Sunday's Whirligig are ears, dread, smothers, cane, hobbles, swart, wanting, disguise, poem, vowels, imagines and uncanny of which I have used all but two.
A shadow appears in the doorway. The rowdy boys of Class 5T suddenly fall silent and stand to attention like anxious soldiers about to face the enemy.
Head of English, Rex Salter hobbles into the classroom, walking stick in one hand and Rastus, his bendy bamboo cane in the other. He smashes Rastus down on his desk and although we are expecting it, we jumped as one. “Sit” he bellows.
Extremely tall and uncommonly thin, he stands for a moment or two looking down upon each of us in turn. His swart features, dishevelled hair and droopy moustache add to his intimidating presence.
Suddenly he bursts into life. Rastus sweeps through the air, this way and that, pointing one second at the blackboard, the next at a student.
“Double superlative boy”
“Call that a poem lad?”
“Vowels child, vowels”
“Open your ears young man”
We wonder which of us will be the next to feel Rastus across our open palm!
Whilst we sometimes dreaded his classes, in an uncanny way many of us were left wanting more. We learned from him. Strangely, his demanding and unconventional methods enthused and motivated us
And now, fifty years on I think of him fondly. For all his menacing ways, he was somehow inspirational. I imagine that if it were not for Rex Salter and Rastus I would not now be spending every spare moment writing.
In case you are wondering, this really is a true account. If he just saw me start my second to last sentence with a conjunction he'll have turned in his grave!