“Don’t hover the apostrophe. If you don’t know whether it is mens’ or men’s or children’s or childrens’ look it up. Don’t hover it somewhere up there and think I won’t notice that you haven’t got a clue because I will.”
These were the words of my beloved English teacher Richard Reid (later to become a friend) who died last weekend at the comparatively young age of 75. Over the years I have heeded his advice. I’m sure you will find grammatical errors in this blog and certainly the odd things I’ve had published professionally have had good going overs by commissioning editors, but I try to get things right and I NEVER hover apostrophes.
I was eleven when I first met Richard. I had been studying English with a different teacher for a few months and though I was good at the subject the lessons were mediocre. For reasons long forgotten I was moved to Richard’s class and I blossomed. I loved the lessons and I loved him. My penchant for truancy is widely discussed amongst relatives and friends, but I never missed one of Richard’s classes. Listening (behind the door) one evening, to my parents discussing my tendency to slope away from school and other multiple shortcomings, I heard my father say,
“Look, she’s skipping games and domestic science, but she always goes back for English, so I don’t particularly care.”
I was an incredibly thick child but I certainly expected to get top marks in English CSE. CSE’s is all we were entered in for. One morning in the school foyer Richard pulled me to one side. “You’re doing English GSCE in three week’s time, I’ve put you in for it, just you on your own.” I repaid him with an “A’. It’s an achievement I’m proud of, bearing in mind the usual study period for the qualification is two years.
In adult life I gained ‘A’ level English Language and Literature for no other reason than Richard had instilled in me a love for the subject. I enjoyed my Monday evenings at Prudhoe High, but I missed Richard and always thought of him. Many years later we got together on Facebook and he became an encouraging follower of this blog.
Richard was a committee member of the Ryton and District Festival of Music Speech and Drama and I began to write about the festival here. One evening about five years ago Heather and I attended a music session and I was full of excitement because I knew Richard would be there. He hadn’t changed, he was still his same humorous and full of life self. After the performances Heather and I left the hall through the double doors and walked over the corridor. Heather quite suddenly said to me, “You really love him don’t you.” It wasn’t a question it was a statement. I replied, “Yes I do actually.” I didn’t realise how obvious I was being.
We last saw Richard in March. It was the final night of the festival and Heather and I were going on to the end of festival party at Tyneside Golf Club. By this time Heather and Richard had had many exchanges on Facebook.
“Right Exton, give me a hug. Now, you are going to the golf club, don’t use the F word, don’t say s****, in fact restrict your remarks to the weather.” I’m pleased to say that she didn’t let him down.
Richard impacted many lives, he was brilliant at his job and taught hundreds of children who all feel the same as I do. Several of us have been talking to one another and will be attending his funeral. I’ve never met anyone quite like him. They made Richard and then they chucked the mould off a cliff.