Adam Alexander takes a sideways look at life in his Two Point Four column…
With this month’s topic of Home and Away I was quickly reminded of that once popular early evening soap opera from our antipodean cousins.
In particular the larger than life character of Alf Stewart, harsh straight talking no messing Alf, he who was the proud owner of ‘ya flaming galar’ or ‘strewth you dirty mongrel’. He had a bonza take on the Queens English. For those readers born after 2003 you may need to google this.
However despite his slightly confusing language, he and his counterpart character Joe Mangle, I believe subliminally captivated our young developing minds. This was further brought home to me when I was asked quite out of the blue who has influenced and inspired me to be who I am today.
Apart from the usual suspects whom can’t go unmentioned – Parents, Grand Parents and immediate family, Joe and Alf of course, I then turn to more prominent figures in my life.
Mr Phil Cahill (Art & Design), Mr Ralph Westmoreland (Rural Studies) and Mr John Hillyer (Art & Design)– all of Duston Upper School fame – before it was ripped down and rebuilt.
Yes you’ll notice I still address these mentors as ‘Mr’, this is the respect they are due. However having now married Mr Westmoreland’s third oldest daughter I have earnt the right to revert to his Christian name, well after a few years anyway.
The strict nature of Mr Cahill, was legendary in the school. He sorted the time wasters from the potentially maybes. His were the one lesson I knew I could look forward to and know there would be order and dare I say it, discipline.
Having come from a military oriented family myself, it was perhaps his RAF experience that surfaced in the lesson that I admired and oddly enough warmed to the most.
Mr Hillyer, the first to admit it, was known as the laid back hippy biker type, from his spaced out and dry sense of humour to his love of unusual non-mainstream modern art.
From him I was able to let go and look at the world a little differently. Most of the time it felt like I was in the presence of Neil from ‘the young ones’ (another google reference for the younger generation).
Lastly my now father-in-law, Mr Ralph Westmoreland, who I think must have taught everyone in the county from 1960 to 1995 at the very least.
We still have occasions when out shopping and he will be stopped and asked the same old question – You Mr Westmoreland? You know the one with all the guinea pigs and chickens? Yes it really is him.
Just for the record I didn’t stalk him down for his daughter after leaving school, I did allow a little time to pass before pursuing the now Mrs Alexander.
I feel Ralph’s greatest influence has been an further extension of my own fathers influence, but it came at a time when I really was lost. Just starting out in the big wide world of work and when faced with troubles or problems, he taught me to be strong, always believe in myself and never give up.
How? Well through that basic teacher skill of distraction. We worked very closely together and I learnt to be a DIY brickie, landscaper and most importantly an under gardener.
Whether these three knew it or not, they have left a lasting impression on a less than bright lad from Exeter and rest assured they have created a well-rounded lunatic.
I leave you with this open question and time to reflect – who has influenced and inspired you?