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Top of the Sixties
Sample PassageFour Beeches Comprehensive School had not been a comfortable place for Alastair. In his first year as a Biology teacher, he frequently felt like running out of the staff room. He was a square peg. He did not drink beer, he did not watch football or cricket, he had never been drunk in his life and he did not make lewd remarks to the ladies. The other male teachers would sit in a cluster in the old staff-room armchairs, their legs draped over the sides, and talk and laugh so loudly that all other conversation was drowned out. The other probationary teachers had quickly found their feet in the staff-room freemasonry and seemed casual and at ease among their senior colleagues. They would make high-pitched noises, whistles and clicks when a lady member of staff bent over a low coffee table and would go positively amok when the lovely Miss Daphne Lionel made an appearance, lighting up the dowdy room, the overloaded cork notice boards, the puddled coffee tables, the paper-strewn window sill.
Daphne, a schoolteacher version of Natalie Wood, was the object of most of the men’s fancies. Neither did the sixth-form boys fail to follow her swaying hips with their eyes, as she made her way down the Marley-tiled corridors. She was a lively and popular young English teacher, surrounded by pupils during break time and by colleagues in the staff room.
So how did that most unlikely of men, Alastair Humphreys, come to be in her company? This was a man that some senior pupils snorted at in contempt, that staff watched out of the corner of their eye and then smirked about to each other. He could never find a chair to sit on in the staff room, his name was on no rotas or lists for table tennis or the weekly general knowledge quiz. He would stand awkwardly, endlessly stirring his mug of tea and searching the sea of heads for someone to chat to.
At home, however, in his narrow flat, he could be a special agent, an airline pilot or a wealthy ladies’ man. Here, he never pushed a door that said ‘pull’ on it and he knew exactly what to say on every occasion. Ladies admired him and secretly lusted after his body. He would casually flip open his wallet and extract bank notes with easy generosity. Whether the television were on or off, the fantasy continued. It only came to an end when he walked into his first lesson the following morning to adolescent jeers – ‘Hum-phreys, Hum-phreys, Hum-phreys!’ The suave special agent mumbled his way through the dull lesson, regularly punctuating his monologue with ‘Quiet please! Quiet please!’
To read the rest of the story buy Top of the Sixties.
This story is featured in an interview with David Ayres on Sunday 30 June at the Mitre Pub.
Number of pages: 165
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What was said about Top of the Sixties‘Ayres's portrayals of the inhabitants of this Midlands backwater are often touching and sympathetic ... his dialogue is excellent’ - The Short Review
‘From beginning to end, David Ayres shows his remarkable talent for description. His openings evoke strong imagery, while his characters are full of life.’ - Zouch Magazine
The book brought back those school days and the teenage angst about how to look cool, part time jobs, full time jobs, dating and the minefield that went with it. Thanks for a great read and for bringing those memories back to life.’ - editor FuerteNews
‘Much of what Ayres has to say about youthful exuberance, teenage angst and finding ones place in the world are universal.’
‘I thought of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own as I read of a boy surveying his room in ‘Out of the Box’.’ - Karenlee Thompson on her blog
‘I really enjoyed the stories – very atmospheric.’ - Catherine Best, editor
‘Top of the Sixties is an interestingly constructed book and an easy read’
‘I did chuckle remembering the whole-life experience of getting a ‘Short back and sides’ in a local men-only barber’s shop, I could almost smell the Brylcreem!’ - David Elliot reviewing for Red Cap