Covid Special: September No.1 2020

Club News – Ian Payne

Further to the last Newsletter, Roger Davis’s funeral was on 2nd September. It was a small family affair. Diane tells me that it was a very fitting tribute.

Reminder: We are holding a ‘bring your own’ outdoor meeting on Tuesday 8th September in our Chairman’s garden. Dress: casual. Thank you to Andrew Jurenko for his hospitality.

Editor calling all members

I have relied on a team of writers to support the flow of articles and they really work hard to keep our identity alive during lockdown. However, by mid-September I will have no further items ready. Please can you all find a light-hearted memory to send me (no virus allowed). I will sort out mistakes, gaps and misprints etc., just write as the thought come. PROBUS NEEDS YOU!!!!! Please email your thoughts to

The Fourth Form Latin Mutual Benefit Society by Ian Payne

I was a conscientious schoolboy – I was well behaved – I did as I was told – and generally I performed well in most subjects leading up to O-levels. That is, I performed well in class – I have always been a terrible examinee. I go to pieces, don’t read the questions properly and usually perform well below my capability. My best subjects were science and maths based, but I was ok at French – so why not Latin. But here was the problem – our Latin teacher was an ex-army major from the Burma campaign. We were his battalion and were treated as such.

Mr Brigden came into the class stick in hand and checked that the short form of the Latin date was written correctly at the top of the blackboard. “Payne, what are the principal parts of the verb ‘to march’?” I stood to my feet and proffered an answer. Homework was always learning a set of vocabulary or principal parts of some verbs. If I got it right, I sat down. If I got it wrong, I felt a sharp rap with a ruler to the back of my head and had to keep standing. Everything was regimented and any misbehaviour would likely result in a caning in front ofthe class. Mr Brigden’s nickname was ‘Reginald Rubberneck Brigden’ or just ‘Rubberneck’ for short.

We were frequently set translations during class – Latin to English or English to Latin. No speaking, no looking over our neighbour’s work and NO DICTIONARIES including the vocabulary list at the back of the text book – because we were meant to have learned that overnight. Can you imagine a language lesson without a dictionary? We rebelled and formed the Forth Form Latin Mutual Benefit Society or FFLMBS. We issued membership cards, shared translations and acquired tiny Latin dictionaries that we could hide under the desk. Needless to say, I learned precious little Latin.

Rubberneck would occasionally give us short history lessons about famous Romans or pieces of Roman history (in English). I enjoyed these. I also enjoyed learning the theory behind Latin Grammar – it was a much better introduction to grammar that we got in the English lessons. ‘Nominative, Vocative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, Ablative’ still rolls off the tongue. The trouble is that I could never remember the inflections for each, which were different for each declension, case, number and gender. We would recite in class: domius, domine, dominum, domini, domino, domino, domini, domini, dominos, dominorum, dominis, dominis. That’s for a regular 2nd declension masculine noun – the adjectives had three times as many endings in order to cope with masculine, feminine and neuter. The verbs with their conjugations and tenses were even worse. And the ruler was ready for anyone who made a mistake.

Of course I failed the mock – but was made to sit the exam anyway – which, of course, I failed. But even to this day, the acronym ‘FFLMBS’ trips lightly off the tongue. When I re- established contact with a few school friends through Facebook some years ago, the first question was: ‘Do you remember the FFLMBS?’

Stuff and Nonsense (Bar Room Reminiscence) – Anon

Time has marched on (I think we all know that), and with it comes a degree domestic chaos due to the remorseless accretion of “stuff”. This is a difficult term to define especially in translation as I found out when asked to do so by non-English born person (using the word clutter does not enlighten either). Stuff is normally harmless but may impair daily life or even health. We were brought into headlong conflict with “stuff” recently.

Just as I was dropping off to sleep there was a faint sound of tearing paper over my head, being an alert and energetic person, I took the only option and went to sleep, waking to find a strip of wallpaper hanging over me. It was not alone – three other strips were succumbing to gravity. Ever decisive, I sought out some wallpaper paste. Naturally a half-used box was in a kitchen cupboard minus instructions! I was sure that there was a better box in the shed. Perhaps that was the one at the far end of the shed on a shelf? Owing to “stuff” it was not possible to actually get to it. Before attempting to clear a passage, I tried to read the label through binoculars, but they would not focus quite closely enough and moving back left the image too dark! So, we would have to use the old half open box. I did not fancy going to the D.I.Y. virus exchange.

Reaching the ceiling could be achieved by standing on the built-in work top which was well overloaded with books and art equipment. Rather than risk a structural collapse by adding our weight to it, we spent half an hour re-locating the “stuff”. Then there was the need to find a paste brush, (oh no back to the shed)! Nothing visible but one was sourced eventually and mixing the stale old paste commenced. Producing a lumpy porridge, not the sort of thing you see the T.V. experts effortlessly applying. Should we paste the ceiling and the paper? Advice was quickly sought from our daughter in law (apparently it depends on the condition of the surfaces!!!!!). By now the paste was getting thicker so “action this day” as Churchill used to demand. My wife being much lighter than me clambered onto the work top and was handed the precious paste complete with its small but hopefully ultimately unnoticeable lumps. Reaching over one’s head and holding paper whilst applying paste can be dizzying and dangerous but I guess someone had to do it and so she did! I am glad to say that we did not repeat the classic error of stepping back into space while assessing one’s achievements as per a painter in the Sistine Chapel. No trips to casualty today then.

However, there was still the repositioning of beloved clutter back onto the work top. A brisk half an hour with both hands on the pump saw the situation restored (status quo ante had been achieved)! Well save for almost total immobility for two days due aching backs and joints.

Yes, the paper did really stick and is still there three weeks later. There may be another instalment.

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