The fog clears and here we are.
I am no stranger to getting recognised in the street where I work. I am called at from across the road, waved at as I drive to school and followed like a shoplifter when in the local supermarket. This can happen when you are a head of drama. It can also happen to you when you bear an uncanny resemblance to someone else more famous than you are. I once saw Rupert Everett buying limes in a Tesco. I said nothing, yet I wanted to shout a variety of things including:
“I loved you in Dellamorte Dellamore!”
“You blasted it in Another Country!”
“Make more great movies, Rupert, mate!”
I chose to say nothing, just beamed him my admiration through one-way telepathy. I had the same experience more recently with Alan Bennett, but I’ll save that for another day.
It’s 2003 and our town-centre high school is on the up. We have a school show on and I use a non-contact lesson to nip to the shops to get some presents for the other teachers who have genuinely given up their time in the spirit of a whole-school show, not just a performing arts PR event. I’ve done my best Dale Winton, up and down the aisles, looking for chocolates and cards. I get to the till, lost in my own thoughts and head-lists, ticking off the things I know I’ve done and mentally noting what else needs to be done.
Let's face it
The voices of the two cashiers penetrate my mind-ramblings and I suddenly realise everyone is looking at me. By everyone, I mean two middle-aged ladies as well as a couple of queuing shoppers.
“He’s the spitting image of him!” says one of the cashiers, a lady with a really high fringe and a beaming hillbilly smile.
“I know! Are you from Ramsey Street, dear?” asks High Fringe’s colleague, a lady with an incongruous suntan and John Lennon glasses.
I feel like I’ve been blasted to Royston Vasey.
I respond with a polite “Sorry?” whilst my brain frantically runs to catch up. Ramsey Street? Neighbours?
High Fringe now practically shrieks with delight whilst a bloke trying to buy some Butcher’s tripe dog food stands, non-plussed.
“It’s you!” she exclaims, “Karl Kennedy from Neighbours! He’s a dish!”
There’s so much wrong with this statement and I’m struggling to respond effectively. It’s happened before. With the light behind me, I have the look of the fictional Antipodean philanderer Karl Kennedy, a character whom scriptwriters have struggled with for years. And yet, like a bad penny, he is always there.
I do my usual: I stare at Suntan very seriously and her shiny face goes still in anticipation. Then, after a dramatic pause, I muster my best Aussie accent and say, forcefully, “Look, Susan…..”.
High Fringe and Suntan scream in delight, shaking their heads in disbelief and they both resume their scanning, much to the relief of Dog Food Man. And me.
It’d be nice to have the look of George Clooney, or John Cusack around the time of Grosse Point Blank maybe. Me, I’ve got Karl Kennedy and, on a dull day, Tony Slattery. Or Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.
Back in school later that day I walk past a classroom and I can hear Year 9 going nuts, chanting "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!". It’s a familiar event as the teacher is the absolute carbon copy of the legendary TV slanging-match host, Jerry Springer. I pause, wondering if I should intervene.
Suddenly a kid emerges, absolutely crying with laughter. He shuts the door behind him, and leans on the wall, shaking his head.
“What’s happening in there, Sam?” I ask this even though I know EXACTLY what is happening in there.
“Oh sir, it’s Mister Beck. We just wind him up.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t? Maybe you should be trying to learn science?” I’m doing my best teacher bit right there, whilst Year 9 have accelerated their crescendo in the lab. "I’m going to have to go in," I think, just as Mister Beck emerges, flustered, to deal with Sam.
I flash him a supportive smile and offer to go in as security, just like on the show.
“I’m fine, thank you,” he says, even though I know he isn’t.
“Look, Roger,” I say, trying to reassure, “I’m the spit of Karl Kennedy, me.”
Roger Beck looks at me up and down as Sam goes back into the science lab. He motions to my chocolate stuffed carrier bag.
“Busy?” he asks, curtly, and then disappears.
He really does look like Jerry Springer. He needs to accept it, I think.
And then the fog descends.
As teachers, we can continually professionally develop, upskill and enhance our professional wisdom. And sometimes we’ve got to embrace the face we’ve got and let it lighten up.