In recognition of some kind of application to study, I was rewarded with responsibility. They put in charge of managing the school stage which meant coming in early when all of the others were condemned to be locked out in the frozen yard.
It meant rigging up the OHP and locating the correct hymn, typed onto a transparency that the Dracula frocked Head Master requested.
The one I dreaded was Holy, Holy, Holy.
Because it was the Head Master's favourite, this hymn came along quite often.
It was a horror.
The transparency was three pages long on. It was the Devil's own job to keep it straight so that the words didn't appear crooked on the projection screen.
It was like hanging wall paper. When you are very drunk.
One slip and the whole thing could fall from my hands. The kids in the hall knew it, too.
I'd kneel at the OHP and start to line up the transparency feeling the pressure of a thousand eyes boring into the back of my head willing me to slip up.
The spotlights would beam down on my neck, my fingertips would start to slick with sweat.
Worse still, despite the universal hatred for the hymn that the Head Master alone seemed to love, the Head was very particular about how it should be sung.
With intense powers of concentration, I'd line the transparency up on the glass of the OHP, the bright bulb blurring and burning in my eyes. I'd hold it as straight as I could as the dead weight of pages to 2 and 3 conformed with the rules of gravity. I'd look up at the screen and see the opening lines nicely straight and in focus on the screen.
The Reverend would start to play the piano and the droning of 500 students would fill the hall with all of the energy and vibrancy of a Ford Transit with a flat battery.
'Stop! Stop!' the Head Master would shout.
'Come on. You can do better than this. Put some effort into it!'
And off we'd go again.
But by this time the hymn had slipped slightly off to one side.
This meant that by the time we'd reached verse 3 I'd be in real trouble. How to feed the hymn over the OHP without dramatically wiggling the transparency to get the words back on course again?
The spotlights beaming down on my neck. On my knees, neck exposed and the OHP before me an executioner's block.
The Head Master roared so loudly that I almost dropped the transparency altogether.
'Look. It's Hoe-ly, Hoe-ly, Hoe-ly. Not 'oly, 'oly, 'oly. The word has an aitch in front of it. And you at the back, yes you, stop yawning boy.'
I think that it was on around the third run through, the students now finally finding gear because they realised that there was no other way to get out of this one, and the Head Master was booming along happily in his Dracula cape that my trembling hand somehow managed to travel across the power button and trip it into the OFF position.
And everything went dark.
An updated version of an older post . Published here in a revised format after fresh research has enabled the author to facilitate a different approach to reveal the historical accuracy of this significant moment in the late twentieth century British educational system.