Home Articles The Scots Lad Episode #4: The Scots Lad: en Training
Episode #4: The Scots Lad: en Training
Written by Gerry Hodes   
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 10:00
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Episode #4: The Scots Lad: en Training
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All right, so the title is a touch on the flash side, but, to those who have suffered the pain of reading the previous three episodes, there already will be an awareness that words, indeed, etymology and a smart mouth attitude all round, are irresistibly tempting to me.

I could blame Mr. Finlay, a 50's primary school teacher at Hutchesons' Boys Grammar School in Glasgow….or was it Nuremberg in the 40's….? for my condition. By this I definitely do not mean that his inspirational teaching methods instilled in me a love of language. No, rather it was his appalling propensity for withering sarcasm, advanced sadism and hatred of all things he deemed 'flowery'. Just writing that spirits up his ugly, fleshy, puce features from the recesses of my subconscious and recollection of the cruelly inventive putdowns he applied to any attempt at innocent essay writing. Since he's been long time worm food and probably un-mourned, except, possibly, by Heinrich Himmler, I'll try to avoid exposing the unsublimated hatred which stubbornly resides within my soul some five decades later. It definitely would be small-minded and, however true that accusation might be, I try to avoid it.

Oh…. sod it. Why not? WHY NOT?? I thirst for the catharsis, even whilst currently occupying the tremulous threshold to my own dotage. Truth is, even after more than half a century of experiencing sarcastic wit at the highest levels (including mein own), when it comes to Finlay, I'm not small minded, I'm positively atom minded. By the way, for those who have struggled to see some vague association with Zambia in what I've written in the preceding paragraphs, please cease the effort. There is none. There's more in the succeeding paragraphs that seek to recall some of my distant youth, but, as a prequel, suddenly I've been consumed with a desire to expose and trample on my formative education. Dear Reader: please indulge me. The throbbing in your head will pass, I promise.

For the tenacious, fatally curious or simply masochistic, what I'm doing is, firstly to conjure up memories of Finlay-type teachers from the 5000-odd days of learning that the average adult undergoes, as a sort of entry fee for membership of Society; and secondly, the parenting endeavour that takes innocent five-year-olds and sends them off to be trained as rounded members of the aforementioned Society, following twelve to fifteen years incarceration within the school system. And I'm absolutely certain that Finlay was not a brutal one-off, nor that learning by hectoring was confined to his class, Hutchesons' or the Scottish education system in general: just refined there, to an exquisitely honed degree.

Finlay was a big, bluff bully of a man, seized with his own singular determination to mould real men from quivering blocks of 10-year-old clay. No harm in that, if an acceptance that there may be several types of the finished product within the category was acknowledged by the moulder. No such assurance was ever given and, consequently, I found myself at war with Finlay. The actual declaration of hostilities was one-sided, of course, and, being a bit thick, perhaps, it took me a month or two to understand that I had become Belgium to Finlay's ruthless blitzkrieg, but, for a full twelvemonth, that's what it felt like.

It wouldn't have been so bad, had there been an opportunity to escape the battlefield occasionally, but these were primary school days and, from 09:00 until 15:30, there was no alternative to our RSM's barking tuition, other than the too-short lunch break. Even then, he patrolled the silent tables, lest something unScottish or gay, for example, a salad, had infiltrated into his emphatically strongman world. And so, at a juncture of our young lives when our minds cried out for imaginative teaching and new forms of expression, we bowed our heads and learned by rote and unbreakable, unchallengeable rule, both strictly enforced by hurled dusters, wielded with unerring accuracy denied to most discus Olympians and lashings from inch-thick Lochgelly tawses, that I am certain were fashioned from dinosaur hides.