Tuesday, 11 April 2017


SJDGS, pretending to be 'Sir John Deane's College'  (Wikipaedia)

We called it 'SJDGS', although its official name was 'Sir John Deane's Grammar School'. It also got called 'Johnny Deane's' and 'Northwich Grammar School' and, I'm sure, many other things.
We certainly had some choice names for it all those years ago.

I use the phrase 'all those years ago' advisedly. For it was exactly FIFTY (50) years to this very day, September 8th 2014, that I started school there, four days before my 12th birthday, a fact that I couldn't resist recording for posterity on that ubiquitous symbol of modernity, Facebook:

Just a brief note to record, with incredulity and a slight sense of horror, that today, 8th September 2014, is the 50th anniversary of the day I first walked through the gates of Sir John Deane's Grammar School in Northwich and became part of 3WH, with 'Andy' Horrocks as our form-master and the old cricket pavilion as our form room. Can it really be 50 years ago, when the Beatles were in their first flush of success, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and Radio Caroline was in its first year of broadcasting, that I was able to stand on the Rugby pitch at lunch-time and gaze out over the River Weaver to watch an endless procession of steam trains hauling coal and limestone back and forth over the viaduct? I can assure you that there is no way I can possibly be that old! 

The original post even had a 'smiley-face'  to indicate that I was being humorous. Very necessary, of course, when navigating the treacherous waters of FB where misunderstanding waits in the wings ready to cause mayhem if people think you're serious when you're being silly, and vice versa.

It was one of the teachers at SJDGS who gave the original version of this blog its enigmatic title - 'The Odd Exception' - which, at first glance, doesn't seem to mean very much.
The school had its fair share of sadists, neurotics and downright madmen among the staff, but some of the English teachers were excellent.

I was never very happy at this Grammar School-which-wanted- to-be-a-public-school (I found out many years later that this was literally true) but the English teachers managed to instill in me a love for English language and literature which has survived over the years.

One grey afternoon sometime in the heady days of the 1960s one of these English teachers - a Mr Hutchinson (who looked, as all teachers did then, just like Bernard Hedges of Please Sir! fame) - was patrolling the classroom discoursing on the assignment we had all just completed.

He'd asked us, or rather, ordered us, to write a short piece in the style of our favourite author and I'd put together a little story in the style of P G Wodehouse.
It was full of 'I say, Bertie old fruit!' and 'What-ho Gussie!' and the like and was very probably dire.

But in Mr Hutchinson I was playing to the gallery.

'Excellent work Roberts!', he enthused, 'you obviously enjoyed writing that.'

'Yes sir,' I said, blushing profusely.

A discussion ensued on the works of PGW and other favourite authors and it was during this that Mr H. uttered the words that have stuck with me ever since and which have, in the absence of a better title, given this weblog its name.

'I love all kinds of writing, sir', I babbled, with a strange  mixture of eagerness and fear of being made to look a fool; 'Mind you there is the odd exception.'

He pondered for a while.

'You know Roberts, ' he said, 'sometimes I think that you are the Odd Exception.'

So there you have it.

Expect further dispatches from Stalag SJDGS as it was half a century ago.

First published on THE ODD EXCEPTION on September 8th 2014

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