When I was at secondary school, our history teacher was Miss Irons, we called her “Tinny”. I think she knew, but in hindsight I don’t think she really minded. I thought I caught a chink of a twinkle in her eyes when, at prize-giving, the senior girl who came first was receiving her prize and called her by her namesake by mistake. Other girls would never dare, nor I.

She was ancient, old fashioned and very scary. If we’d not done our homework we’d be wary of verbal abuse that would leave us blushing, of repercussions, of long winded discussions on how ignorant we would all be for the rest of our lives. Never get degrees. Even the best of us used to quake uncontrollably at the knees when she arrived. So I did my very best to please er, and being the last in class when the new term started and forced to sit at the front, I held the form room door open for her. What a do-goody-two-shoes! I rose from my desk at the front, right under her nose, and opened the door for her again after the bell went. I always got good marks. That was humility well spent.

In front of her nose. Her nose! Oh how she’d sneeze! Sat before her, I’d get caught in the unfettered breeze before she pulled up her voluminous grey serge skirt, reached into her long-legged silk bloomers for her dirty handkerchief she kept up her left leg, then gave a good blow. Back up her knicker leg the hanky would go. We’d stifle our smirks at her quirks and get on with our work. We knew that if anyone shirked how much it would irk.

One day a girl, Sue, had done poor homework and so Tinny emptied her satchel all over the floor but there wasn’t any point her redoing it. Susan got Tinny’s “dunce’s hat” award. If anyone gave a wrong answer, Tinny would throw the board rubber across the room. It would miss, of course, but it was petrifying wondering who would be next on her list because Tinny’s temper was notorious. But me, I came out victorious. For posing as a brown noser, I usually got a glorious A plus.

I gave up history in the fourth year at high school to do Latin. so that I could go to university, because we all needed that in those days. I never went. “What a waste of an education” she’d say. I often wonder what I would have achieved if I’d taken heed of her advice. She was always nice to me. I was pretty good at sums. That afforded me a passable living. However I’m sad that I never learned anything about Richard the Third. The only history I have gleaned so far was what our bard Shakespeare taught me. Tinny never got that far. But now, of course, he’s all over the news. But what happened in history after his reign I have no real clues. I fear it is too late for me to study history. My tired senile old brain won’t absorb more information. I wish I was in Tinny’s class again.