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  • Writer's pictureKeith Dersley

Kings of the Common Room

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

When you get your bus pass the mind flies back, way back.

There was the Sixth Form Common Room which we inherited at #NorthgateGrammarSchool.

We had gazed at our elders, the lads who had gone before: some of these were cool beatniks, others hearty tennis and rugby players. Many considered themselves Romeos.

Knowing that crowd were leaving made us think: the privilege of the Common Room necessarily happened to coincide with the incoming realities of the big world. The 'A' level exams were looming, so important to what was known as a lad's 'future'.

Naturally, it would never do to mention STUDY and EXAMS in the Common Room. There, the topics were chicks, music, #DaveAllen on TV, sport if that was your bag, and, well, more about chicks.

Student with rucksack leaving school.

One or two pupils reacted to the pressures of the time by leaving. The masters, the ones who could see into our heads, like Mr Faux, exuded an air of nostalgic sympathy, as if getting ready to welcome us into the tough world of men. 'Freddy' Faux, as we called him, always reminded me of that suave man of the world, Inspector Paul Duval, the star of #InterpolCalling on Sunday night TV.

We were inheriting. Getting the keys to this piece of space where at lunch times and during 'free periods' (designed for private study) we were left to our devices like demigods.

Masters could only enter the Common Room if invited. The place was ours and had armchairs installed, similar to the ones in the Headmaster's study.

We could go in there, man, and make toast and instant coffee or a pot of tea. And then there was the radio. The room was located in one of the huts on the edge of the playing field, not far from the Biology lab. There was hardly ever anyone about, so we could play #RadioCaroline as loud as we liked.

This was the summer when the #SmallFaces had turned progressive, and 'The Universal' sounded really liberated and intellectual. The sound of the flushed outside khazi and the barking dog added to the general air of summer and freedom. Another epiphany came with 'MacArthur Park', by Richard Harris.

There was even a section of the Common Room cordoned off for smoking. This area had to be kept spick and span or the privilege was liable to be withdrawn.

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