Friday, February 28, 2014

6 Hendon

Not so long ago, by chance, I found out that Hendon has got the dead Sir Stamford Raffles buried in it.

Sir Raffles invented Singapore and later he was probably the one that legalized gambling at village fetes. Sir Raffles lies six feet under the aisle of the Church associated with my old secondary school. I find this is disgraceful. Not that Sir Stam was under the nave and that we trampled over him every Septamagesima, but that in all my years at school no one told me about this.

What did the masters have to hide? Why didn't the vicar drop him into a sermon at the monthly school service? That would have grabbed our attention and stopped us flinging the hassocks.

Information on a well known local British traveler could have inspired us school kids to roam the globe and make riches beyond our wildest dreams. Knowing about Sir Stamford could have prompted us to trip off into the yonder and claim bits of land, because (unlike the locals) we British had an official flag, decent uniforms and a national anthem already. And if you've got the flag the uniforms and the anthems then, well, that means you are sophisticated and deserve everything, right? Then, like Sir Stamford, we could return home wealthy, live smug in a huge Hendon manor house, suffer death from a brain hemorrhage and get buried gloriously down at the parish church round the back of the school Annexe. Brass plate to our memory screwed into the paneling round the assembly hall.

Now also get this. The same St Mary’s Church that’s got Stambo's skeleton somewhere in the graveyard also held Herbert Chapman's body for a couple of hours. They had Herbert in freshly corpsed up for his funeral. Herb popped his clogs in 1934. His Times’ obituary says;

"Death of Herbert Chapman. A GREAT MANAGER. (Their caps not mine.) Association Football is not so rich in personalities that it can afford to lose such a man as Herbert Chapman, the Arsenal manager who died suddenly at his home in Hendon on Saturday after a short illness...

"...a lot of nonsense has been talked of his "black board" lectures on tactics, but he did his sides an inestimable service in making them think about the game and the results of his teaching were obvious on the field of play."

Great. What the Times' obit team are saying is Herbert introduced the startling notion that football managers and players should do a bit of thinking before their boys sprinted around the pitch drenched in Ralgex and Vidal Sassoon hair gel. We could have done with that strategic breakthrough twenty years earlier when lads not much older than myself were sent off to the playing fields of Paschendale.

Mr. Chapman finally found full time in Hendon cemetery, a few miles away from the church. We discovered that this off the beaten path centre of death provided a handy two mile shortcut on our willy shrinking Ernest Shackleton-esque polar cross country runs. Herbert died of pneumonia in 1934. In February 1974 my pals and I would have been happy to join him.

Fortunately, Herb played for Tottehnam Hotspur in his day. Only later did he become the Arsenal manager.

I hate Arsenal. It is a hate of the purest Dennis Wheatley “Devil Rides Out” form. What’s the definition of a good school Monday morning in North London? Tottenham won on Saturday. And the definition of a perfect school Monday morning in Hendon? Arsenal lost on Saturday.

More about the St Mary's graveyard. “Legend has it” that Bram Stoker mooched through the headstones behind my school and enjoyed the experience so much that he referred to St. Mary’s tombs when he wrote Dracula.

Well come on. Really. Who gets to make up and sign off on these so called "legend has its?"

How important do you have to be to create a worthy legend? And how long do you have to leave your embryonic tale before it gains full blown legend status? Do you need to get your mates to cite your legend or something and for them to send it in to "Jim'll Fix It?" Dear Jim, can you fix it for me to get my mate's bollocks of a story elevated into being called a legend....

"Legend has it, that is the one started by me today, legend has it, that the emblem of the Lamb and Flag on St Mary's School blazer badges represents secret mystical symbols used by the Knights Templar and the Freemasons in black magic ceremonies hosted by Mr Carter the geography teacher, just before he heaved us up on a field trip to somewhere in Derbyshire. A ritual mimicked by our inspirational maths guru, Steve Lerman, before we had to crucify virgins, upside down, while chanting Today's Differential Equation. ” Wait and see. That geography teacher John Carter and the one that did maths, Steve Lerman. Legends.

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