Steve Mason and the Music Nazi
This is the third entry in the Steve Mason’s School Days at https://www.abctales.com/collection/steve-masons-school-days
Steve “Stevo” Mason just didn’t get music. The notes, bars, symbols, it was all just Greek really (he didn’t understand Greek either along with Latin, Esperanto or any other language offering). So lessons from the School Nazi – Mr Wakelem – were nothing to be excited about. He did like messing about on the piano in the small antechamber outside the classroom. Fiddling about on the keys, he could now play a recognisable version of Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough”; well a few seconds worth, anyway. There was always a sense of triumphalism at cranking out something that sounded coherent; especially if was a chart hit by a new romantic band.
Schoolboys in black blazers milled about the corridor post lunch time waiting to be ushered in to their latest lessons. The music room was upstairs in the old school building. Steve had arrived early to have a mess around on the old Joanna before going in. Kevin “Kev” Adams and David “Fishy” Fish had the same idea with all three circling the piano. Kev was a ginger-haired genius who Steve was in awe of. David Fish was also cleverer than Steve and had an eclectic taste in music that revolved around punk rock.
“Go on then, give it a go Stevo.” Kev challenged. His face was heavily freckled accentuating the flaming rouge colour of his hair. Birmingham/Brummie accents emphasised and lengthened most words especially anything with “o” in it making “go on then” into “goooo oooon then”. Most of the intake at King Edwards were of middle class stock so managed to avoid such lingual indignity.
Both Kev and Dave had spent lunchtime in the computer room tapping in lines of machine code and watching computer babble scroll down the screen. Steve didn’t really understand all the computer stuff. He was still getting used to the idea of programmable calculators. It had been the height of calculator evolution to have a Casio but Commodore had come along with their latest version that could be adapted allowing users to input their own formulas and programmes.
“Come on Stevo, I wanna have a go before Wakelem lets us in.” implored Dave. He sniffed and dragged his fingers under his nostrils. Dave had tidy black hair, round NHS glasses and spoke in deep, low tones that belied his age. Steve looked down and tinkled the ivory keys. A discordant warm up was quickly followed by an audibly recognisable version of Basildon’s finest band. Both Kev and Dave applauded half-heartedly with hands slowly coming together above their heads. As Steve got up from the faded, worn stool, the sound of murmuring meant class was starting. All three boys looked at each other in resignation.
As they bundled their way into the mass of moving bodies, Steve bumped into the side of man-mountain, Wayne Warfield. Wayne was several years ahead in terms of physical development and dwarfed every one of his age. He held the school record for throwing the shotput. He looked down from his six foot height directly into Steve’s eyes, his fledgling moustache a distinguishing marker of his advanced adolescence.
“I’m gonna sort that sorry fascist out, mark my words.” Initially, Steve thought that this was a threat but then realised Wayne was talking about the teacher. It was a closing comment on a conversation he had been having with two friends of his who were shuffling along on his right.
“We’ll sort things won’t we, Mason?” he spat.
Steve looked ahead relieved having entered through the doors enabling him to head for his seat and scuttle away from the not so genial giant trying to trap him in conversation. Big Wayne had infamously called Wakelem’s bluff one day with a sarcastic comment about Hitler’s Brown Shirts being a bunch of pansies. The teacher had leapt up and frogmarched the student straight to the Head Master’s office, denouncing the boy as a disruptive influence who needed to be punished. Severely punished. The resultant weeks’ worth of detention had left Wayne bitter and plotting revenge. Whatever had happened in the past, there was no escaping this afternoon slot involving being assaulted by semi-quavers and Hitler’s greatest speeches.
Mr Wakelem was a large, muscular man with a permanent grin that masked a robust disposition. Robust and maybe a tad aggressive. Lessons often descended into diatribes about his fascination with the Third Reich and the diminutive Austrian who ushered in a global conflict. The class would be made to listen to a recording of Der Fuhrer ranting away via the medium of vinyl on Wakelem’s turntable that sat on a small table at the front of the room. The teacher took great pleasure in standing ramrod straight, clicking his heels together and shouting “Sieg Heil” with an arm aloft. This was invariably met with curious giggles and unsure, sideways glances between those present. Nobody was quite sure whether this was indoctrination, boredom with the actual subject that was being taught or a fragrant disabuse of lesson time. Steve was cool with it all if it meant sidestepping the intended learning.
Today was no different to most days. Wakelem was at the front, pinching the nose of his glasses, taking a deep breath, his chest sucking inwards and launching into the latest teaching content. Within minutes the subject had slipped into reveries of a trip to the Munich Beer Festival. His advice for dealing with hangovers was to simply carry on drinking; if you didn’t stop drinking then you wouldn’t suffer from the usual forfeit of feeling pretty shit the following morning. Steve considered this and wondered how you could possibly carry on imbibing alcohol forever just to avoid the physical repercussions. He looked down at the tired, old flip top wooden desk, the musical notes and scales open on the page of his textbook stared back, indecipherable to him. He thought he should maybe ask for help but had already decided that he would drop music as a subject the first chance he got. In the meantime, he would just swim with the tide. As he looked up again, he noticed Raymond Briggs sharing a joke with the boy at the next desk. There was a sudden roar and all eyes turned to the front of the room.
“Sooooo….what’s the joke then Briggs? Do feel free to share with the rest of us.” Wakelem was bellowing, his face red with anger, eyes wide.
The boys in class shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. At times like this, nobody knew where to look. Glances swept from staring at the incandescent teacher to the mortified pupil who had been singled out and now had an expression of terror on his face. Briggs’s eyes were spinning, inside he was trying frantically to calculate what to do. He was a whizz at chemistry but confrontation wasn’t his thing at all. He was chubby for his age and could have doubled as Piggy in Lord of the Flies. He fumbled nervously with his glasses.
“I wasn’t saying anything, sir.” He mumbled, eyes downcast.
“Are you sure, Briggs? I thought you might be sharing a joke. We all like a gag in here, don’t we lads? Again, nobody knew what to say. Everybody did have an idea as to what would come next.
“Stand up Briggs.” There was a zealous authority in Wakelem’s voice that would have made his diminutive hero from times of Teutonic Armageddon proud.
“Do join me at the front of class.”
Briggs rose out of his seat slowly then shuffled along to stand in a space midway between the seats and the blackboard, his back turned to those watching.
“Right, please go and stand over in the corner and stare at the wall. I’m all out of dunce hats. This is an opportunity to mull over your future conduct.” As an afterthought he added. “You will be a hero of the Fatherland!” He smiled grimly at this.
Tracy Jones’ life was nothing remarkable. Having left school at 16 she had since worked in a chip shop, a dry cleaners and had even been a glass collector. She wasn’t a shining example of the entrepreneurial future of Thatcher’s new dream. Petite, blonde-haired and a coy smile meant that Tracy did get lots of interest from the opposite sex. She had bills to pay. Living in a one-bedroom council flat in a tower block in Nechells (grey tenements, graffiti-strewn lifts that smelled of piss) brought its burden of outgoings. She had a job to do today. She wanted to make an impression and become somebody, even if just briefly.
Pulling up in Frederick Road, she parked her Austin 1300 in a free space outside one of the many terraced houses that dominated the area. She looked down into the footwell on the passenger side and ruffled through the holdall perched on the floor. Everything needed to be present and correct so she could make her mark on the world. At least for one day. She brushed the metal casing. It felt good. She grabbed the bag and got out. The sun poked through clouds reluctant to part, wanting to keep the day as overcast as a pallbearer’s expression.
She glided down the street and approached the boys’ Grammar school. There was a new building to the left and an Edwardian red-brick affair to the right. She drifted through an archway in the old part of the school, negotiated a concrete playground and made her way through an entrance that took her to a flight of stone steps and a long, curving handrail. She had chosen her time carefully to coincide with (hopefully) nobody being about as all pupils were in class. There was always the risk of being stopped by someone but she had pulled it off and was now approaching a classroom on the upper level with double wooden doors. She pulled her full length mac down, checked her beige, beaten holdall that she was gripping and took a breath. She knocked on the doors.
Briggs stared at the wall. He thought about how dull it was. Just a bland shade of magnolia with the odd buff mark which looked like a scuff from a shoe. He wondered how long he would be left to suffer this indignity. He spied the streaming dust motes that became visible when the sun shone through the classroom windows that overlooked Frederick Road.
The teacher was rabbiting on about crochets and minims. Briggs like chemistry. He had recently made a bomb from weed killer and posted it to the physics teacher – Mr Biswas – for a laugh. As he examined his shoes once more time he heard a muffled knock on the classroom doors and spun round instinctively along with everyone else. The doors opened.
Tracy pushed down on the metal handle and watched as wooden doors parted to reveal a classroom. She looked across at the teacher at the head of the class and noticed a boy standing on his own in the corner. Everyone was glaring. “Mr Wakelem, I presume?” she asked. Before the tutor, jaw agape, could reply she reached into her bag and pressed…
The “Ride of the Valkyries” blared out from her portable cassette player like something from a Wagner opera. She undid her coat. Underneath she was wearing a grey shirt with a tie and a swastika arm band. Reaching into the holdall once more, she pulled out a peaked cap replete with braiding, a skull and an Eagle at the top. She started to undress. Wakelem stared, wide-eyed in panic. As the intruder took off another arm band and airily tossed it into the air, he rushed towards the stripper to cover her with his entire mass, both arms raised like a huge, praying mantis; an impromptu human eclipse.
By now, those in class had started to laugh discreetly, hands covering mouths trying not to be seen to be revolting. Steve looked across rows of seats and noticed Wayne staring hard at the sight unravelling in front of him. He was grinning from ear to ear. He looked back at Steve, reached into his pocket and produced a business card. Flashing it in Steve’s direction the square of card was multi-coloured with tiny fireworks in the corner along with the words:
Tracey Jones stripagram services – suits all tastes
Wayne winked and carried on chuckling.
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