It was Ascension Day 1983. All the staff and pupils of the Kings of Wessex Upper School Cheddar were gathered in the Vicarage garden of St Andrews Church to celebrate something that never happened, to someone who didn’t exist.
The Headmaster was droning on… well to everyone else he was the Headmaster. For me it was a bit different: I would be having dinner with him that evening, I would be staying over night in his house, he’d sometimes just give me presents for no real reason….
This story would be going in a more unsettling direction if the Headmaster was not called TK Herring. He was my father.
But somehow between the hours of 9 am and 3.45 pm, through some supreme act of mental displacement, I managed to compartmentalise him as two different people. Like Clark Kent and Superman.
After his sermon, he said,
‘Before we enjoy some music from the string quartet
let’s take a minute’s silent prayer.” Heads were bowed, silence fell over the churchyard and I was unable to resist the overwhelming urge to go for the laugh. After a perfectly timed pause, I opened my mouth to release a belch. Perhaps I had intended it to be a mere staccato of a burp, a little blip that would amuse my friends. But this was no mundane discharge.
As my throat constricted I sensed that something stinking and unGodly was about to be unleashed, as if the gates of Hull had swung agape.
It was the sound of the iceberg slowly tearing through the hull of the Titanic, of continental plates grinding against each other, of Jabba the Hut, farting through a megaphone, after a six week bran based
It was a really big burp.
Satirists could work for a thousand lifetimes trying to come up with a witticism that would prick the pomposity of religion, and dent the fragile veneer of adult authority. But nothing that they came up with would have the impact of that single, cacophonous bolk.
As the clarion call ended, the echoes ended into the distance, silence returned to the churchyard, more hollow and gaping than before.
And then came laughter.
It had been an audacious affront to the string quartet, to the school, to Jesus’ victory over the force of gravity, but worst of all, above them all, To TK Herring.
As I collapsed into giggles, I looked up and caught the eye of the Headmaster. He was about to explode in fury. Our eyes locked for the briefest of seconds, he realised I might well have been the transgressor.
He had to instantaneously decide how to respond:
Would he act as father or as Headmaster? Would he haul me out in front of the whole school and publicly punish me? Or consider the psychological implications such a humiliation would result in for his son?
Would it be more humiliating for him as Headmaster to be forced to chastise his own child in front of the entire school? Could he let me off merely because I had sprung from his loins, or should he punish me all the more, more than he would punish any of the other children, to prove how fair he was by treating his own child incredibly unfairly?
The lines between father and Headmaster, between son and pupil were blurred in a way that they had never been before, and never would be again.
He had less than a second to make a decision that would echo like an ostentatious belch through the rest of our lives.
What would he do?
I’ll tell you next week!
Have Kettle crisps changed their recipe? When they came out they were the height of sophistication: thick-cut and full of flavour. Recently they have seemed thin -like yukky, weird after-taste Pringles (You can’t distract me from that by putting them in a tube) - and taste someone has been licking them at the factory. Have they changed or has my snack palate become more refined? Pot-bellied calling the Kettle bland?