As a John Ford fan, I found it difficult to appreciate the Spaghetti Western genre. It could have been the wry, hero-sinking humour, the semi-comic caricatures, the wet-dreamlike violence, or the improbable lip-sinking. Take your pick.
Things began to improve for the genre once somebody said that I had a look of Clint Eastwood. From there on in, and to the next Espano-Americano collaboration, I became a bit of a follower. So much so, that I once bought a poncho as part of my Man With No Name fancy dress.
“Are you laughing at my horse?”
Now, I have much more in common with the stranger who rides into town on a mission of justice or revenge; I am older. And I officially have No Name.
Well, that’s not exactly true. I have many names now, but none of them is the one that I would prefer to be known as.
You reach a certain age and you become invisible. Non-concrete nouns are easier to ignore. Let’s think about the difference between a stiff breeze and a wind. Or what about frost and ice. Think about supply or substitute. As one child said to me today, “Supply is to do with things like pencils and paper.” She had a point, to pun the surely un-punable.
I explained that I was like a pencil that was replaced whenever the original one had run out of lead. Okay, politically right graphite. You see, I explained further, your teacher is ill and they have brought me in to replace them for a while.
“Isn’t a short-term replacement also known as a substitute?”
“Yes, it probably is (you little smart-arse).”
Terminology battle lost, I accepted my demise.
“Sir? What’s your real name?”
Only two months and they still didn’t know.
“Mr Evans. My name is Mr Evans.”
“No, your first name?”
“Michael or Mike,” I replied relieved. I hadn’t become as noticeable as a radiator just yet.
So, Mike or Michael or Mr Evans or just plain Sir is okay. Indeed, it is life-affirming. However, there are other things that do not fill me with the joie de vivre. Take for example the place I have been working at for the last couple of months. When I sign in in the morning, I sign in to the name of Martin Evans. Evans I am, Martin I am not. I brought this up with a rather down-nose looking secretary and she ignored me with an indifferent, “UM.” I carried on signing for this other guy who was not me. Fortunately, he was not collecting the meagre wages that I was earning, so I said nothing. Until the other morning.
“I’m signing for Martin Evans,” I shared with a real teacher. She smiled the smile of somebody who was not sure if they were conversing with a member of the unwanted mad regiment.
“My name is really Mike or Michael, at a push. I have been signing for the wrong person since I worked here.”
She looked at me as if I was human.
“I shall have a word with the receptionist,” she replied. Her face was filled with the milk of human kindness. I thought I had been recognised as the same species.
At one point in my recent supply career, I worked in a private Pupil Referral Unit. These are normally places where the really disturbed children or unreachably misbehaved kids go. Normally it is a state-run establishment whose heart is in the right place and not in the fiscal gains place that private operations tend to be in. The ‘school’, a wild misnomer, was always bouncing and one morning one of my new students met me with the greeting of, “Cunt.” I was taken out of my stride. I didn’t realise that I had offended said student, but his pique had turned to rage and he began to throw everything and anything about the makeshift classroom. He climbed up the walls, kicked in the doors, assaulted the very air, and tore up anything that he could tear up. Perhaps knowing my name was not so advantageous for me after all.
As an English teacher, I was pleased that he started to take pen to paper. Perhaps he was intent upon writing the rage out. I believed that he was. His note read:
to the cunt of an english teacher who thinks hes so fucking good your a twat and you should fuck off back from were you are from…
He had a certain way with words. He apologised to me afterwards.
You see, I was not a nameless man after all.
And then the other day arrived with a class of not too well behaved students who managed up to forty minutes of dedicated learning before breaking into anarchy. Perhaps it’s me. Perhaps when I asked them to stop the nonsensical jabber, I did not expect to provide the literary ammunition that was fired back at me.
“You’re a NONCE,” came a rebellious retort from one of the most intelligent and unreachable. So, I had stained the status of being named once again.
The day may have ended on that pyrrhic victory, but it didn’t.
As one last gift from the gods, a bespectacled year eight girl knocked on my classroom door and announced that she had a Christmas card.
“I have a Christmas card for you, Mr Evans.”
My face erupted in triumph. I thanked the young saviour profusely and set about opening the envelope. The card was bigger than the usual student to teacher cards and my belief was restored.
The girl had left the room by the time I read the inscription.
To the Supply teacher,
Did Clint Eastwood ever get anything better?
Ho, ho, ho!