In memory of Peter Knowles.
I was never head boy material. Too many lures.
But, in recognition of my application to study I was rewarded with responsibility.
I was put in charge of managing the school stage. This brought perks.
When all of the other pupils were condemned to freezing in the yard, I was looking after the stage.
This, in those pre-computer years, meant rigging up the OHP. It meant finding the right hymn for the day in the folder of transparencies.
The one I dreaded was Holy, Holy, Holy.
Because it was the Head Master's favourite, it came along quite often.
It was a horror.
Four pages of transparencies taped together. It was the Devil's own job to keep it straight on the projector. It was like hanging wallpaper. One slip and the whole thing could slide through your hands to hit the stage floor. The kids in the hall knew it too. As I knelt in front of the OHP I could feel a thousand eyes boring into the back of my head willing me to mess up.
The spotlights burned my neck and the palms of my hands were slick with sweat.
Worse still, the Head Master was very particular about the way the hymn was sung.
I'd hold the transparency as straight as I could with pages two, three and four doing their best to obey the laws of gravity. But the pupils would drone through the words with all the energy of a Ford Transit trying to turn over on a flat battery.
The Head Master, wearing a cape like Dracula, would shake his head and say 'you can do better than this. Put some effort into it!'
And off we'd go again. But by this time the hymn would have slipped off to one side. The words were all askew.
The spotlights beamed on my neck. My neck exposed to the spotlights beam. The OHP before me like an executioner's block.
The Dracula Head Master would shout so loudly that I'd nearly drop the transparency all together.
'It's not 'Oly, 'Oly, 'Oly. It's Hoe-ly, Hoe-ly, Hoe-ly.'
On around about the third run through the pupils finally got into gear. They realised that there was no other way out of this one than to wake up and give the Head Master what he wanted.
Old Dracula boomed along happily. But somehow my trembling hand managed to travel across the OHP's power button and trip it to off.
And everything went dark.