If there was an accident waiting to happen, Greg would find it, recalls Nixie Taverner
While I was home-tutoring secondary school "drop-outs", my most challenging assignment took the form of 15-year-old Gregory, whose attendance had been minimal due to home circumstances and a series of bizarre accidents. My first impression was favourable, although his left arm was in plaster. It turned out that his elbow had been struck by a ball as he walked past the golf course. I was to provide home tuition to get him back to school as soon as possible.
But even when Greg's arm had been reset several times, progress with written work was impeded by his being left-handed. The alternative was oral work, which was often interrupted by his garrulous mother. At the end of October, as I was confident that Greg's return to school was imminent, she called to say Greg had been "sick as a dog" and was "fit for nowt". My work books had escaped calamity only because she "got a bucket to 'im in time".
By mid-November Greg was deemed fit for school, only to collide with a steel post, injuring his right leg and shoulder, followed by another illness.
The following January, he returned to school. But rejoicing was short-lived. On his third day back, Greg was struck on the head by a metal waste bin, placed over the toilet door as a booby trap. Mum sensed a claim for compensation and was diverted only by a worse disaster - someone tried to set their house on fire. While Greg leapt into the hall with a plant spray to extinguish the flames, he bumped into a hall pillar, causing more bruising to his shoulder.
He eventually took leaving exams in English and maths, then had a succession of hazardous jobs. He was felled by a heavy sack while loading a lorry, suffered near asphyxiation from fumes while working at a go-kart track, then worked for several glaziers...
While my efforts may have helped Greg improve his literacy and numeracy, I shudder to think of the use to which they were put. The last I heard of him was when a paper reported that he was in court with his mother charged with going on a spending spree with a stolen credit card.
Nixie Taverner taught Greg in Hampshire in the 1980s. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org