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Tarred as non-aggressive, but not feathered

Memories. You sometimes think you're far enough away in time for them not to matter, but it doesn't always work that way. Many are like bricks tied to the back of your head with elastic. When something happens to dislodge them, they fly through the fourth dimension, clout you on the napper and leave you reeling.

Two weeks ago, it happened to me when I was mingling with delegates prior to what would turn out to be a really jolly in-service session. A chemistry teacher accidentally jostled her coffee cup-holding colleague, who spilled her drink over her sleeve. There were apologies and banter, but it was the laugh from the injured party that did it. An anonymous face became immediately recognisable as that of a woman who had been a young teacher in the science department where I did my first teaching practice in 1982.

I recalled two other people - a slightly older woman and the principal teacher of physics. This last character I remember as an elderly male, though one of the things I learned from the teacher at the in-service day was that he retired at 50. He must have been the same age as I am now.

The obviously-not-old man took me aside one day and told me he thought I would never be aggressive enough to be a teacher. There may be some of you out there saying, "Here he goes again!" because, in the past 16 years, I have revisited this almost as often as I've talked about non-mainstream cars. At times, I have barely stopped short of reviling the PT as a doddery, out-of-touch Henry Crun figure.

I told my coffee-dampened re-acquaintance what he had said. She told me that the man in question was, without fail, honest and kind. I said I thought that there had been a different culture then, and she agreed.

If my life was a Hollywood movie, at this point I would have gone into the playground, raised both hands and let a dove that had recovered from injury fly off. Instead, I went upstairs and delivered a two-hour session on health and safety and risk assessment. I felt the same sense of closure, with fewer feathers.

Gregor Steele will soon reveal shock mainstream car-buying news.

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