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a blog by Chris Barrow

The teacher who ridiculed his pupil and the bike rack

My grandfather, Albert Mellor, was a railway engineer whose shed in the backyard of their Gorton Road terrace was an Aladdin’s Cave (to me, age 9) of spanners, screwdrivers, jars full of screws and washers, a vice strapped to a wooden bench, shelves full of widgets and gadgets the purpose of which was a mystery to me - the smell of wood, metal and oil, mixed with pipe tobacco - this, surely, the definition of “Working Man”.

Sadly, he passed before I was old enough to be taught any of his skills, and my father, whose engineering knowledge was passable, if not as specialised, was too busy as a shift-working police constable to spend any time teaching me practical skills (by which time I was a budding teenager, and more interested in Bulmers Woodpecker Cider, Player's No 6, The Moody Blues and girls).

On Saturday I built a bike rack in my garage.

The bike rack has been in its box for about four months and I've been procrastinating.

I’ve always had a huge lack of confidence around DIY and I genuinely think it takes me back to my first year at Burnage Grammar School (1964) and my humiliation in front of classmates by a Woodworking Teacher, who made a mockery of some project I had been struggling with.

My memory doesn’t retain what we were doing - a boat, a bowl - who knows. But I can still see him, standing at the front of the class, in a beige workers coat over his suit, making some ironic comments about the poor quality of my work, much to the amusement of my friends.

The scar that created has lasted for a lifetime.

And so this weekend I make a start, take my time, have to improvise with the tools I have, make a few mistakes, a few u-turns, but gradually the work unfolds and a few hours later I stand back and look at my finished product - a bike rack fixed to the wall!

One small step for mankind, one giant leap for a man whose confidence was shattered by a teacher whose popularity as a joker was more important than caring about one of his pupils - screw you (sic) Mr. Whatever-your-name-was.

Note to self - next time you make fun of a child (or an adult), for the sake of “the joke”, think about the longer term effect that might have.

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1 Comment

Jun 10

“What’s wrong with you …” the words that keep getting repeated and cut to the bone ….. I can’t help it if I see things different …. May be we do need a suit of armour to help protect us from the mugels who try to bring us down

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