Monday, 10 October 2011

Mr Smith

Rereading Northanger Abbey does not transport me to Regency Bath, but rather to an unassuming comprehensive school in a northern town.

Northanger Abbey, along with Keats and Othello, was a set text for my English Literature 'O' Level.  My teacher was Mr Smith. To my teenage eyes, Mr Smith was already old, tall and wiry, dark skinned and dark haired.   He had the dubious pleasure of teaching Austen to a disaffected class of teenagers last lesson on a Friday afternoon.  He never did succeed in interesting us in the finer points of Northanger Abbey, but he did make us smile. He'd slip into his storeroom and emerge in his moth-eaten graduation gown.  We'd never seen such attire and thought it was hilarious.  As he dictated his chapter by chapter analysis of the novel, every time he came to the hero's name his voice dropped a couple of octaves.  'Hennery,' he would say, and wake us briefly from our daydreams of school discos and Duran Duran.  I can't read NA now without hearing Mr Smith's bass voice.  He had a habit too of raising one eyebrow unfeasibly high whe he made a significant comment.  It was a sort of visual bold I suppose, although I always had the impression that I was the only one who noticed.

I don't know what became of Mr Smith.  I was never one to talk to my teachers in class, let alone chat to him in the street.  If I were to meet him now though, I'd thank him for his patience on Friday afternoons and tell him that I didn't think Northanger Abbey was so bad after all.

1 comment:

  1. I had a wonderful English Language/Lit teacher at school. Like you I never really conversed with her but if I met her now I'd thank her profusely. Although she'd be about 110 years old! We never realised at the time what an impact they were having did we?


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