Hasmo Legends XXXI: A Life in the Circus

by Tim Messom

In my final year at Millfield, I was cast as Shylock in the school production of The Merchant of Venice. I identified very strongly with this cruelly put upon outsider and the role was highly therapeutic for me. I too had felt ostracised and excluded, partly because of my total lack of ball skills in a sports mad environment. It made me think deeply about the historical treatment of Jews in so many parts of the world, how they were prevented from undertaking most forms of work and how non-Jews were ever anxious to borrow their money before reviling them for daring to make a living in one of the few ways open to them.

Just before starting my Exeter University degree in English and Drama, I took part in a rehearsed reading of a documentary play called The Investigation. It consisted entirely of witness statements from the Nazi concentration camps. More food for thought. So when I responded to a Times Ed advertisement for an English teacher at what was then the Hasmonean Grammar School for Boys, I had high expectations of exceptionally gifted, highly motivated pupils with a love of learning. There were some of those . . .

My interview with Mr Stanton was brief and I was, to my surprise, sent to a private house in Highgate to meet a Rabbi Schonfeld, the very image of an Old Testament prophet with his long white beard and piercing eyes. I had quite fancied my Religious Studies knowledge, but failed to answer his questions concerning the Torah. It didn’t seem to matter – my appointment as third in the English Department to Mr Soester and Mr Marks, with some Junior History in Mr Johnson’s Department, was confirmed. I was delighted to find out about the early winter closing on Fridays and the October holidays, perfect for a jump racing enthusiast like me!

Mr Soester, who became a lifelong friend, started on the same day as me but came with a wealth of teaching experience and knowledge of the ways of Orthodoxy. I quickly became aware of his philosophical detachment and sense of humour, strengths which were to prove invaluable in the face of the consistent air of disapproval which our presence seemed to provoke in some of our colleagues.

That was in September 1973. It was my second year as a full-time teacher. My first had been in what was then the Friern Barnet Grammar School, a one form entry private school for boys run on a wing and a prayer. The headmaster lived in fear of complaints from the parents and, from time to time, would summon me from my lessons to answer why I had clashed with one of my more obnoxious pupils. My exit from the classroom would be accompanied by much cheering, my students delighted I was on the mat once more. I longed for the end of each day, though on one occasion my departure was delayed because mysteriously my car tyres had been let down. My popular name there was ‘Minced Morsels’, my lugubrious manner being somewhat similar to that of Clement Freud, famous for advertising that variety of dog food. It was time for a fresh start.

Although hysteria quickly and unpredictably bubbled to the surface amongst Hasmo boys, there was little of the personal malice I had previously experienced. Indeed many of my new pupils were charming and well able to sustain an adult conversation. But the slightest incident would have the younger boys rushing into a screaming, whooping pack. In class, too, there was the sense of a powder keg of barely restrained hysteria. Gradually I came to understand that this intense energy, which had to be suppressed much of the time, was particularly characteristic of the Yeshiva Stream boys. And no wonder, when they had such a long day, arriving early and staying late to learn, learn, learn the ancient texts. Moreover, physical exercise and competitive sport were not integral to the school’s ethos so there was limited opportunity for letting off steam in a healthy way. When they weren’t testing my patience to boiling point, I felt sorry for them. It was evident that some of my colleagues were only truly interested in the boys bound for Gateshead and the Rabbinate. 

Just as there was an all too clear division amongst the boys, so too in the staff room. Fortunately there were two rooms available and the more intensely religious, who may have wished to avoid overhearing profane discussions, could withdraw to the ‘quiet’ one. Others were more relaxed. Mr Taylor, inveterate chain smoker, was always ready for a chat and often full of foreboding for those of us whom he felt had few prospects of advancement where we were. Mr Lawrence kept up our spirits with his sense of the ridiculous, though in gloomier moods he would look at the tree through the staff room window and be all too aware of the passing of time as the seasons changed. He eventually escaped by joining one of his brightest sixth form pupils in setting up a property management business. Mr Bloomberg was a kind, gentle soul who strove to retain early to mid twentieth century standards and teaching materials – undoubtedly a little trying for his French Department colleagues, Mr Tarrant and Mrs Schneider.

An early endeavour to heighten interest in English Literature and provide some creative relaxation was to attempt a simplified production of Oliver Twist. In Noam Gottesman we had a very promising Oliver and there was some interest as we began to cast other parts and have some rehearsed readings. We were stopped in our tracks very quickly. We hadn’t reckoned on the storm of protests our apparently innocuous idea would arouse. A veritable tide of objections: Should the boys be participating in such a frivolity when they could be studying the Torah? What material would any costumes be made from? Remember no male must impersonate a woman! Was Dickens anti-Semitic? Our initial enthusiasm quickly . . .

Few authors escaped the suspicion of anti-Semitism and, if they did, the issue of what was unsuitable material for the boys would be raised instead. Romeo and Juliet was the subject of a regular tug of war over many years. Like most schools, spending on new books had to be contained within a budget, so when an old set of H. E. Bates’ Fair Stood the Wind for France was dug out from the dusty library shelves it seemed likely this story of heroic endeavour against the Nazis would make an engaging second form reader. After several weeks’ work, and when interest was indeed being ignited, an anonymous complaint caused it to be withdrawn overnight. The only potentially offending words that we could find: ‘He reached up and touched her breast.’

It was strange to reflect that many of my colleagues believed the world to be five and a half thousand years old and that women, who should always keep their hair covered in public, are unclean and should not be touched for a chunk of each month. Yet many of the boys seemed relatively untouched by the extremes of religious dogma.

My first sojourn at the Hasmo lasted a mere five terms (though it seemed longer!) I chanced across an advertisement for a circus ringmaster and it so happened that I had been brought up with an interest in circus through the friends my father, a professional photographer, had made in that world. I made a special study of this branch of the performing arts as part of my degree. So the decision to join Circus Hoffman (billed as ‘the Wildest Show on Earth’) was not quite as extraordinary as it might seem. Moreover, it was a way to gain membership of Equity, the actors union, and in those days the stage still beckoned me. I was interviewed and accepted, probably because of my loud voice and a certain facility, honed after years of boarding school life, for talking my way out of trouble – a skill that would turn out to be essential in my new role! Two good Hasmo memories from this time: Mr Stanton telling me I would always be welcome to return to the school and my GCE class clubbing together to present me with a beautiful leather whip as a farewell present.

Mr Harrison had tipped off the Evening Standard and so supplied the first of many media stories about my change of occupation, usually along the lines of ‘Teacher Tim Runs Away to Join the Circus!’ Over the next couple of years there were television appearances and radio interviews and I appeared in a short film for schools’ television. Amongst the more colourful adventures were flood and fire, the lions escaped on one occasion and the monkeys on another, there was a pitched battle on the Isle of Wight between rival factions on the show, and a disastrous attempt to include a version of The Planet of the Apes that frightened the little children so much that audiences walked out en masse and the show had to pack up and leave Newcastle in a hurry. All very different to life at the Hasmo. And no, contrary to popular invention, my wife did not run off with a lion tamer. I wonder who thought up that one . . .

Five years on and, having changed occupation but discovered I was not cut out to be a commission-only life insurance salesman, it was time to fulfil the prophecy inherent in Mr Stanton’s promise. I had come to the conclusion there was much to be said for a salary, a pension scheme and paid holidays. By this time Rabbi Roberg had taken over as headmaster. As he remarked to Mr Soester about my appointment, ‘Better the devil you know . . .’

Little had changed in my absence: Mr Harrison was no longer there to study the Financial Times each morning and Mr Balin, with his memories of observing the Sidney Street siege, had taken a well earned retirement. But Rabbi Angel, with his beautiful assistant Goldie, who lived nearby and rarely entered the staff room, still ruled the Art Room. I replaced a certain Mr Lent who I was told had gone into business in the North of England as a baker. He was remembered for having incurred Mr Stanton’s wrath by conducting a private reading lesson during an Ofsted inspection, thus leaving the inspectors nothing to inspect! Assemblies still had the same atmosphere of murmuring and restlessness, as if a full scale riot could break out at any time. Indeed, throughout the day there were the same shrieks, shouts and banging of desks and drawers that I had known before. The suspicion of what corruption the English Department might be peddling seemed to have intensified. I was shocked to discover that boys coming to interview for a place at the school would be routinely asked where their parents bought their meat and whether they ever went out in the car on a Saturday.

There was a steady increase in staff meetings: utterly boring and pointless because so little ever seemed to change. They seemed to go on forever and, just as closure seemed imminent, the ever enthusiastic Mr Bokor would introduce a new topic and add a further quarter of an hour to proceedings. I was sure our leaders used to speak as slowly as possible in order to fill up the designated time. I succeeded in removing myself from this once weekly torture by signing up for a Barnet counselling course for teachers which happily coincided with the times of the dreaded meetings.

Counselling skills were little in demand at the Hasmo. On one occasion I confided to Rabbi Roberg that I felt I should get to know the boys in my form better. ‘Better not to get to know them too well, Mr Messom’ was his response. He did have a sense of humour. On another occasion I confided that I was worried about the behaviour of one of his sons, who would sit in my lessons with his fists clamped over his ears, presumably lest my words should in some way corrupt him. ‘Horrid boy, take no notice’ was the headmaster’s response. Funnily enough, it was another of his sons who was observed, to the amazement of a friend who had come to collect me one afternoon, outside the school rolling himself repeatedly from the pavement into the road and back again, gathering much dirt and dust in the process.

One ritual I instituted that lasted for many years was the Thursday Lunch Club: for those of a liberal disposition to take a lunch break at The Mill pub (now a nursing home) just down the road. School lunches left much to be desired, though it must have been a hard task to produce strictly kosher on what was undoubtedly a strictly limited budget. Our once a week excursion was a very welcome break from the shrieks, howls and hammering on the staff room door that did nothing for our digestion. DJ, I believe, particularly despised our Thursday exodus. Not that he said so – he rarely spoke to us – but there was a certain look, a heavy sigh, a look at his watch on our return, that spoke volumes. On one occasion I returned to find that my car had been damaged by some of our pupils ignoring the school rules, as was their custom, and chasing each other around the cars. I wanted to claim from the school’s insurance and when I put this to Rabbi Roberg, DJ intervened to say that, surely, as it was a Thursday, I would have driven to the pub. Oh the joy of being able to reply that I had travelled with Mr Johnson!

I was also required to help poor Mr Chishios in the Games Department (he was more up against it than we were in our attempts to convey the glories of English Literature). You would hardly think of my fellow sufferers, Mr Marks and Mr Soester, either, as muddy field enthusiasts! Mr Marks was very much more interested in the works of James Joyce than in the challenges of the football pitch and I had gone through my own school days using all my ingenuity to avoid team games, so it was way beyond me to now become a referee and adjudicate on the subtleties of the offside rules. Another of my roles was to be in charge of the library. In this I was greatly helped by an intriguing boy who liked to be known as ‘Tricky’ Tropp – he had trained himself to perform magic tricks and be an entertainer at children’s parties. I believe he kept a collection of reptiles at home. I wonder if he went into show business . . .

Such charm as our eccentric school had once held for me quickly withered when Mr Soester was replaced as Head of English first by Mr Benjamin and then – when he surrendered to the full force of repression lined up against the liberal arts – a Mrs Masterson, for whom I didn’t care. Mr Benjamin apparently didn’t realise what a conflicted establishment he was joining. He was an enthusiastic advocate of the now discredited 100% coursework for GCSE English and English Literature. What he failed to take into account was the string of private tutors that many pupils of the Hasmonean kept in tow, making it impossible to assess what percentage of the final submission was the candidate’s own unaided efforts. I think he finally gave up when, having arranged for a group of professional actors to come to the school to present a version of Macbeth, the event was cancelled at the very last moment. Something was said about it being unsuitable for boys to watch a woman on the stage, as their passions might be inflamed. The secret censors had struck again!

What I now think of as the moment when I knew I had to be on my way was an end of term assembly led by Rabbi Bondi. He reminded the boys that, since the Jews are at the head of Creation and superior to all other forms of life, they should not sully themselves by mixing with Gentiles during their holidays. Where did that leave me? Amazing, really, that I was accorded any degree of respect or acceptance, though I did know that there were many in the hall who would have taken little notice of the Rabbi’s admonitions.

The Hasmo had been good to me in many ways, had provided secure employment when I most needed it and there were always some pupils and colleagues to whom I could relate. But it was more than time for a change. After all, my second sojourn had lasted the best part of ten years. If I had any vocation as a teacher, it was to share what Literature and Theatre mean to me, and in 1989 I was lucky enough to find a post at the nearby Mount School for Girls where such aims could flourish unimpeded.

I was given a warm send off by my colleagues, but there was one last disappointment: Rabbi Roberg explained that, although the boys had all contributed to a leaving present, the one in charge had forgotten to bring it! I never did find out what it was . . .

See also Hasmo Legends X: Mad Dogs and English Teachers

29 responses to “Hasmo Legends XXXI: A Life in the Circus

  1. This is a fascinating read – to get the honest take of a teacher’s view of the school.

    How awful that there was a split in the teachers between the ultra-orthodox and the non-orthodox/gentiles and the way they were treated – as an orthodox jew – this is the ultimate chillul hashem ( desecration of G-d’s name) and those seemingly ‘Holyer than thou’ people should really be ashamed of themselves – they could have taught us some proper derech eretz by example.

    Oh well….

  2. What a great read – though I think I need extra lessons to understand some of the words he used.

    The reason for him leaving the school is disgusting and Bondi should be ashamed of himself.

  3. Wow. And i am amazed that he was prepared to go into such a detailed account of what was in fact going on behind the scenes. Well done. I liked mr messam. He seemed upset that i had to leave. I quote him to this day to my kids. “Minkka will be 3 o clock today” I wont tell johnny bokor. We are mishpucha…

  4. Thank you Mr Messom. I devoured every word of that and laughed raucously at your accounts of censorship and especially the memoirs of your former bosses response to his offspring’s bizarre and retarded behaviour. I was also touched to learn of what initially motivated you to apply for the job, though in sympathy with previous commenters, this was tempered by my disgust when discovering what eventually drove you to quit. It is gratifying that in the midst of this, you managed to retain a healthy perspective.

    I hope you are well. You were my form master and English teacher when I was in the third year, though I doubt you’ll remember me.

  5. Another great scoop, Mike! Well done – highly enjoyable (if in parts, toe-curling) reading.

  6. Beautifully written and thoughtful. Interesting that the social divisions, which existed among the student fraternity also existed to some extent in the staff room. Very uncomfortable to read how ultra-orthodox interference extended beyond Yeshiva Stream and into the Arts and quite embarrassing to read how you recall Rabbi Bondi’s inconsiderate comments made at an assembly. What can I say, Mr. Messom? To quote your colleague Mr. Marks: “It’s always the Frum ones.”

  7. He was my English teacher in the 2nd form and when he announced he was leaving at the end of the year, there was a true feeling of regret/sadness amongst us, truly a sign of a great teacher!

  8. Adrian Warren

    What a fascinating read and how good to hear the thoughts and insights of a former teacher as opposed to old pupils

    Particularly interesting to read about the divisions in the staff room. It probably shouldn’t surprise us.

    I remember when I was a sixth form prefect at an open evening for parents of prospective pupils, being asked how the very religious and non religious kids got on and answered honestly that there was a fair bit of antipathy between the groups and we didn’t mix a lot.

    In retrospect we shouldn’t have been surprised it was similar among the teachers, especially between the deeply religious and christian educators.

    I was at Hasmo during Tim’s shorter first tenure so don’t have too many memories of him and certainly no bad ones.

    I studied English under Ivan Marks and Jeff Soester, two largely amiable characters compared to some of their more – how I can put this subtly? – hard line colleagues.

    I once bumped into Mr Marks at the big annual indoor tennis tournament held at Wembley Arena.

    Only five or six in my year went on to do English Lit at A level.

    I played up a lot during that time and rightly got suspended for a while, something I later regretted.

    But thanks to those guys I never lost my love of words and literature and went on to fulfil my ambition of becoming a sports journalist for 33 years in Sydney, Australia.I like to think they heiped me get there and if anyone has any contact with either of them I’d be happy for that to be passed on along with thanks for their efforts in imbuing me with a passion for literature and language.

    My love of words did once get me into strife with Mr Stanton.

    A few of us were ordered up to his office after not finishing a game of football promptly enough after the lunch break finished.

    I was carrying the football, which had actually burst, and Willy asked me something along the lines of ‘what are you holding in your hands?’

    I cheekily replied “a punctured spherical object sir”.

    I thought the veins in his head were going to explode as he was upset by the answer, but somehow I escaped serious punishment.

  9. Emmanuel (Manny) Cohen

    Great blog, though you never taught me, I was there at the beginning of your Hasmo sojourn. We were as pupils seemingly more broad minded it seems than the staff. I remember Mr Marks getting approval for a school play, Macbeth. I got a bit part and played 3 very minor roles, so that was about the sum of 3 lines and the end of my acting career. However, I also did bits backstage. We dress rehearsed in front of the first 1-3 year pupils. So when the final fight scene occurred and Sword fight went offstage to hear a scream and yell from the dying Macbeth, I lobbed a football with a face painted on it onto the stage from backstage. The seemingly severed head then bounced into the audience. Screams of hilarity when they realised what it was. We got away with it as even the teachers thought it funny. English was such fun!!

  10. A fascinating read from one of the few teachers who genuinely cared about us. I well remember the incident with the last minute cancellation of Macbeth … my Mum, herself an English teacher, rounded on DJ in the next parents’ evening for the decision, the result of which my name was mud… but at least it meant they didn’t pay me much attention in my last 3 years at the school!

    One of his pupils in our class has gone on to be a published author. Not sure what Mr Messom’s colleagues would make of that, but if he’s reading this, he should be proud!

  11. This is a pretty scathing attack on the “establishment”.
    Surprised to read that the teachers ate school dinners.

  12. Anthony Mammon 1971 - 1977

    Thank you Mr. Messom for this great post. It’s always interesting to hear about Hasmo from the other side of the battlefield, and it’s amazing to see that even though we all saw Hasmo from different sides, and sometimes one tends to think we exaggerate our experiences, in truth, all our memories and the stories are pretty accurate. I found the same when Mr. Witriol’s diaries were published online by his son. For years I told my children & friends stories about Hasmo, that even I thought I may have exaggerated, and yet after seeing a teacher’s honest post, only confirmed the fact, that they were all true and pretty factual. Great to hear that you are well, and still have some fond memories from Hasmo. It’s actually rather surprising that so many of us do…… Usually one tries to blot out horrific life experiences.

    Just a note, seeing as you were an English teacher, although not mine.

    Thank heavens for speelcheck.

  13. Thank heavens, indeed, for “speelcheck”. 😉

  14. He was a very good teacher. Clearly a little overwhelmed by the yok/frummer schism within the same religion and by the weirdness he encountered amongst the motley collection of oddball teachers. He was possessed of a booming voice and i think he made lessons interesting and objective. Our form went to Hoffmans to see his debut. Knew he would return! Glad he is alive and kicking after hearing of J.O and Posen’s deaths. I wonder if we or the liontamers turned him grey?

  15. Remember listening to one of those end of term assemblies from Rabbi Bondi and wondering what the non-Jewish staff thought of it. Thanks for enlightening me after all these years.

    By the way, it was also a total misunderstanding of his primary source and apparently favourite book the Kuzari. The Kuzari is a two-way debate between a Rabbi who comes with his knowledge but also his insular attitudes, and the King of the Khazars, who both learns from him and also teaches him a more open way of thinking. To read the book as a teacher lecturing to his pupil is to profoundly miss the point.

  16. its a great read and really interesting – apart from anything else, I never believed the whole circus thing – not even when I was at school – his comments are also well thought out – if you are reading Mr Messom nice one, I enjoyed that and I remember you, I’m sure you taught me History

  17. Classic boldly-declaimed, lesson-opener:

    “ONNN Your desks, YOU WILL NEEED: I am David, The Art of English, and ONNNN the RUNNN !!! “

  18. This is a real gem!! Oh to have been a fly on the wall in some of these English lessons!!!Sent from my Galaxy

  19. In our first ever lesson with Mr. Messom, in the exotically named Mobile Unit (at the bottom of the playground), our new, imposing, and ever-so English, master – he was more that than “teacher” – spelt out his name:

    “M – E – S – S . . . that is double S, of course . . . O – M.”

    Naturally, in every subsequent lesson, some bright spark (usually Elbaz) would again ask him how he spelt it . . . and Mr. Messom, in precisely the same fashion, and to our great amusement, would repeat:

    “M – E – S – S . . . that is double S, of course . . . O – M.”

    PS Love Terry M’s modest “I doubt you’ll remember me.” They are still trying to forget you, Terry! 😉

  20. I am grateful for so many positive comments – thank you to all who have responded. I hope I have stirred some happy & amusing memories of long, long ago…

  21. This is possibly the greatest insight yet into an establishment that was rotten to its very core. What an expose, and were it not for Michael, the world would not today know what a truly despotic regime it was, governed for its own sadistic pleasure.

    Tim, you deserve an award for a brilliantly articulate, intelligent, enlightening and in parts horrific, account of your Hasmo tenure. You made me simultaneously laugh and cry in several places.

    I never felt sorry for us attendees, as we certainly gave as good as we got but I genuinely did so for all the good guys paid to teach us, and there certainly weren’t that many, who must be battle scarred to this very day from the behaviour of their peers, those in authority and Eric Elbaz.

    Even as a Jew, God never really floated my boat, and less so the many hypocrites that espoused his (or her, or them, or they) rhetoric, so I can only but imagine how a non-Jew, thrown into the lion’s den, perceived both the religion and the mania of its teachers. There was probably the width of a pubic hair between the circus you left behind and the one you joined.

    All that said, some blame must be laid bare at your doorstep as you bizarrely chose to join, twice in fact, whereas most of us weren’t afforded such a privilege of choice.

    It was interesting to learn the interview process wasn’t too far off what I had once imagined:

    CRETIN: Are you a religious Jew?
    CRETIN: Are you qualified to teach?
    CRETIN: Can you receive gainful employment elsewhere?
    CRETIN: Should you be allowed around children?
    CRETIN: Great, you’ll start Monday.
    APPLICANT: Teaching what?
    CRETIN: Oh I don’t know, Geography?

    Thank you for taking such time and consideration to endorse your now legendary status and, when your time comes to leave this mortal coil and you find yourself on the escalator going up, please don’t forget to wave fondly to the likes of DJ travelling in the opposite direction. Tell them they can’t pass go and that they may definitely not collect their £200.

    Oh, and she didn’t run off with the Lion Tamer after all. Who knew?!

  22. Originally posted in November 2018. I apologize for the misspelling of the name.

    Timothy Messum does seem an unlikely character to write about. I know so little about the man, not least, how to correctly spell his name.

    He must have joined the school at the early part of the seventies, and taught English.

    By this time trivialities such as grammar and spelling were rarely discussed, and English lessons were much more about getting students to read, write and express themselves in general. In this he was highly skilled.

    In the early grades we wrote comics, ran imaginary advertising campaigns, and it was all jolly good fun. He also encouraged us to experiment in writing fiction.

    For the purpose of this creative exploit, the inimitable Nick Kopaloff and myself invented the thinly veiled fictional character of Mimothy Tessum who, together, with his faithful canine companion Little Mim, would fight the forces of evil, and protect all humanity.

    Had he been one of the older staff members, he would undoubtedly have “punished us most serverly” or at the very least, lectured us on Derech Eretz.

    Instead, he had the good sense to encourage us to read the exploits of his alter-ego out aloud, laugh at the funny bits, and remind us not to begin a sentence with the word but.

    He had his violent moments; the Talmud teaches us, it’s hard to work in a leather factory without smelling to high heaven, but Tim definitely came to school to teach us, not to beat us up.

    At some point it was noted that many of the short stories we were reading involved romantic descriptions of 19th Century circus life. Though our teacher was still in the classroom, his heart was clearly on the roads.

    Before he left we bought him some circus-related object, perhaps a whip? Perhaps, we just intended to, but never did. It’s been a long time.

    We did go to visit him, and the show was mediocre. He seemed genuinely happy to see us, and we chatted briefly afterwards. He called over one of his colleagues to show us off, but the latter just inquired, “Go’a fag Tim?”

    In his BBC English he apologised, explaining he hadn’t, but the contrast between the two of them seemed greater than their largest elephant. I wondered how long it would take him to see that this was not the circus of those wonderful short stories he had excitedly read us in class. I wondered if he already had.

    I also heard that he later returned to Hasmonean. Wherever he is, I wish him and Little Mim well.

  23. Oh yes – it was a fine whip – much admired by my new colleagues until, sadly, it was stolen!!

  24. Might you be hinting at some kind of causative relationship between the admiration and the theft?

  25. But of course! Not the only thing that mysteriously went missing, either!

  26. If you’re still there, was my interpretation of the cigarette incident reasonable?

  27. I’m glad you came to the show, even if you didn’t think much of it, but no one would have asked me – a known non smoker – for a cigarette!

  28. What can I say? More than four decades have passed..I have no mental picture of the whip, but I’m pretty certain about the fag.

    Take care.

  29. At least Mr Messom clarified for us that the wife wasn’t something that went missing at the Circus (with the lion-tamer). That one was Hasmonean gospel, you couldn’t join the First Year without being told it as a basic truth.

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