9 Nov

St. Nicholas’ Church, Thames Ditton. 21st October 2015.

My mind wandered and I shifted uneasily as Tony Pritchard’s coffin was lowered onto trestles. I was in the third row of pews; my old form master’s eco-basket-casket was not quite close enough to touch.I glanced down at the order of service and a healthy, florid, memorable faced smiled back at me. Antony Cowles Lowther Prichard. I had never thought that the C and L of A.C.L. Prichard would reveal such deliciously odd names. How little we know of those who inhabit our lives.

As the service got under way I reflected on my first day at Kingston Grammar School. September 1962. A new boy in shorts and striped orange blazer was told to stand in the 1C line as my name came after Q in the alphabet. The access to 1C’s formroom was down a small flight of stairs, giving the room a cave-like quality. The desks were Victorian wrought-iron and wrinkled oak scored with the etchings of former inmates. A prefect loomed over our silence as we waited for a teacher to arrive. And there he was, ‘Prickles’, begowned, youthful, fearsomely smiling and agile as he pattered lightly down the form steps. Gown became cape as it billowed with his forward momentum. Batman had arrived.
I became fond of this strict but clever life-force of a teacher. He taught Latin in the rote style, banging a carved walking stick (Belshazzar) to a rhythmic beat as we conjugated verbs. Amo/Amas/Amat etc. Plenty of memories washed over me but as I sat in my pew it was the first batman meeting, that first encounter that returned so easily. A snapshot.

A segway to poetry. Teachers sometimes try to outsmart pupils by asking them to define poetry or verse. It’s impossible of course. However, by collecting several responses a teacher can point a class in interesting directions. One such definition was offered to me by a smartie-pants boy many years ago. A moment caught forever. Nice answer. Lots more to say, perhaps but when we think of the poems we know well, a line often stands out. The host of daffodils, kingfishers catching fire, the blast-beruffled plume, the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle, the albatross, the sound of revelry by night. Tread softly through your memory and half-forgotten lines can emerge and a door left ajar is opened again. And the poem often becomes the line and vice-versa. A representative of the whole.

So it was, a couple of weeks ago, that Tony Prichard was distilled in the moment he became Batman on first meeting. As I shifted in my pew I thought of those near and dear to me and conjured up moments, images, gestures which represented them. Gerard Manley Hopkins called it inscape – the very essence, not just of people but the entire natural world. For him it was proof that God existed through the uniqueness of his creations. It’s a romantic view which powered his poetry but I wouldn’t base my view of creation on it. But I do enjoy a bit of inscaping every now and then.
RIP, ACLP 16/11/1927 – 21/9/2015

4 Responses to “Inscaping..”

  1. prez November 10, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    Soro I really enjoyed reading this cheers mate.

  2. Mark White November 25, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    My first day at big school: discuss. I remember giving a House assembly on that topic and being surprised how violent that day had been (boys school etc). Enjoyed your inscape, though it made me think of Mike W. too

    • simplysorro November 25, 2015 at 11:41 am #

      Yes – there was unpleasantness on that day for me too but another story…If you haven’t caught up with Alex’s gap year blog go to prezontour@wordpress and enjoy his inimitable style..

      • Mark White November 25, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

        Just had a look, it’s like he’s in the room with you

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