Latin! I never was academically gifted and never spent a great deal of time at school, well, I didn’t if I could help it. Once I became an Adolescent, that was it for me, I realised there was far more interesting things going on in the world than listening to the drones of a well intentioned maths teacher ranting on about the virtues of calculus and long division, or Mr ‘Pie Face’ the physics teacher, who looked and walked like the Pink Panther, getting over excited about hydro carbons! None of it was for me. I suppose they would call me a duffer or drop out, or perhaps thick! I don’t think I was any of those, I was just a little bit ‘rock n roll’ baby.
It all sounded a little posh
I went to Sir Wilfrid Martineau a bi-lateral school in Tile Cross, Birmingham. It all sounded a little posh, but it was a secondary-modern school like many thousands of schools up and down the country. I left on December 20th, 1972, not because I wanted to, but because they told me to. Ok, I didn’t go very often and I wouldn’t pay a lot of attention when I was there, but it didn’t mean I wanted to leave, after all, I would have to look for a job and start work! I certainly didn’t fancy any of that either. I was about to become what is affectionately known as a ‘Martlet’.
Anyway, back to the Latin. It was never taught as a subject at our school, and if it was, I’m sure it would have been another item that would have flown completely over my head. Every summer break, when the full term reports were sent by mail to your house I would make sure I got to the letter box first. Always in a brown envelope with the window on the front and you could see the school logo just peeping out at the top. Intercepted and taken to my bedroom, opened and read in solitude, they always were disappointing, even to me, apart from art. I used to think how I would love to make my parents proud of me by producing a report that they would be blown away with. I have to be honest, it was never going to happen. There was more chance of me being fluent in Latin. Wait a minute!!
I gave myself A+
That’s when the penny dropped for me. In the report there were gaps with no subjects in. Don’t forget, in those days school reports were hand written by the individual teachers concerned. I thought for a moment, “What if I fill in one of the empty spaces with Latin and comment on it myself?” I thought it was brilliant! So, I wrote the word Latin in the box on the left, underneath subject. In the comments box I put something like, ‘Trevor has a natural aptitude for Latin and it is good to see him doing well at the subject’. In the following box, score, I gave myself A+. I scribbled some make believe initials next to it all, popped the report back in the envelope, sealed it up and popped it back in the postbox.
Sure enough, the following day my mother opened the school report and sat there. To my delight, her jaw dropped in amazement and she quickly called out to my dad, so proud that I’d done well in art which was genuine, and that I’d got an A+ in Latin. “Well done son, you show them what you can do.” I couldn’t believe it, my dip into forgery was paying off. I was an expert in an ancient language that most people found incomprehensible. Well, I was a super star for a day or two, when my mother found out from a friends parents that they didn’t teach Latin at my school, boy oh boy did I suffer. I can’t say here what I was called, not even in Latin, but my days of being hailed a language superstar were well and truely over.
In later years, we laughed and laughed about that report, and anytime anyone mentions about my school days and how well I did, my daughters and the wife are always quick to tell everyone how fluent I am in Latin!! “Eram injuriosum retines puerum” Which roughly means I was a naughty boy.