Out Now!

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Greg Thomas reminded me of a boy we both taught, Darren Jones. Young Darren got very excited over the fact that he wasn’t yet old enough to vote. He thumped the desk, his voice resounding through the classroom. ‘It’s a disgrace, a disgrace I tell you, an infringement on our human rights. Thirteen year olds should be allowed to vote! We have rights!’ He got more and more excited. Out of curiosity and perhaps to calm him down, Greg asked him who he would vote for if he was given the right. ‘I wouldn’t vote for any one of them. Bunch of crooks, that's what they are.’

We talked of others we remembered: Jack Hobbs who walked the corridors looking morose, sometimes ecstatic, but always puzzled. Occasionally he would leave the classroom to smoke his pipe, and towards the end of his teaching career, if rumors are true, had to guided into his coat and gently pushed out the door by a loving family who understood his reluctance to go. My favorite memory is bumping into him on only the second day of a new school term.

“Don’t you find term’s beginning to drag, Mike? I do.”

We talked of the short-lived but intense Tamagotchi craze, and the mayhem it caused in the classroom as kids who had never fed a dog before became enslaved to their new digital pets. They had to be watered and fed, played with on a regular basis. Failure meant death or starvation in less than half a day. These were not wholesome or healthy pets. These were digital divas and kids found themselves enslaved.

The school responded slowly at first, insisting that each of these egg-shaped monsters had to be handed into the Office at the start of the day. The problem was merely transferred as office staff became embroiled in the digital will to survive.

Typing would be punctuated by urgent but surreptitious sessions of feeding and playing, none of the women willing to confront a tearful child at the end of the day with the news that their pet had been translated into greater glory. In a Catholic school one wondered whether there was a digital heaven and hell, but there was most certainly a digital god. Its name was Tamagotchi and before him all bowed.

This was the school I was soon to leave - a year in America. My ship had come in.


Anonymous said...

A former pupil signing in - going back to your first year in Father Hill's (Memorial) School, Mr Keyton (as I feel impelled to call you).
I've greatly enjoyed all of the writing on all of the topics, but - inevitably, I suppose - primarily your observations on St. Joseph's School (its various incarnations) and more widely Newport itself. Spot on. My own career and interests stem from Jack (really Graham) Hobbs - an inspirational figure in many ways.
All good wishes (for now), EAW.

Mike Keyton said...

That's really kind.of you, and thanks for responding. After all the sound and fury of teaching, it's good to sit back and feed on the memories, and think how lucky I was. I have the best memories of Father Hill, St Joes ( I got tired towards the end) and Newport. Now I'm puzzling who EAW is. It's the first initial that has for the moment got me😀

Anonymous said...

Hello Mike (hope you don't mind),
I didn't mean to create a puzzle. I'm not sure you'll recall me - Edward Williams - but something that may help is that you were kind enough at the time to point me in the direction of the bookshop ('Paperback Parade', sadly no longer) where you'd bought texts (by E.P. Thompson, Robert Tressell) used in your classes. That started an unbroken habit of browsing in bookshops - I do thank you for that.
I came to your blog very obliquely while carrying out family history research in the Pill area, where the name of Fr Ernest S. Hill (he of the school) kept cropping up. Your photo of the teaching team with the building in the background brought back, as you say, best memories.
Thanks again for the history, and I look forward to more from your blog.
All good wishes, Ed Williams

Mike Keyton said...

Edward, sorry for being so slow to reply. I used to be more efficient. I'm glad though, you've continued the reading habit from Paperback Parade. So how has life treated you, and what are you doing now? I hope it is all good.

Anonymous said...

Mike, No problem - and I see you've been busy on your latest - Disraeli. Re that post, I visited Daniel O'Connell's house at Derrynane last year - rather less grand than Hughendon by the look of it. I wonder what 'The Liberator' said exactly to annoy Disraeli so much. ?The Irish Question; perhaps the famine.
Myself, I work in science journal publishing (based in France for years) and geological consultancy (my original training - hence the Graham Hobbs link). In fact, just off today to do fieldwork in Corinth. All the best, Ed Williams.

Mike Keyton said...

I believe O'connell was responding to an inaccurate press report when he wrote this: a reptile ... just fit now, after being twice discarded by the people, to become a Conservative. He possesses all the necessary requisites of perfidy, selfishness, depravity, want of principle, etc., which would qualify him for the change. His name shows that he is of Jewish origin. I do not use it as a term of reproach; there are many most respectable Jews. But there are, as in every other people, some of the lowest and most disgusting grade of moral turpitude; and of those I look upon Mr. Disraeli as the worst. what makes Diraeli's response understandable is the sly 'some of my best friends are Jews cop out in Oconnel's diatribe. If he hadn't meant to suggest something dodgy about being Jewish why mention the fact that Disrali was Jewish in the first place? Case for the prosecution rests M'lud. Ref your career, it sounds fascinating. I love finding out how ex pupils have done. Were you a fluent French speaker at school, I mean how did you end up I France? My daughter did her edge in Fench at UCL and spent a year in Lyon. She loved it. She's now torn between a postgrad in broadcast journalism or Drama. It's a tough choice for her since acting gas always been what she's wanted, but the other option may be more financially secure. We shall see 😚

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the v late reply - now back from Greece via Npt, and a 12 hr drive. Complicated. I was certainty not fluent in French at StJs and not even now. Glad to elaborate but via williams'at'crpg.cnrs-nancy.fr Please drop me a quick line. Point well taken about D. O'Connell's insult; he seems to have been rightly inflamed by the 'inaccurate press report' but the political issue doesn't emerge. Good luck to your daughter in her career move. Regards, EdW.