Old gits burnt out by progress

14th July 2006 at 01:00
We're clearing out the English stockroom in an end of year purge.

Management is keen on these things. It is a brutal culling. Books must be burned. We need space for schemes and plans and pogroms.

Dave Mania and "Big Ant" Furnace are helping us. They load up the trolley and cart off the canon to incinerators. "I 'ate books," says Furnace. I feel ill.

There goes a ton of Preludes and Trollopes and Boswells! Dusty old tomes. I feel iller. And slim Faber poets! There goes Thom Gunn! "You read this stuff, sir?" says Mania. "Fraid so David. Without it we are doomed."

There goes Tom Jones! I must rescue it. A photo falls out. Who is this? The Grateful Dead? Out-patients from the bin? The Amish? Nope. The English department 1976! I look especially daft with a late Keith Richard thatch.

Is that kohl on my lashes? Cripes! I must hide it.

"Oos that then?" says Dave. "Who's them hippies?"

"My old chums!"

Bliss was it to be an English teacher. A golden age. We had no silly curriculum and no daft targets. We were lucky amateurs. Where are they now? Some conked out, some became professors, one went barmy. And I'm still here. We were changing the world. Rejecting the 50s classroom. We were... "Loonies more like!" says Dave. A view increasingly shared by management.

"Dinosaurs" they call us. We get airbrushed from photos and hidden on Open Days. We're not "embracing change". Not half. Change is back to the 1950s - with computers. We're not "on board". I am. Walking the plank. I feel like the Ancient Mariner.

And we're not "modern". I try. I have the suit. I have the jargon. I have plenaries and ties and tufty hair and look like an estate agent. I smile at consultants and suffer PowerPoint gibberish with a grave and nodding visage. And still I'm deemed a dinosaur - always failing something or other. That golden age seems over. Me too. I am off-message. And going off-trolley.

Maybe I should be on that trolley there - with those dusty old tomes... I rescue Fielding from the flames. I give it to Mania.

"My favourite book - a leaving prize!" "Ta, sir." He puts it in the football bag.

I look again at the photo. All that idealism. All that hair. All gone. "Old gits," mutters Mania. "Just like Zidane and Ronaldo!" Dinosaurs from a bygone age.

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