I was leaving my Headmaster colleagues office after a brief visit to the school, and as I reached the door I turned and said, "I notice young David Renshaws doing his final teaching practice with you."
"Thats right! Started this morning," said my colleague.
"And hes not taken my tip," I went on.
"What do you mean? And how dyou know hes with us?"
Naughty of me, perhaps, but I couldnt resist the temptation. "Youll find out," I said, and closed the door.
All this happened in the late sixties when I was Head of Willow Lane Primary. All the schools in the area took their students from nearby St. Asaphs Training College, and David did his first teaching practice with us.
I was most impressed on our first meeting. He was a good-looking lad, well turned out in a three-piece black pinstripe suit and longish black hair, neatly combed. Come to think of it, he had the look of a young Englebert Humperdinck, complete with the beginnings of a neat, well-trimmed moustache. And he looked cleanvery clean. The impression of cleanliness was enhanced by his use of a very faint aftershave, which I found most attractive. In the sixties it wasnt usual for young men to be so fastidious.
We had a productive introductory chat, and although he was a little nervous I felt sure that he would do well with us. After he had left the room a hint of the aftershave fragrance lingered. Most pleasant.
I was right about the young man doing well. His good looks and neat appearance appealed particularly to the lady members of staff. He turned out to be an all-round sportsman, with a good sense of humour, and the children took to him immediately. He was also most conscientious, and his lessons were always well prepared.
The staff room no longer reeked of stale smoke, and we always knew which classrooms David had been in because of that faint illusive fragrance. "What is it called?" I wondered. "I really must ask."
That first teaching practice lasted a fortnight, and gradually the all-pervading fragrance invaded the school. Although it wasnt potent, it seemed to linger, and after the first week it became a bit of a joke.
By the middle of that second week I realised that I was becoming tired of the clinging aroma, and overheard remarks from the staff proved that I was not the only one. What had been a fragrance now seemed an odour, which was increasingly obtrusive. It was only when I saw one of the fourth-year pupils wrinkle his nose behind Davids back that I realised that something must be done.
David was doing so well in his practice and was so obviously enjoying his time with us that I hesitated long before approaching him, but at last a favourable opportunity presented itself, and I asked him into my office to share a pot of tea.
After praising his progress and wishing him well for the future, I said, "Theres just one thing, David. That aftershave youre using. Ive meant to ask. Whats it called?"
David gave an enthusiastic grin. "Its called Brut. Its new. Why? Do you like it?"
"I did, David. I did. But not now. Its too much of a good thing. People are beginning to talk. Take my tip, lad. Tone it down. Better still, give it a miss altogether."
Give him his due. He left it off for the rest of the practice, but obviously "fell off the wagon" later on. I often wonder whether my colleague finally understood my cryptic comment.
Ron is 80 years old and served with the British Army in India (and Ceylon) during World War II. He retired from the teaching profession in 1985 and, following his wife's death shortly afterwards, took up creative writing as a hobby. Since then he has had short stories and poetry published and broadcast. The North West Network of the B.B.C has broadcast seventeen of his stories.