Hasmo Legends XXVIII: AHB Unplugged

I could have been forgiven for feeling somewhat less than enthused upon receipt of that WhatsApp message, some three years ago.

Yes, it informed me that there was in existence an audio recording of a Cyril lesson. But the message was from Grant Morgan – a boy of such Hasmo-honed piss-taking pedigree that I hadn’t even believed him when he told me, around the same time, that an ex-classmate had died (I am still not convinced: Sam Michaels, if you are reading this . . . ) – and the tape was supposedly in the possession of none other than Eric Elbaz, the undisputed lout of our Class of ’78.

I did not, however, heed my inner skeptic. How could I? If there were indeed extant a Room 1 recording of the Great Swansean, it would be a coup for Hasmo Legends of Dead Sea Scrolls proportions. So, for the past three years, I have been nagging and attempting to cajole Morgan to get the tape off Elbaz, and, from time to time, even called the Moroccan myself (putting his failure to ever pick up down to some unsettled debt).

I was even more persistent, however, on a recent visit to London; and, last week, I received my holy grail (converted by Morgan to MP3 format).

Considering that it was made by Elbaz – with a concealed Aiwa walkman from his single desk at the front left of Room 1 – in November 1983 (over 32 years ago), the 31:25 minute recording has stood the test of time remarkably well. No forensic examination is required to verify its authenticity – this Legend was truly inimitable – and what a joy it has been to once again hear those dulcet Welsh tones . . . even (especially?) when uttering niceties such as “Oh, what an idiot!”

The opening seven or so minutes of the fifth year class give a somewhat muffled, though still entertaining, taste of the much acclaimed Cyril & Elbaz Show that ran – with a one-year hiatus that enabled Elbaz to terrorise Marion Rosenberg as well – between 1978 and 1984. (For those who never had the pleasure, Elbaz – or “Ell-baz”, as Cyril would call him – is the creature beseeching “Can you shut that door . . . it’s getting rather drafty in here!” and who has lost, or pretends to have, his “expensive” Parker pen.) And the general hubbub of those opening minutes exemplifies the complete lack of both pupil derech eretz and teacher authority so typical – in those days at least – of Holders Hill Road.

The sound quality is even better from the start of the lesson ‘proper’ – at around 7:20 – in which Cyril reviews an English-to-French translation assignment, An Honest Woman (Une Femme Honnête), from the previous week.

The recording – discovered when Elbaz’s mother moved home three years ago – exhibits lots of lovely (and less than lovely) Cyrilisms, which I hope the reader/listener will enjoy as much as I have . . .

Your observations, as always, are welcomed as comments below (rather than on YouTube, please).

Chag sameach!

[As well as to the wretches Elbaz and Morgan, my gratitude and thanks to Daniel Greenspan, and especially to Alan Rubin for uploading and arranging the audio and accompanying slideshow.]

Next on Hasmo Legends, Part XXIX: Eric Elbaz


10 responses to “Hasmo Legends XXVIII: AHB Unplugged

  1. What is so wonderful about this is that the classes are totally fungible. When this was recorded, I was already a parent – but the dialogue is precisely the same as I remember.

    The opening at 7:20 would not have disgraced a Monty Python sketch. After admitting that he does not generally review students’ work (!!!), Cyril goes on to inform the class that he had noticed one, two, or in some cases, three mistakes in their rendition of the title of the piece (which, if you discount the indefinite article, consists of two words in French and English).

    And this was the Fifth Form, two months before the mocks. You couldn’t make it up!

  2. Charles Alexander

    Full credit to Grant Morgan.
    Takes me back to Room 1.
    The students might be different but the attitude and comments are identical.

  3. Grant Morgan

    Wholly unaware at the time, the true genius of this recording is the inordinate amount of time wasted before the lesson even started. There is so much ‘business’ going on with pens apparently being lost, boys rushing in late and a general cacophony. And with Cyril (as is evidenced from the recording) you never quite knew whether he was on side or not, a risk you simply had to take. This was a game he revelled in choosing to either praise you (to the delight and mumbled acknowledgement of your peers) or go nuclear on you (to the equal delight and scathing of your peers). The response to ‘may I take my jacket off sir’ was a simple yes or no. The entire process should have taken no more than 3 seconds. But nothing was ever that simple in Cyril’s world. First he would look out of the window (like that made a difference). Then he would look at you – followed by himself. He would then question whether it was hot enough to remove a jacket and always arrive at the same conclusion. Simply that if he hadn’t taken his jacket off, then neither should you. This theatre could take up a good five minutes of any lesson (I’ve offered the abridged version) and though he was wholly wise to it, he almost engaged in the nonsense as a kind of sadistic pleasure. I could go on with stories of ‘this boy’, Kaufman and the bass fish, Whitefield’s case and those who purported to be French speaking but sadly I need to mark out of ten, sign my name and pass back – IN THE USUAL MANNER!

  4. Dan Gins reconstituted

    10.01….”ohhhh, whaddan idiot !”

    Want to see if I can make this into my iPhone’s ringtone.

    Trying to picture what Cyril was actually DOING during the 7h 20m before starting le lectuuuuure !

  5. Grant Morgan

    12.00 – That wretch Elbaz trying get Cyril to take 2 marks off ‘this boy’ but failing sadly!

  6. I smiled from ear to ear listening to this. This recording is a staggering find of epic proportions. The way the last word of each sentence rises in volume and pitch brings Hamso memories flooding back. Just such a shame the tape doesn’t include such classics as ‘He opened the window and in-flu-enza’ (the response to any boy being off with a cold), and ‘I want 4 sides on insubordination’. Classic.

  7. Grant Morgan

    Paul Herszaft (the wretched creature that he was) and I went to a school reunion a number of years before his passing where we had a great chat with Cyril and Mrs Cyril. Though slightly frail, he was on superb form and during a break in the anecdotal conversation, I asked Agnes if she had ever been given sides. She coyly replied in the negative whereupon with a wry smile, and his eyes fixed upon her said “It’s not too late”!

    He hadn’t lost his comic genius or perfect timing and in that moment, with sharp clarity, part of me genuinely believed that the joke had been on us the entire time.

  8. No!! First Michaels . . . now Herszaft?! This just isn’t funny anymore.

  9. Pinchos Chalk

    Poésie en mouvement

  10. My favourite exchange commences with the ‘stupid’ question at 9:56, resulting in Cyril’s remorseless, quick-fire “Oh, what an idiot!”

    Elbaz then chimes in with a “What an idiot!” of his own, with Cyril – encouraged by the class – taking the bait*: “Yes, he’s so quick to call someone an idiot, but he’s done the same thing himself! . . . Elbaz, you are annoying me, you had better keep your mouth shut.”

    “Sorry, sir,” replies Elbaz.

    “Well, you will be sorry if you go on like this.”


    *or merely – as posited above by internationally renowned Cyrilogist, Grant Morgan – playing up to his rapt audience?

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