Here we have the next entertaining episode in Bari Sparshott’s life writing, in his stories of pubs – part of what makes Bari, Bari!
Down the pub… part 4
At the end of my course, Dad came down to Portsmouth to watch me get my degree, and naturally I took him to the Still and West. Unfortunately Mum and Dad couldn’t afford for both of them to come, so Dad won the toss! He was suitably impressed with the siting of the pub, and the beer found us in similar accord.
After five years of art education I realised that I was good enough to know that I wasn’t good enough to apply for the Royal College of Art, the Royal Academy Schools, or the Slade, so I settled down to become an art teacher.
Hornsey College of Art was the selected option, and so I set off for the Art Education Department at Page Green School in Tottenham, not far from Whyte Hart Lane. Also, not far from The Prince of Denmark, a pub with superior ales to anything in Portsmouth, and with darts and bar billiards to boot!
When the year’s course ended it was here that we all thought we would celebrate, until at about 2-30, one of our lecturers came storming in telling us to get back to the college, as we still had another exam to do! I wonder what the examiners made of our papers! Did we write in a slurred manner? Did we keep to the lines on the paper? Later that summer a cardboard tube arrived, containing an Art Teachers Certificate, so presumably I was legible. Just as well, as I had gained a post at a Secondary Modern School in Farnborough, Hampshire. Yes that’s right, where the air show is held, about 400 yards up the road from our school!
There is a huge professional challenge created by teaching perspective to the accompaniment of the Swedish SAAB Wiggen, their latest, and loudest jet fighter! This was exceeded only by Concorde, which at least had the decency to flyover and land, rather than taking off, which would probably have taken the roof off!
Until now, pub visits had been rather casual, almost formless affairs. Now I was a proper teacher, I realised that the principal staff social activity took place after “A Parents Evening”, of which there were ten a year! The chosen venue here was the Queens Hotel, where sometimes we would meet up with staff from Farnborough Grammar School. One Brother in Beer was a French teacher, whose objective was not just to get his students through O level, but to get them to be able “to sell vacuum cleaners in Rheims” as he put it. A noble aim, which, had it been adopted universally, would have certainly saved Modern Language teaching from the parlous state it is now in, with many schools not teaching foreign languages at all.
Moving into a decent flat from the ghastly B’n’B I had somehow landed up in at the beginning of term, my new flatmate and I thought we would explore the local taverns. Farnborough is next to Aldershot, the Home of the British Army, so that limited our choice of pubs, not just through fear of attack by paratroops, but also by explosions from the Provisional IRA, who had begun to make themselves disagreeable at this time.
And so it came to pass that we, Paul and I, were out, abroad for pleasure, the night that the first supplies of Southern Comfort arrived in our part of North East Hampshire. About 27p in some pubs, 28p in others, this was delicious. Our first experience of American whisky, and, to be honest, our first trials of any kind of whisky, was a hugely enjoyable success. Or so we were led to believe. I went to bed early on Sunday morning, and woke up on Tuesday morning! Not good! Headmaster unimpressed! Lesson learnt!
© Bari Sparshott 2017