I really wasn't sure what to title this, and I'm really still not sure what I'm going to say. I had 90% of another post written for you guys, with pictures set up for it and edited. Then I found out a teacher from my secondary school had passed away and I found that I just couldn't continue with the post I had planned. I left school 4 years ago, so it begs the question: why the fuck would you really be that sad or that affected by the death of a man you haven't seen or spoken to in four years? And who you only saw during a few lessons a week? Well, let me enlighten you.
This man taught me for SEVEN YEARS. Imagine putting up with me for that long, right? He was the head of Latin in our school, a language that many people consider pointless, a thing of the past, or something for stuffy boarding school boys to learn probably whilst they doff their caps to the servants. Yet, this man brought such charisma to the subject that reams of people opted to take the language to GCSE over French, German, Spanish and even Japanese. He was possibly the largest man I've ever met (and I don't say that to be rude - he was tall and round and owned it, strutting around in his braces and sockless sandals).
He inspired such a love for the subject within me that I pursued it all the way up to my A-Levels, and even initially applied to do a combi course of English and Latin at University. I can safely say this man was the most intelligent person I ever met, before, during or after university. Not only did he know every little intricacy about the language he taught, but also the culture, and pretty much everything about any other topic you could ask him. He even had a copy of Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone in Latin and Ancient Greek to peruse when he fancied, and even let us borrow it. So, how could you not like him?
His intellectual influence upon me didn't end there either. I learnt more from his lessons about English grammar and structure than I ever did from my actual English lessons. He first taught me that quality is far more important than quantity, and regularly informed me to 'stop with the waffly bullshit and just write'; a phrase that stuck in my mind every single time I wrote an undergraduate essay, had to construct a cover letter, and even (sometimes) when I write these posts for you guys. So, sorry Mr B for the state of this post, but you've made me more than a little teary and the bullshit had to come back out.
Had his influence upon me ended there, then I would probably not be writing this post right now, but, like every good teacher, he had an emotional impact upon my journey through life as well. Hardly any of you will know this, but year 13 (when I was 17/18) was the start of the hardest few years of my life. Although I had suffered with doing it in the past, it was truly the time when my self harm started to get bad. At school he possibly had the biggest positive impact upon this, endlessly offering his classroom as a safe space, but one in which he would dole out the tough love (something I always need). My granddad died in the December (a man who I saw every day, and still think about most days), I was under masses of pressure from school, and I was simply unhappy in my home life. I remember coming in soon after my granddad had died and explaining to Mr B what had happened whilst I cried and he listened. From the beginning of year 12 onwards, when my class consisted of only 5 of us - who really wants to do a Latin A-Level?! - I remember this lovable, terrifying giant being the agony aunt of the group. He listened to our problems, didn't query them and offered realistic advice.
He also taught me so many life lessons. Coming from a Catholic school, he was the first person that taught me that people shouldn't have labels. One of the boys in the class asked if the poet we were reading (who was talking about anal sex) was gay. He was greeted with the question: why should we label it? He might like to fuck boys, or like to fuck girls, or like to fuck both. Does that mean we should give him a title that separates him from other poets? Why do we have this modern need to categorise everyone, and in this way, separate them from one another? This has seriously kept me thinking for years, and I'm so glad it has.
Perhaps my most touching memory of Mr B was just after his mother died. It happened on a weekend, and during our Monday morning class he announced what had happened, and asked if we could take the lesson easily as he was very much affected by it. Our 'little family' as it almost became during these two years in the classroom obviously agreed. So, we went on to discuss the stockings she made up for him at Christmas (containing one large gold coin and an orange), and how he was inheriting her dog. For the next few weeks he came in with pictures of little Max the dog, who was helping him to get through this troubling time. It was common for us to do hard work for the first half of a lesson and relax for the second half - doing such strenuous work for an hour would have gotten us nowhere. In one of the first lessons after the death of his mother, I remember him putting on some opera in one of these second halves, and weeping as it reminded him of his mother so much. That is an image that will never leave me.
Mr B was a man you could always come to to learn something: whether it was about modern politics, facts about ancient prostitutes, or simply the advantages of wearing sandals all year round, you were sure to come away better off.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is, goodbye Mr B, you will be sorely missed, and I feel sorry for all those individuals out there who never got a chance to experience your presence in their lives.