...Steve. My colleague Steve. I only spent 2 years teaching with Steve in London, but the memory of him is so vivid it's almost as though someone has etched it onto the back of my eyeballs. In an era where it's virtually impossible to lose contact with anyone, I have managed to lose contact with Steve. It's been seven years, and most days I never think of him. One those rare occasions that he pops into my head, I can't help but smile, because he really was the most extraordinary fellow; Steve out-Spencered Frank Spencer, not just in general, but on an almost daily basis. He was remakably amusing, but one ever laughed with him. He had no idea quite how funny he was, which made him all the more funny. I'm certainly not sure that I can do him justice, but I hope if you can be bothered to read to the bottom, you'll wonder how I could ever have lost touch with such a comedy genius. He rarely failed to surprise, and during my dealings with Steve, we were treated to Steve in many guises:
Steve the awkward:
Never one to put people at their ease, the parents at the School where we taught were rather unnerved by him. We shared a Sixth Form set one year, and I can't say I was looking forward to performing a double act for the parents. Steve's opening gambit was to describe the two of us as 'bloody good teachers' to a pair of surprised Indian parents, who clearly felt that this was a parents evening, and not a second-and car dealership. This was nothing, because his next move (having noted their shock) was to reassure them that 'don't worry, we're not gay'. I'm not sure why he felt this was necessary, but the knowing smile he gave me afterwards as if to say 'that's how to do it' might have had them thinking that he was protesting a little too much. At the end of the evening, and very David Brent-esque, he got up and asked 'so where are we going now? The pub?'. My silence said it all, and we slunk off into the night, towards the same part of London, but very much in opposite directions.
Steve the navigator:
Steve decided that moving from his home in Cambridgeshire was not really necessary when he got the job in London. The communte by car was only 90 minutes. Sadly this was only the case if you left home at 5am and stayed in work until gone 8pm. Steve managed to spend 14 hours a day in the department, either in his classroom or our shared office. No-one was quite sure what he got up to during this time, though at one point he decided to bring his washing from home, in a desperate attempt to find something to do. There was a set of washing machines in the pokey staff accommodation on the other side of the School site, and Steve would wait until the end of the School day, get his washing done, and then lay his clothes out over the department radiators and furniture until they were dry on his return to School at 6.30am the next morning. For about six months our office looked like a Chinese laundry, and Steve clearly would have done this for longer, but for the fact that he decided to rent a place in London during the week...
Steve the social pariah:
Steve rented out a room in a flat in a gritty part of North London, and he clearly decided that this would solve his two problems: the three hour commute every day, and the lack of an exciting night life. Steve's landlady lived alone with the exception of her 14 year-old daughter. Within a week, the woman had added a padlock to her daughter's room. Steve was hardly a danger, but she clearly thought his manner was a trifle odd, and it was hard to argue with her. The incident with the back-door catflap can't have helped, when in true Benny Hill style, Steve was apparently fixing the screws on the catflap when the daughter opened the door from the other side quickly, knocking Steve over, who somehow ended up on the floor looking up between her legs. The mother was into the house a millisecond behind, and presumably demanded some explanation as to why he was looking 'up-skirt', with a screwdriver in his hand. These were just the sort of things that happened to Steve.
Steve the lover:
Ok, so the London flat wasn't going too well, but at least it gave him the opportunity to try out a bit of nightlife. Deciding that the best place for nightlife in London was St Albans, Steve headed out on the train, wearing a chunky jumper and stonewashed jeans. You can probably guess the rest. He claimed to have had some success with one member of a hen-party, though she was whisked away just at the wrong moment by her ladette chums. Steve's shouted question as they departed of 'does anyone know anywhere where I can get a good bop round here' must have fallen on deaf ears. I asked him if he'd then spent most of the night drinking in the corner. He answered: 'not in the corner, no...' before pausing, and continuing '...but I was pretty close to the corner'.
Steve the disabled:
Talking of deaf ears, Steve came into School one day with a new hearing aid. Nothing odd in this you might say, but he'd never had an old hearing aid. There was nothing wrong with his hearing. His dandruff was another thing, as we noted from his shoulders, and also from the pouf that was regularly left out to dry in the Chinese laundry of an office, but his hearing was fine. In the same way that some vain men wear clear glass spectacles to look intelligent, Steve seemed to be wearing a fake hearing aid to make him look....well, deaf? Did he read somewhere that women go for deaf men?
Steve the unlucky:
I guess that this one doesn't need too much justification, especially if you've read the above, but unfortunate things happened to him on a daily basis in a way that wouldn't happen to other people in a year. I remember arriving at work one morning about half past 7, to see Steve walking from the department back to his car, carrying a large bucket of hot soapy water. He had trodden in a dog turd upon leaving the house, hadn't noticed, and had spent the remainder of the 90 minute journey smearing dog poo all over his car carpets, accelerator and brake. Steve was unlucky to the last. I went for a job interview far over to the West of the country, and found myself in the same carriage as Steve, off to the same interview. 4 hours there. 4 hours back. I got the job, and when our then Head of department came in the next morning, he looked at the pair of us, and smirked '50% success rate then?'. Steve gave a good comeback, though all at his own expense: '33% actually. I didn't get the job the day before'. He then gave me a bottle of champagne.
Where is he now?