If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Got there first!

A little bit of trivia from today's Times:

Then we saw this tweet from magician David Blaine. “Shortly after noon on July 8, comes the moment that can be called 12:34:56 7/8/9. Happens only once.”

Sorry, Mr David So-called Blaine. I was there first.

Before I moved to Wales, I had a job as a teacher in the local comprehensive school. While my academic and pedagogical talents were not all that great, I did get a reputation as a kind of Mr Do-It-All. Swimming Galas, parents' evenings, crowd control, class outings [1] - wherever there was a need for a bit of public squeaking, I got the call. And so it came to pass that I was the MC, if you like, of the School Sports Day (or Sprots Day, as I like to think of it) in 1989. I know the square root of minus bugger all about sport, but the Head reassured me that I would be handed the results and would merely have to read them out, and fill in the gaps with a bit of banter. As it meant the afternoon sitting out on the field in the sun, with a chair, table and microphone and a cool drink, I could hardly refuse. I was warned, however, that the sound from the PA system carried quite a long way, as it were - like the town centre - so anything sweary or inappropriate would be most certainly frowned upon.

Thursday, 6 July dawned bright and sunny, and I was looking forward to a lazy day of anything-but-teaching. As the morning was turning into lunchtime, I was approached by Sigismund, the Mad Maths Master (or modern equivalent), who whispered to me that in a short while there would be a unique event. At twenty-three and three-quarters of a minute past one o'clock, the time and date would read:

1:23:45 - 6/7/89

Of course, I couldn't resist the temptation. A once-in-a-lifetime event, and even slightly educational. And so, a couple of minutes before the magic hour, I announced to the assembled staff and pupils the unique conjunction of the numbers. And at 1:23:45 on 6/7/89, we all counted down and everyone made a bit of a fuss - whooping and cheering in that restrained 80s way we all had back then. It hadn't occurred to any of the staff, either, and everyone thought it was pretty remarkable.

Except the Head.

I was approached and asked if I knew what the hell I was doing?

"I don't mind you doing this kind of nonsense with the kids. God knows it's got more content than most of your lessons. But all of bloody Brigg must have heard that!"

I had forgotten about the sonic reach of the PA. Ah.

It turned out quite well, in fact. I left the school the next year, and for the whole of that time, whenever we had a parents' evening, some guy would walk up to me and say "Heh, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9, eh? I heard that at work/while shopping/picking up the kids/down the pub. Good stuff." I seem to have made quite an impact.

So David Blaine - when you want to announce something that 'happens only once', run it by me first, OK? I might be able to save you some embarrassment. And anyway, it'll happen again - in 2109, 2209 etc. Curious, but hardly unique.

[1] No, not revealing that Bunsen 4B was fond of Quinge 3D; just theatre trips 'n' stuff. This was 1989, remember.

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