Friday, May 01, 2009

Imaginitive composition

Where, when, why, and how.

My English teacher in secondary school told me to always launch my essays using that springboard. He wasn't one for the experimentation like, but then again, who was I to argue the toss on aesthetics? He was six foot six in height, built like a brick shithouse, had JCB scoops for hands and when you misbehaved he was wont to lift you from your chair using your sidehair for leverage. His arms were so long he could clip you around the ear from the neighbouring classroom for some misdemeanour you weren't actually going to do until the following week. Oh, and he wore the jumpers that even Timmy Mallet would throw out.

Crucially, however, he was the first person ever to encourage me to write humorously and irreverently, always saying "a bit of laughter is a Godsend, God knows..." and I'd always think how, if anyone would know it'd be him, because surely he was the most boring man on the planet.

With respect to Duncan Stewart.

My old teacher was so dry he was actually named as a mitigating factor in the Ethiopian Famine of the mid-eighties, you know. The poor man, despite good intentions, was like a beermat for soaking up the moisture of fun; put him anywhere near a bit of craic and he'd sponge it up in seconds like the amiable water-carrier he was.

Despite this, I have only fond memories of him. There's nothing like a bit of praise to sweeten aspiring writers, so when he whispered conspiratorially to my mother at a PT meeting that he'd always put my weekly essays last in the pile, so he'd have something to look forward to reading having sifted and waded through all the other boys', well suddenly he went up in my estimation.

Like a rocket.

"The ink flows freely from your pen," he would boom from the top of the class when handing back the copy book of a Monday, and classmates would start making slurping noises and flicking their tongues at me, in the time-honoured Cavanese for "ya big fucking lickarse hoor ya."

I could handle this unwanted labeling as a teacher's pet though, deep down I knew people were jealous or admiring in the only way being a teenage bloke allowed them to do. Besides, you can call me anything you like as long as you follow it up by telling me I wrote something that you read and liked.

I'm an ould whore me, you know.

When the teacher took to reading out my jokes in class, however, I was somewhat in fear of my life because it did seem like the man was becoming just a little over-enthused about me. I recall one I'd written about the problem of littering with a quip about cool-as-fuck gum-chewing cornerboys spitting their spent Wrigleys out while trying to look mean and dangerous, remarking that they tried to "put the chewed in bad attitude." Ho ho. He liked it anyway, what can I say.

Today, none of this would be hugely relevant really, or at least would just be more flotsam and jetsam in my mind, save for one thing that this teacher did for me on the final day of class in 1994. He handed me back my last ever essay and told me he'd enjoyed it and wished me luck in my exams and future life, and told me he'd tucked something extra inside the pages for me to look at later and maybe even keep for life.

"Ah Jasus," I thought, "he's not after giving me a pair of his underpants as a keepsake or something, is he?"

But thankfully he hadn't. Outside in the corridor I found some photocopied pages folded neatly with a simple note atop saying: "I thought you might like this." It was an essay, this essay.

I accidentally googled my way to that very same essay earlier today and was catapulted back through a lot of years, and a lot of the shells of my former selves. You might need to read that last bit back again if, like me while checking spellings, you thought I said shelves.

Anyway, that's the reason for the rambley post. I expect a lot of you have seen this essay before, or won't have time to go through it all. Ach but if just one person reads it and is wide-eyed and excited at it in the same way I was, as an awkward youth of 17, (wondering what in the world I'd ever do with myself besides draw willies on the pictures of the Saints in my religion book), then I'll have accomplished something.

Why I Write, by George Orwell. Big brother was watching me.

I only wish I'd kept those old copy books from school.

26 moos and woofs:

Niamh B said...

Enjoyed reading that essay, cheers

Terence McDanger said...

But the blog itself was shit was it? Huh? Sheesh! Thanks a lot Niamh!

I'm only messing I'm glad you enjoyed it, I found it a very formative experience as they say.

Adullamite said...

Ignore her, she's just a jealous bint!

He was right about your writing! It is very good, with added humour and makes a point, well maybe not, but worth a look anyway!

Orwell? Middle class Engishman, who cares? :)

Susan said...

You drew WHAT on your what??

Oy, Terence, it was surely the beginning of all your sorrows, if you've had any.

Great essay; I haven't seen it in years and it didn't deserve to be forgotten that way. Thanks for sending it back my way.

Meadow said...

Great post.

Great teacher.

I'm a huge fan of Orwell, he really was ahead of his time.

I'm also a huge fan of Duncan Stewart in a schoolgirl crush kind of way.

Yes. Don't say it - I know...

Baino said...

In all seriousness McDanger . . .do you write outside the blog? I think you should. I know lesser writers who have been published for comic musings. I'm glad he encouraged you. I think we all have one teacher like that somewhere. The essay was great . . and the blog always entertaining! (Serious Saturday here today)

hope said...

I have no idea who Duncan Stewart is [will Google momentarily] but I do know who YOU are. And no, I'm not ashamed to admit it. :)

There's always that one teacher who sees the promise in those who write and is smart enough to encourage it. I'm glad your teacher did so with you...you have no idea how many days you make me laugh when crying was on the agenda. ;)

Besides, I'm not sure you could have a career anatomically correcting the saints.

Grow Up said...

the essay I remember from school was also on the problem of litter. It was about the wooden litter of Troy, that was disguised as a horse (called Simon). The teacher chuckled his way through it but did point out that while it was good it's be a risky route in an exam.

Niamh B said...

Nope - loved the post as well, your humour got me through another quiet friday evenin, altho there's probably some truth in Adullamite's insight..

Terence McDanger said...

Arrah she's not really Adullamite I was only taking a hand at her, as they say in Donegal. AS for Orwell, I think that may be the only thing of his I've ever read!

Willies on the Saints Susan, you read it correctly. I think my next post might be a chronicle of my days of penis art in secondary school. Glad you enjoyed the essay anyway, you too Meadow but as for Duncan Stewart I can only surmise it's the air of derring-do he effects in that hard hat that tickles your fancy...

Baino the main reason I keep the blog is because if I didn't have it, I'd never write anything at all hardly. Longer term I'd like to try making a living at it though, but it's much easier writing nonsense whenever I feel like it than having structured deadlines and pesky things like editorial integrity and shit to worry about...

Glad you liked it too hope, I quite like the expression 'anatomically correcting the Saints.' I'm cutting that one out to use again!

Grow Up: Called Simon. That's the clincher right there. A wooden horse called Simon. Ha!

I know Niamh nota whit of truth in my messing above, and don't be bothering with the nice quiet Friday evenings, I was out tearing up the town although am paying for it today. Ow, me head!

Brighid said...

Ah, here I am reading thru this post with great patience. Thinking ahead to what my profane, er profound reply will be, when what catches my eye but the little words scrolling by on your Blog List. OMG ROFL
I must go now and buy the neighbor's goat as tomorrow is my Ma's birthday. Thank you for the hint on what to get her, I was clueless before.

Terence McDanger said...

What little words might they be Brighid? I really haven't the foggiest what you're talking about! Are you laughing at my Philosophical cow? He's a righteous dude he is...

Brighid said...

It was the little box beside Maxi Cane on your blog list. The words scrolling thru the box said, "yer ma blows ----"
oh what the heck it's too late now, I already sent the goat to her.

Brighid said...

And since you mentioned him, the hunk in the pic, he may be a bit offended that you keep refering to him as a cow. He looks like a lot of Bull to me.

Red Leeroy said...

You could have sneaked an "oh captain my captain" moment in there somewhere no ? But seriously though, I had a teacher like that too, and Orwell blew my mind when I was a younger man. Nice work McDanger.

Holemaster said...

If only I had a Maths teacher like him.

Terence McDanger said...

Ah yes Brighid I see now, I never copped Maxi's little added-value feature there!

You're right too Leeroy I never copped the whole Dead Poets Society thang. He never went as far as the whole rip the pages out and go off in the dead of night into caves and shit but you know, her did what he could.

Holemaster, is there inspirational literature out there for maths nerds as well?

Holemaster said...

Terence, don't you know that Maths too is a language of communication?

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