The Eccentrics: Number One - S.R.C.

It’s terribly self indulgent of me but I feel the urge to share some of the more interesting characters I’ve met during my twenty something sentence upon this misty ball. Whether you will think them interesting, amusing or even real is entirely down to your genetics but I find them amusing to recall. I think it is partly because I’m trapped in an office which just doesn’t have characters. It has one or two weird people (other than me) but I can’t think of a single anecdote or tale which I could recount in a future revision of my life story. But the world is not yet ready for that tome.

First up is an old history teacher from the days when I toiled in grammar school. In the sixth form, when people from lesser schools were smoking, going to "college" and wearing whatever the hell they damn well pleased as they worked their way through sociology A-Levels, I came over rather queer. I got into the embarrassing habit of no longer referring to teachers by their surname but by their initials. Not just two initials – oh no – this had to be three. So our first entry in what I wanted to call the Eccentrica Britannica before I thought better of it is Tudor historian SRC.

He was a small man. It is impossible to judge how old he was as I suspect he was born looking very much the same. "Congratulations Mrs C – it’s a history teacher" said the comedy midwife. His hair has probably greyed a little in the ten years since last we met but I expect little else has altered. He was probably in his thirties but it could be ten years either way. He was little, fussy, had a laugh which ought not to fit in such a tiny body and for legal reasons I can’t repeat what someone with children in his class said she thinks he gets up to outside school.

He’d been at the school almost since it was founded but he didn’t live in the area. His home was in Ipswich and he merely rented a bachelor flat nearby. He used to tell us stories of his holiday-time trips back to his native land. His mother would keep the local papers piled up and he’d spend a few days going through them, one by one, to catch up with the news. Then he’d go wandering in the woods with his brother. He had picked out a dip in the forest where he wanted to be buried if and when the time came. Then he’d climb a hill to a public toilet which he claimed had the best acoustics in the empire. He would, and he acted it out for us more than once, bellow "GREAT CORNARD!" once he’d got his breath back after the climb. In my school yearbook one whole page is taken up with an enormous "GREAT CORNARD!!!" and his scribbled signature underneath.

His fussiness was apt to appear randomly. I was once following him up the stairs of the aptly named "Tower Block" when he suddenly stopped, frozen to the spot, as if gripped by a terror so terrible that it was terrifying. Had he seen a ghost? Had he realised that all of history was lies created in the 1950s to make comprehensive education that much easier to do? Had he remembered that he’d missed out on becoming Mr Delia Smith and thereby sharing in her vast revenues? No – he’d seen a small piece of chewing gum on a future stair and was pointing at it. I was the nearest person to hand and was ordered to go into the staff toilets for some loo roll. He stayed rooted to the spot, pointing at the greying lump of gum, until I returned and gingerly picked it up. He then watched me go back into the toilets and return moments later sans loo roll. There were now several dozen people backed up and wondering what on earth the hold up was. For a small man he was more than capable of blocking traffic when the mood took him.

Then there was his love of dressing up. Yes, it’s probably as kinky as it sounds. Being a history teacher he tended towards historical costume and every year (I forget the occasion) there would be decoration of his classroom, props and adopting the relevant clothing. I remember one year it was the French Revolution and he had a papier-mâché man about to have his head chopped off on display for days. In the best traditions of warped historical minds the whole scene was as gruesome as they thought they could get away with. Comic Relief on the other hand had no such simple explanation. Since the passage of pupils through a school means that few people remember more than seven years ago he’s probably done this more than once. While everyone else was allowed to wear (gasp) non-uniform, SRC decided it would be hilarious to wear school uniform. A girl’s school uniform, naturally. I don’t know how he obtained it but he wore actual proper female uniform for the day. I don’t want to remember his legs in tights but I am a journalist (ha!) and so much suffer for my readers.

He was amused by the oddest things. He once fell in love with a sheep puppet (which went "baaa" when you tilted its head back) and brought it into work every day. Until you’ve been taught about the bloodiest parts of Henry VIII’s reign from a man operating a talking sheep puppet you haven’t really been educated. It was like being in a class room with Keith Harris and Orville except that his performance at least got one laugh (his own but who’s counting?)

But lest you think him an irritatingly cheerful bundle of fun, he was also capable of the most rapid mood swings. His shouts would echo round the entire block, his colleagues and anyone ever taught by him knew to simply ignore them. He would suddenly snap and bawl away like a child, almost on the verge of tears behind his thick glasses, and generally terrify everyone in the room. The underlying sense of unease that came with lessons held by this volcanic jester meant he was never as funny as he thought he was. People laughed but out of politeness and because they didn’t want to set him off. Which is a shame as most of the time he was great (in small doses).

And he had a cupboard. All the classrooms had cupboards but his was locked and his was secret. No one but him was allowed in. No one could even see what was inside it as he slid through the narrowest gap whenever he needed to get in there. Probably it was nothing – just pens, paper clips and notes – but with SRC who could tell? He might have had his mother in there for all we knew.