A favourite teacher
They say that everyone has a favourite teacher, someone who they had a special relationship with who changed their life. I’m lucky (or greedy). I have a number of them.
My really special teacher was a certain Mr Tranter. He’d never know the impact he had on me. I must have only spoken to him a few times and he rarely actually taught me, but I watched him, listened to him and was greatly affected by him.
Mr Tranter was an individual. He came to our school when I was seventeen, taught Rural Science, and left fairly quickly. He was ridiculed by most of my friends who could not handle his eccentricity. I loved it.
Our Rural Science department had sheds, animals and vegetable gardens. The animals included a pig, some chickens and a sheep. The vegetable gardens had a range of vegetables. They were tended by the students under the supervision of Mr Tranter.
Mr Tranter appeared with his casual clothes and a bike. The first thing he did was to declare that his bike was common property, anybody could borrow. This created such a stir among the students, who immediately pounced on this as weakness, took to riding it about the school and dumping it in obscure places. Mr Tranter didn’t seem fazed. He calmly retrieved it and carried on.
The rumour was that he lived in the shed with the chickens. I don’t think that was true. Later there was a rumour that he was responsible for the early return of the French Assistant who it was rumoured was no longer menstruating and was developing a large stomach. That might have been true.
That might have been it. He might never have really reached me if it had not been for a rainy Wednesday afternoon.
I was seventeen. I was full of Kerouac, angst, hormones and Rock Music. I was the long-haired rebel. In the 6th Form all the sixth formers were prefects except me. They had duties to perform. They had a Prefect’s Room to play around in. I was not deemed suitable to be a Prefect. That suited me fine. I was banned from the Prefect’s Room so I had no place to go. I had time, because of the lack of duties, so I hung around chatting up the girls. Seemed a good deal to me.
On Wednesday afternoons the Headteacher organised a series of talks from outside speakers. On that rainy day it had obviously gone wrong. Perhaps the speaker had not turned up?
I had just watched a documentary about Donovan the night before. It had made an impression on me. It was an attempt to show his life before fame. He was rambling around the Scottish islands with Gypsy Davey and revisiting those days. I had been enraptured. It seemed to knit in with Kerouac. This was closer to my vision for the future. Rambling round seemed to have far more attraction than a boring career.
So I was ripe.
For some reason the Headteacher had thought that Mr. Tranter might like a platform to express his views. We were his audience. I’m still not sure that the Head knew what he was opening us up to.
Mr Tranter bewitched me. He started by telling us he was only working at the school for a short time. He was working in order to earn money. That money was being used to build a boat. He and his friend were attending a course on boat building and another on navigation. They were building their own boat with the intention of heading off around the world. They were planning to work bars, take any casual job they could, and drift around the planet.
I was enthralled.
He then proceeded to tell us about his life prior to arriving at our school.
Mr. Tranter had left school with a bunch of qualifications. That should have propelled him to university and a career. It didn’t. He chose a different route.
Back then in 1965/66 people didn’t drop out. The whole anti-establishment view was nascent and confined to a tiny minority. Everyone was heavily in to Rock/Pop music and the fashions that went with it but few were sold on an alternative lifestyle.
Mr. Tranter told us about his years of freedom.
He had rented a hut on Box Hill in Surrey. To pay the rent he had taken a paper round. Every morning he got up with the sun and delivered newspapers. The rest of the day was his. He cultivated vegetables that he ate and bartered for other needs. When he needed something more he did odd jobs.
He had time to think, to read and socialise.
It sounded idyllic to me.
I think that hour had more impact on me than anything else.
All my friends came out thinking he was a nutter. But for me I could see the beauty of it all. Life was an adventure. You had to seize it and make the most of it. It made me question what the purpose of my life was.
Mr Tranter opened up my mind to all possibility. That’s real education.
What a teacher! He certainly affected me.