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24 Hours in New Hall, by Peter Sharpe.

Teaching Practice Memories, by Wackford Squeers.

Memories from 1973, by Sue Ainslie

24 Hours in New Hall

A Religious Experience at 14p a pint

By Peter Sharpe

After all these years, and in spite of intensive counselling, I can still remember certain events from Balls Park in the early 70's with a clarity that at times can be almost disturbing. When I sneaked back for a crafty look about fifteen years ago, I walked across the car park towards the main student entrance, and fully expected to see the familiar figures stalking the glass fronted corridors. I took a walk along the gravel path to The Cottage and then on to the lake. I had this eerie feeling that I had been hurtled into a timewarp, and that I was surrounded by ghosts.

I can still clearly remember my first few hours in New Hall, being dropped off by my parents, and hoping that my mother wouldn't say anything embarrassing. My first impression on meeting Mark Sadler, Ian Sturton, Pete Thurgood and Eric Roberts was that they were all at least thirty, and were probably criminals. Mike Plummer was obviously younger, but he was a hippy, and spoke like one of the Wurzels.

Most of my fellow incarcerates seemed to be from large towns, and all thought that Hertford was a crappy little dump out in the sticks. To me, coming from a small town on the edge of The Fens, it was all rather exciting, and for the first time in my life I even had money to spend. This unusual phenomenon was very quickly remedied by a trip to London to buy the bare essentials, i.e. a new stereo. This was swiftly followed by regular donations to BackTrack records in Hertford, to ensure that the music I annoyed other people with was more obscure, and therefore more credible, than that which assaulted me from every direction. How many lives have been irreparably ruined by forced exposure to Pawn Hearts by Van Der Graaf Generator?

Marching up to the college with "The Lads" for supper, or tea as we fen folk call it, felt quite exciting, seeing all these strange faces converging on the main gates from all directions. On sitting down in the dining room, my first startling impression was of how well developed the girls seemed to be compared to those in my neck of the woods. I don't think many of us went to the bar that first evening, which was probably the only time in the whole three years. Instead, we had to unpack our belongings, and furnish our rooms with drop dead cool posters by Roger Dean, and of girls in tennis skirts scratching their bums.

The following morning I waited outside the toilet for my turn to shave at the sink, and then out strode Ian Sturton, minus eyeball, and with an evil grin on his face. How he must have been looking forward to pulling that stunt on a whole new load of fresh faces. Later on, my room mate Derek Leach re-appeared after a similar visit, during which he seemed to have severed main arteries which unusually, must have covered most of his face.

Onwards to the main hall to be given an introduction to the college. Mike Cole stood up to announce all the major attractions that had been lined up for our indulgence, one of which, I'd even heard of. Colin Bell gave his little speech about something called Third World First. I hadn't the faintest idea what he was rambling on about, but I kept my mouth shut to hide my ignorance. After that it was the turn of The Christian Fellowship. Now all this was a bit alien to me. I was now a student, I wanted rock and roll, I wanted beer, I wanted sex, whatever that was. I didn't really want to go along with the drugs bit because I didn't really know what they were either, except that they were very bad things, and made you die in an alleyway, covered in sick.

And so finally, to the college bar, Hoorah! Now I wasn't a seasoned drinker as I had never had enough money to buy a drink in a pub, and I always looked too young anyway. What I did know from some of my older mates was that Watneys equals very bad, and Ruddles County equals very good. If you couldn't get Ruddles County the next best thing was Abbot Ale. The college bar sold Abbot Ale. Hoorah again. At fourteen pence a pint. Double Hoorah. From that point on my memory became a bit hazy. Perhaps it will all come back to me.

Peter Sharpe Aug 2001

Teaching Practice Memories            

     By Wackford Squeers

Even after all this time, I am still haunted by the dread of my first teaching practice. I had signed up voluntarily for active service at the chalk face, but after a couple of terms of pleasant social activity, inconveniently interrupted by occasional lectures, this part of the course, which I had so far managed to block out of my mind, was hurtling towards the present at a speed which now induced dread-filled panic and terror.
We had already been ferried on short school visits to lull us into a false sense of security, but this was now grim, in-your-face reality. Just to install a bit of confidence, one of the second-years tried to give us novices a few helpful hints, including one that involved hitting the little brats with oranges, which supposedly causes severe internal damage without leaving bruises. I couldn't quite work out the reasoning behind that one, and decided instead to rely on the accidental elbow to the side of the head, while quickly turning round in the space between the desks.
Probably the most inconvenient aspect of teaching practice was the need to wear clothes that were deemed socially acceptable in the responsible, adult company of the teaching staff, and also, somehow making sure that these same clothes didn't smell too offensively. Anyone who had been brave enough to venture down into the bowels of the New Hall washing room, would have been well acquainted with the sight and smell of festering heaps of clothes lying abandoned and soaking in a pungent, grey scum.
The lucky schools that were to benefit from our services were scattered over every far-flung outpost of the Hertfordshire countryside, meaning that the college buses had to leave at the crack of dawn to deliver us to our fates before 9am. To a fresh faced eighteen year old, this was just adding insult to injury. I can remember staggering to the dining hall in time for breakfast on one or two occasions, and the few of us present at this ungodly hour were spewed out into the half light with stomachs full of porridge, toast and Alpen. The rest arrived just as the coach engines started up, and lurched cold, dishevelled and hungry into the puke coloured vehicles. Apart from the sporadic, phlegm filled coughing fits from the smokers, we sat through most of the journey in stunned silence, assuming the posture of troops in an amphibian landing craft, heading towards their fate on the Normandy beaches.
It was difficult to know who were the luckiest; those who were dumped off at the nearest school had more than an hour to pass in a stark and gloomy staff room, but those who endured the long bus-ride were ejected just before school began, with lungs full of diesel fumes, and bladders stretched to bursting point. Oh the horror of those first few moments in the school: the smell of wax crayons, body odour and vomit; the effort of maintaining a rictus grin in the presence of the Head, to fool him or her into thinking you were a normal person. Above all, there was the sight of all those horrible little creatures; like people only smaller. They would hover around you in groups, touching you and pulling your clothes, beaming up at you with faces dominated by bogey encrusted nostrils. You suddenly realised that there was no escape, and you were trapped in this nightmare for another six and a half hours.
I was able to spend a few minutes in the classroom in the company of the class teacher, who was to be my mentor. The words she garbled out just disappeared into the stifling hot air towards the ceiling of the room, where they danced around like moths among the psychedelic kaleidoscope of poster paint pictures and lop-sided mobiles. The school bell sounded and a procession of small Chucky dolls entered the room, and swarmed around seemingly at random. Some of them came over to inspect this hairy, brown suited apparition that was presented before them, but were quickly dispersed in a magical fashion when the teacher clapped her hands three times. I made a mental note there and then to learn this trick at the first possible opportunity.
"Pay attention children". As if she needed to say that; they were practically eating out of her hand. "This is Mr Squeers. He will be taking you for some of the lessons for the next three weeks, and I would like you all to say good morning to him". I should have seen it coming. "Good mor-ning Mister Squeee-ers. My ears were assaulted by a sing-song chorus, which if it had been uttered by a group of teenagers, would have been interpreted as a chant of such sarcastic intent that I would have felt the urge to inflict as much serious damage on the group as possible before being inevitably overcome by the overwhelming odds against me. I was then given the apparently momentous honour of taking the register. Momentarily baffled by the array of secret colour codes and strange hieroglyphics, I began to read out the names. Hysterics ensued all around when I made even the slightest mispronunciation. Perhaps I was ill when we were given register taking seminars.
In the Assembly Hall, all the kids sat on the floor while the teachers and students all sat around the edges of the room on vinyl covered chairs, which made farty sounds whenever you adjusted your posture. Judging by the thick aroma which wafted up from the floor in front of me, this was obviously being used as a cover for some serious, hardcore flatulence. Meanwhile, as the headmaster spouted all kinds of unintelligible nonsense from the front of the hall, a couple of girls noticed me surreptitiously sneaking a succession of Treats from my jacket pocket to my mouth to replace my missed breakfast. Just to make matters worse, the head then reprimanded one of the children for chewing.
When I eventually came to my last day, I was presented with a hand made card, which I still have to this day, signed by all the children in my class… and about thirty packets of Treats.

(Wackford is now in prison, having been ejected from his last post at Dotheboys Hall....Ed)

Memories From 1973

By Sue Ainslie

I remember going down to the open-air swimming pool in summer one night. The entrance was a stable door and the bottom part of the door was left unlocked. There must have been about twelve or fifteen of us and we had been there for about half an hour when we heard a man's voice shout, "Oy, what do you think you're doing in there?"
For a split second we all froze then simultaneously leapt from the pool like penguins leaping out of the sea.
Everyone hopped about, trying to pull tight jeans onto wet legs, to a chorus of, "Don't panic!"
We must have dressed and stuffed towels into bags in less than a minute, then all ran round the pool in headless chicken mode huddled together, looking for another way out. Of course there wasn't one. The only person who managed to escape was Dave Philpott who ran up the eight-foot wooden fence like Spiderman and was gone before you could say buggrit.
The "official" outside the pool had made no attempt to come inside, so we assumed he was waiting by the exit, knowing we would have to face him. After a few minutes we calmed down enough to face up to whatever consequences were to follow and made our way sheepishly to the door.
There we found Mike Wood, laughing like a drain at our panic. Of course, the only thing to do was to throw him in, fully clothed. But he put up such a struggle, calling out piteously that he couldn't swim, that we let him go. We found out next day (of course it could have been a rumour to increase the hilarity of the practical joke) that he used to dive for his county.

The Night Stalker

On another occasion, Kerry Solman and I were returning to Flats some time after midnight, having just left room 1 in Newhall, which had become an unofficial common room, and were walking up the deserted drive.
In the distance, near the college buildings, we thought we saw a light flickering and coming closer. Suddenly it went out, which worried us slightly. We could see nothing in the shadows by the buildings. Then we thought we heard footsteps coming towards us, which worried us more. We stopped to listen and the footsteps stopped. We moved on slowly and the footsteps started again. Once more we stopped, same result. By this time we were getting quite scared, what with the constant warnings we were always given about students being attacked in the past and never to wander around alone late at night.
We decided to turn round and head quickly back to Newhall, where we knew people would still be awake. As we quickened our pace, the footsteps behind us got faster and nearer, and we began to panic. Of course we were both wearing the most stupidly designed huge, wooden, ankle-breaking clogs so we whipped them off and legged it in our bare feet, hotly pursued by the mad axe-murdering psychopath behind us.
We broke the land speed record and burst unceremoniously into room 1, causing Dave Glenny and Ken (erm - whatsisname) to shriek and yank their jeans back up. Having got over their shock at having two bare-footed, hysterical madwomen batter their door in, they agreed to walk us home and protect us from the monsters hiding in the dark, dark woods.
Hmm, speaking of woods………
The next day at lunch, I think we were sitting with Ian Stirton and Mark Sadler when Mike Wood joined us. Mark said to Mike, "I think you owe these two young ladies an apology, don't you Mike?"
Mike squirmed under our steely gaze and said, "Well, last night, I was on my way down the drive when I heard footsteps. I could see the silhouettes of two girls so I switched out my torch, so as not to alarm them. Their footsteps stopped so I stopped and listened. Then they started again so I continued towards them. I then realised that they had turned round so I tried to catch them up. When I realised they had begun to hurry, I thought well they're already scared, I may as well get a good run for my money, so I chased them all the way back to Newhall."

Sue Ainslie

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