I heard his nickname before I met him. I thought "Barrel" was terribly cruel even in those harsher days and I'm full of admiration with the way he has claimed it for himself. Although some people accuse me of verbal cruelty I would never ascribe such a cruel nickname to one circumferentially challenged. Like Yearn, I have a squishy centre. The outside's not as rigid as it once was either. My "cruel" humour is always in the cause of humour and I hope to victimise no one and I fervently hope I'm cruelest about myself.
Nigel is well aware of his shortcomings and parades them in the discussion forum. I hope only to tell you of times which when I think of them make me smile. As Wordsworth had it "They flash upon that inner eye which is the bliss of solitude." If I have a clearer memory of events from my past it is because I regularly rerun them in my "Skull cinema" (J. B. Priestley's more prosaic term)
Having said all that you probably think I'm going to rip into Marland with a clear conscience. That's NOT the intention.
Picture the scene. The Physics lab. We are studying that scintillating subject, the mechanical equivalent of heat. An apparatus was drawn on the blackboard comprising of a metre long glass tube, sealed at both ends in which a kilogram or so of mercury is enclosed. Enter Nat with the Hathershaw version - a brown cardboard tube with corks bunged in each end. Nat turns it on one end and then the other end. Something, or by the sound a series of somethings, rattles down the inside of the tube at each inversion.
When he is sure we have got the idea he explains that multiple inversions of the glass tube depicted on the board would lead to a rise in the temperature of the mercury. The potential energy of the mercury which it has momentarily at the top of the tube (having been held there by centrifugal force in the rapidly rotated tube) is converted to kinetic energy as it falls and into heat at the bottom of the tube which is where we started. Nat then told us that the budget (Hathershaw) version had some inherent problems not associated with the pukka version. He removed the upper bung. A dense cloud of grey/brown evil looking vapour crept out like a special effect from a B rated science fiction film.
"What's that?" he asked.
"PHLOGISTON!”, said a voice. (I really wish I had said that. Brilliant!) I can't be sure it was Marland but the next howler definitely was him. Nat tipped the tube and rolled a tiny blackish sphere across the desk, "And what's that?"
"A LUNG HEALER!" opined the Owl of the Remove. (A lung healer was a confection at the time which resembled lead shot)
The "evil" vapour was cardboard dust and its presence indicated friction issues and rendered the Hathershaw apparatus compromised if not completely useless.
NORI CLEGG: Picture the metalwork room; the third year and our first experience of this element. One of the things we had to make with Nori Clegg was a spanner. It had to be hardened in the forge which meant it had to be heated to red heat, and then plunged into CASENIT...The Wonder! It then had to be returned to the flames to give "the Wonder" a chance to work its minor miracle. Nori got almost animated telling us about Casenit (the WONDER!) and went on to warn us that the centre of the forge was extremely hot and that your painstakingly filed, drilled and shaped spanner could easily be knackered if left in too long.
We each had to grip our spanner in a set of awkward heavy tongs and harden the spanner following the above simple steps. Nigel held court at the forge reminding everyone of the vigilance necessary during the hardening process. Suddenly bright November 5th type sparks shot up the chimney of the forge.
"Take yours out! It's burning!", urged Nigel. We all did so. No sign of burning on any of the spanners.
"Oh blooming Heck! "(expletive diluted} Nigel pulled the charred wreck of his own spanner from the flames. He had been so busy warning everyone else that he'd forgotten about his own needs. Typical! sadly.
BOYS’ COOKERY: Miss Green was our English Literature teacher. I don't think she'd taught boys before and probably viewed the job with some misgivings. She was pleasantly surprised by the boys. Had they been in the Beano they would not have been Menaces but in Walter's gang aka Sissies. We had lessons with mutual respect and someone felt bold enough to ask would she consider teaching us some basic cookery. She said she would and so on Monday evenings we stayed on in school for two hours cooking soup, meat and potato pie, bread, Victoria sandwich cake and a Christmas Cake. We always had toast about half way through a session and learned not to let Mike Russell do the toast ing as he had a talent and a liking for burning toast, so until we had assimilated these peculiarities he got about four times as much toast as anyone else. (Where's the Christianity in that?)
One evening Victoria sponge was the subject. By the creaming method. Butter and sugar were creamed together in a large earthenware mixing bowl. The flour was sifted and blended in as were two eggs. What could go wrong? Cue Nigel who always wanted to please and to be seen pleasing. Whilst we others creamed and blended as instructed Nigel creamed for dear life. He creamed with that energy he finds for all the things he likes. He wanted to be the creme(R) de la creme(RS) all with that beaming moon face with which I'm sure he encouraged his pupils to greater success in later life.
Miss Green did a tour of inspection before we put our cake mixture into the greaseproof-lined tins. Most of us got a nod or a word of encouragement. She reached Nigel. His abounding enthusiasm for the creaming method had produced a batter. His bowl contained a pale yellow liquid. Whether the problem had been accentuated by inaccurate weighing it was impossible to tell. I am sure he POURED it into the tin and baked it but sadly even I cannot remember how it turned out probably the best of us all with his luck! Who says the Devil doesn’t look after his own!
A Barrel of Laughs