Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Mr Timmis

As I settle myself at my usual table in the corner of the garden in the shelter of the high bamboo I reflect that my lack of internet at home may not be such a bad thing after all.

It gives me the opportunity to quench my endless thirst for people watching and, in a place where others are either in groups or absorbed in the paper I'm almost unnoticed as I cast my eyes over my drinking companions.

Although its barely lunchtime each of them without fail has some kind of alcoholic beverage clasped in their hand or on the table in front of them. I glance at my own glass of lime and soda, without ice today as its slightly less warm than of late.

To my left is a rowdy table of young lads each competing to be heard over the babble of chatter and laughter.  As I watch one of them reaches onto his back pocket and I see a glint of green and gold as he pulls out a pouch of baccy.  Carefully he teased the tightly compacted strands from the packet and lays them carefully along the crease of the paper he holds in his other hand.

Suddenly they all throw their heads back laughing uproariously at something and he swears softly under his breath as the action causes a cascade of brown flakes to shower down on him.  In an action I find hard to follow or fathom he lifts the paper to his mouth and deftly licks the gummed strip from left to right before swiftly rolling it and placing a perfect cigarette between his lips.

In front of me sit a couple, their drinks untouched on the table in front of them.  His a brimming glass of coke with a slice of lime resting on top of the ice - hers a white wine which touches the demarcation line two thirds of the way up the glass.

Something about the slump of his shoulders and the set of hers tells me that they are not happy.  Both of them appear absorbed in their drinks until suddenly she leans forward and starts talking in a low voice.  There's an urgency about the way she talks, she grips her glass tightly without ever raising it to her lips and a slight frown gives her vertical lines between her brows.

I can't hear what she says and I'm glad of it, I don't want to intrude that far into their lives but I watch him as she talks, his gaze never falters from the effervescent bubbles in his glass as though he would happily plunge into its depths where the slice of citrus in his drink would hardly be less sharp than her tone.

Beyond them sits a lone man.  In his hands he holds a pipe. Carefully he scrapes the barrel with some instrument before upending it and sharply tapping it on the edge of the ashtray.

Instantly I am transported back to the classroom.

I see the wooden desks with their criss cross of lines from generations carving their initials.  The hinged lids that when raised reveal the storage  compartment beneath and the inkwells filled each morning and from which we refill our pens before carefully copying the beautiful italic script on the board into our books.

I smell the chalk dust in the air competing with the wildflowers that fill the deep stone sills high above our heads.

I hear the voice of Mr Timmis our teacher as he guides us quietly but with authority through our times tables.

He is a tall man of millitary bearing and I have no doubt that at some point in a previous life he has served his queen and country.  He is immaculately dresses in a starched white shirt over which he wears a tweed jacket with a green thread running through it.  His high waisted trousers have a sharp crease running down the front and end in highly polished shoes.

He rules his class with a rod of iron, his pipe firmly clenched between his teeth as backboard rubbers fly catching the back of the heads of the inattentive with unerring accuracy.

Each April 1st we would buy capsules from the joke shop that, when inserted into a pipe, gave out great clouds of white smoke once lit.

Each April 1st Mr Timmis would find a reason to leave his unlit pipe on his desk while he left the room for a few minutes.

The bravest among us would hurriedly insert a capsule into the barrel of his pipe before rushing red faced and shaking with fear and excitement back to their desk.

After lunch in the playground we would gather round, our collective gaze on the closed window of the headmastsrs study.

Suddenly the window would burst open and great clouds of white smoke would billow out aided in its departure by a flapping cloth and we would laugh and clutch each other in excitement as we celebrated 'fooling' our teacher once again.

Mr Timmis was a hard task master. A stickler for good manners and didn't suffer fool's lightly but beyond the stern gaze lurked a twinkle of humour and for all we were terrified of him we loved him for that too.


joeh said...

Fell for it every year did he?

Great post.

Sarah said...

Every year Joe ;-)