My mind has, on occasion, been known to wander.
Only occasionally of course. Most of the time I remain as focused and as single-minded as a harassed shopper determined to avoid eye contact with a charity fundraiser.
My old English teacher, Mr Bush, on the other hand – brilliant though he was – was not blessed with such focus. He had an uncommon tendency towards the tangential that gave his lessons a certain ‘anything could happen’ quality.
Analysing An Inspector Calls might find him regaling us with a witty anecdote from his recent holiday, reading Shakespeare could see him pretending to sing in welsh, and discussing Philip Larkin often led to a passionate outburst detailing the reasons for his deep-seated hatred of Rick Stein and the Mr Men.
At this point, it is important to clarify a couple of things.
Firstly, ‘Rick Stein and the Mr Men’ was not meant to refer to a single entity. Mr Bush’s disdain for both of them was separate and unrelated. Although no less fervent for it.
(Incidentally, Rick Stein and the Mr Men was the name of the soul band the TV chef fronted in the 1960s in an ill-fated attempt to cash in on the popularity of Motown.)
Secondly, I must impress upon the reader how vehemently I disagreed, and continue to disagree, with Mr Bush’s controversial opinions on the Mr Men books. His belief that they poked fun at minorities, to my mind, represents a flagrant and bewildering misunderstanding of Roger Hargreaves’s art.
The Mr Men series is a tour de force. A British cultural gem. Even today, children and adults alike are enthralled by Hargreaves’s healthy sense of the absurd, wry humour and uncanny ability to surprise. The twist at the end of Mr Bounce is a particular delight.
More than that, each contribution to the overall work manages to contain a depth – and indeed a breadth and height – of emotion unmatched by the entire Twilight series of books, movies and terrifying fan-fiction. Their philosophical commentary on the peculiarities of post-modern life is both disarmingly subtle and astonishingly profound. They are beautifully simple. And simply beautiful.
Of course, this only refers to the original 43 books. Everything written after 1990 is dismissed and not accepted as canon by Mr Men purists such as myself.
Anyway, where was I?
Oh yes. Thirdly, having never watched any of his shows, I have absolutely no opinions on Rick Stein and remain resolutely unmoved by his existence.
Inevitably, the tangents could not last forever. Mr Bush would eventually wake up, as if from a trance, and realise that he had completely forgotten what he was meant to be saying. One of the more conscientious students would invariably remind him of what we were actually supposed to be doing, and the lesson would carry on.
At this point I have a small confession to make. This post was originally meant to be about a warning label that I found on a candleholder. No, really. It would have been very funny.
But that will have to wait, as we find ourselves, like a poorly stocked herb shop, out of time.
That joke doesn’t work half as well when you write it down. Shame.