There is no diary-entry for today:
(The writing in the space for today relates to events on Wednesday 22nd June 1966.) It was probably today, though, at school, that I faced the consequences of my actions described in 14th–21st May 1966: Impression of the week.
I have already described the typical procedure for pupils — boys, at any rate — to be “seen” after the short religious Assembly that we had before the lessons of the day (see Andrew Pickup: E. M. Hall): the Headmaster would depart and the Deputy Head step up to the lectern and issue the list of names of those “I want to see”.
I don’t remember what happened this particular morning. It was a different Head Master by now: Dr. Grieve had retired and been replaced by Douglas F. Magnin, a somewhat portly man with a penchant for light-grey, double-breasted suits, which gained him the nickname “Luigi”. He did actually rather look like Edward G. Robinson, best remembered for his roles in gangster movies. The nickname that stuck, though, was “Fester”, after Uncle Fester in the macabre comedy TV series The Addams Family. And when a small picture, cut out of a magazine, of The Hood, the villain from the marionette-puppet TV series Thunderbirds, appeared, pinned to the wall of the Sixth Form Common Room, everyone who saw it knew straight away whom it was supposed to represent! Because of his rather full, moist and mobile lips, particularly the lower one, the Head Master was also sometimes known as “Lippo”.
It was still the same Deputy Head, E. M. Hall, there, though; he wouldn’t take up the post of Head at Todmorden Grammar School till the following term — the autumn term, the beginning of the new school year. Even though he was the customary giver of “I want to see” lists, I think it may have been Fester on this occasion who summoned me to his study.
So there I was, perhaps standing before him as he sat. His tone was fairly stern at first, as he questioned me. The fact that I had confessed the misdeed — an act that had taken me much courage to perform — did not appear to impress him one bit. My slight disappointment suggests that I subconsciously felt the act had a hint of nobility about it. I thought it was a form of backhanded Christian “witness”. He didn’t ask why I’d written the letter, which stated that I was a Christian and therefore needed to admit my wrongdoing: he told me that it was so I could participate in my “religious festival” (or words to that effect) with a clear conscience. He knew that I had been to something of that nature because it had taken place during term-time, and I’d had to obtain written parental permission to absent myself. (The Whitsuntide half-term holiday would not be till the following week).
 According to Chris:When Magnin spoke in public, it was in rather sing-song tones with a pronounced London accent. I well remember, one morning in Assembly, when he announced, “The hymn this moaning is namba foe handrid end foetééé”, it raised a ripple of laughter through the gathered throng: at the “foetééé” the tone of his voice rose almost by an octave! But now his voice dropped to a monotone, a rumbling growl almost, still with a London twang, as he outlined the reparations I had to make: I had to seek out Mr. Marsh, the caretaker, show him what I’d done; and the cost of paint, or whatever, would come out of my pocket.I have a vague recollection of your reporting Magnin’s comments on your return to school. In these he apparently said something derisive like, “Oh yes, you had to wait until you were away at your religious festival before deciding to own up!”
 An early retelling of this particular occurrence had Magnin saying, “The hymn this morning is number four hundred and forty: ‘Ye holy angels bright’.” But, in fact, hymn 440 in the edition of Songs of Praise we used, was “All hail the power of Jesus’ name”. The first time I heard this, I laughed uncontrollably at the last line of each verse, divided into two parts sung together, “Crow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-own him” and “Crown him, crown him, crown him”. But after my encounter with the Divine in 1965, the hymn became very dear and precious to me.Mr. Marsh’s attitude was one of somewhat disdainful disbelief, not only that I would scratch on the toilet wall at all, but also that I would afterwards confess it. He took out his penknife, and rapidly scraped off the message I’d scratched on the painted surface. The layer of paint was still there, but the shine in that particular spot was gone. And the message, though no longer legible, was not completely obliterated. Anyway, this was all it took to satisfy him. He folded the penknife back up, put it in his pocket — and that was the end of the matter.
The only other one-to-one meeting with Mr. Magnin that I recall took place on Friday 19th January 1968. All I wrote in my diary wasSchool. Saw Fester.I’m not sure if he called me “John” on this occasion; usually one was addressed by one’s surname. He was seeing Upper Sixth form pupils to discuss their career plans. He had got mine completely wrong. I later parodied the conversation by saying: “Now then, John, you’ve applied to study philosophy at the University of Rawal-PINDI.” (I raised the tone of my voice about an octave here in imitation of Mr. Magnin’s sing-song London accent).
On Tuesday, August 7, 2012, Chris wrote:
Thanks for the link to your blog for Monday 23rd May 1966. I remember the story well, and what a pity that hymn no. 440 turned out to be "All hail the power of Jesus' name". With a pronounced London accent, "Ye howly ayngels broiiit" would have sounded much better! :-D
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