Posts Tagged ‘John Merriman’

Shakespeare ApartmentsFun article by my new mate Bill, on a recent blooper as a result of wrongly attributed quoting, and also a fascinating piece of Bernard Levin writing (how he is missed) on Shakespeare and his impact on the English language.

Read about ‘Le grande fuck up’ here: http://matteringsofmind.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/french-politician-gets-egg-and-bacon-on-his-face/

Great way to start the day and recommended reading. Well done Bill!

I would also, at this time, like to record my lifetime of thanks to the teaching efforts of John Merriman, who was my A-levels English Literature master, who took a boy (well, a bunch of us, actually), with a mild enthusiasm for acting and reading and turned me into a lifelong advocate of fine writing, and Shakespeare in particular. He imbued in me an undying and undimmed love for the sonorous, rolling prose of the Bard and others, and was endlessly patient when my teenage mind strayed or was merely incapable of understanding the intrinsic beauty of what was being presented to me.

He also introduced me to the unbridled joys of Tom Lehrer, which had it been all he had done, would have firmly established him in my private pantheon of heroes.

John was a generous, brittle, wise, funny, urbane and endlessly world-weary man who covered his essential compassion with a veneer of well-worn Cambridge scholar cynicism.

School House, Lord Wandsworth College

School House, Lord Wandsworth College: if I recall correctly, John Merriman's rooms opened onto the balcony

Sadly, I am sure he is dead now. He was old back then. Old in that sort of granulated, canyon-lined face way that you knew instinctively betokened a life that had seen plenty of both joy and pain, with each careless and unavoidable emotion that human travails are victim to etched onto it; not a day that he had lived was not marked on that face somewhere.

I trust he has gone to that great Globe Theatre in the sky and that the sherry, as it always was, is impeccable and smooth and nutty and aged, and that he is often left alone with the bottle, as he often left us alone with his drinks cabinet in his rooms – which were all red chintz and antique prints, and had the air of a tableau of genteel living transplanted holus bolus for the later 19th century – thereby teaching us trust, as well.

Other than the joys of Shakespeare, nothing reminds me as much of John Merriman as the immortal Rowan Atkinson reading the class roll. It still plays brilliantly, some 30 years after Atkinson’s luminous star hit the entertainment firmament.

I saw Atkinson perform this skit at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton just a few short months after leaving Lord Wandsworth College, about the time this YouTube clip was recorded, funnily enough, and I cried with laughter, then as now.

How Atkinson can make such powerful use of a pause is beyond my weaker ken, but John Merriman could undoubtedly do the same. Timing, you know. Performance is all about …

… timing.

“If I see it once again this period, Plectrum, I shall have to tweak you.”

“Anthony and Cleopatra is not a funny play … if Shakespeare had meant it to be funny he would have put a joke in it.”

Immortal stuff. Just as the impact of a creative and passionate teacher is immortal, in its way – touching so many lives – and I, in my turn, seek to teach my daughter why all those complicated antiquated words are worth stuggling with, and experience the joy of seeing the light slowly dawn in her eyes, in turn. And so it goes, and so it goes: and the learning rolls on, and we are all the better for it.

Is it my imagination, or was the world a wittier and somehow more innocent place back then? Hélas, maybe I am just getting old. Enjoy.