The yin and yang of family

24th August 2007 at 01:00
The cock crowed thrice over Dunfermline a few weeks ago. I was sitting in the office, busily supporting science education, when I was visited by an allegedly retired high heid yin in education.

He began to quiz me about the English teachers of my youth at Lanark Grammar. I told him of the late Miss McKinlay, of Miss Thomson, my best teacher ever, and of Mr Anderson, who read an adolescently sarcastic essay I wrote on Pride and Prejudice and, to his credit, rather than beating me about the head with the complete works of Jane Austen, gently suggested that I should put the book away and read it when I was older. If anyone knows Mr Anderson I believe he went to Islay after Lanark please tell him he was right, though I flatter myself that he should remember me.

Allegedly retired high heid yin then said: "What about X?", and mentioned the name of a not-retired high heid yin, with whom he had been speaking that day. Apparently my name had come up in the course of the conversation.

"It's not me he's thinking about," I said, on reflection rather too quickly. "He taught my younger brother. It's important that you tell him that the person he's thinking of is my brother." Cock-a-doodle-doo (x3).

While my anti-Austen polemic was a rare act of non-conformity, my brother's secondary school career was peppered with acts of rebellion, usually driven by his powerful wit. He wasn't averse to the odd fictitious dental check-up either. Come exam time, he could generally be found riding his motorbike or listening to Quo rather than revising.

Once, on a school camping trip, I mentioned his name to a young maths teacher who taught him. This was met with the phrase "Oh ma goad!" and a swift vanishing act.

My brother now has a responsible job one I could not do myself, just as he admitted that he could not do mine when I was a teacher. Perhaps he feared that he would meet himself in his class. The world is full of people like him, not motivated at school, doing enough there to get by, or not. Later on, they find their place and shine.

So remember, that kid in the back row doing a frighteningly accurate impersonation of his chemistry teacher might grow up to be the next Police Sergeant Steele.

Gregor Steele was once told by his brother that he brought shame on the family for being intelligent

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