
"No! Go away! You are all horrible little sulkers! Unhand me! Stand back! I have never understood why your parents expend such inordinate amounts of money in order to attempt to educate the un-educatable! You are all contemptible, beyond belief!"
"Sir! Sir! Please come and play cricket with us?"
"Stand back! Denley, what does 'contemptible' mean?"
" 'Silly' ... Sir?"
"Denley, you are utterly contemptible! Brown, what does 'contemptible' mean?"
"Unworthy of respect, Sir?"
"Mmmmm. Get a cricket ball, Brown, but do not whinge when I hit it over the trees, and you are never again able to find it. Denley, go and wash my car. The rest of you may accompany me and this little African squirt to the lower paddock, where you may bowl at me until we hear the 'Dinner Bell'."
That was many years ago, but I still thank "Sir" -- my English teacher, Mr Kidson -- at that obscure establishment of learning which passes for an English 'Public School' -- for changing the entire direction of my life.
Indeed -- at the very least -- he extended its duration: because he made me truly understand not only the actual English words, but also the tone of the speaker.
If I should be required to explain this confusing point, I could do no better than to offer you one of the definitive examples.
And the example I have chosen (from many possible alternatives), is the occasion upon which I had been drafted, by the military authorities who controlled my life at that particular time, to a 'fortified Protective Village' in the Native Tribal Trust Land of Chiweshi, that is situated not far from the little farming town of Bindura, in what was then Rhodesia, during the Civil War.
Upon the particular evening to which I refer, I had more reason than usual to thank my English 'Public School' teacher for having imbued in me a thorough understanding of verbal communication in the English language.
I had, however, mixed feelings as to whether I would have wished that my companion -- who was enjoying a warm Castle beer and a cigarette with me at the time -- had had similar access to "Sir" (Mr Kidson).
For when one of the sentries shouted "MORTARS", the knowledge that had been passed down to me by my English teacher from that English 'Public School', immediately suggested to my subconscious that I should, without any delay at all, drop my beer and cigarette, and begin digging trenches in the earth with my eyelashes.
Had my drinking partner, upon that fateful day, been availed of educational opportunities similar to those from which I had benefited, then he might, even now, have been married to that very lovely lady who had then been destined, shortly, to become his wife.
But the poor fellow had not been fortunate enough to fall under the tutelage of "Sir", and so, for him, the shout "Mortars" somehow had not conveyed the same degree of urgency as it had done to me, and he had not, therefore, reacted with a sufficient degree of alacrity.
It was a pity, for he was a fine fellow, and a promising life had stretched, beckoning, before him.
And -- of course -- I can never completely dispel the ever-lurking possibility that my Good Wife might have been happier, in the long run, married to him ... rather than to me.
I never did find the cricket ball that "Sir" hit over the trees that afternoon, and have always felt a certain sadness that "Sir" did not respond to the wedding invitation that we had sent him, some years later, after the mortar incident.
But Rhodesia was -- I suppose -- a very long way from rural Sussex, and I expect that "Sir" was very busy preparing other stupid young boys for the various ordeals that cruel life would, inevitably, throw at them.
I know that he will have done it well.
-- KK Brown