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Posts Tagged ‘schooldays’

I have always enjoyed Ben Elton’s books, so I’m not sure quite why it took me so long to get around to reading this one. But I’m glad I finally did. Scotland Yard Detetice Inspector Ed Newson investigates the brutal murder of an equally brutal man who was killed in a most unusual manner. With the aid of his Detective Sergeant Natasha, who Ed is secretly in love with, he starts to connect the dots between this murder and others that have happened – and which continue to happen. Essentially someone is going round murdering bullies and is using the same methods that the bullies themselves used on their victims.

This novel was written in 2004, and the now defunct website Friends Reunited features as a prominent part of the story. Ed himself joins the site as a way of connecting with his old classmates which leads to him meeting a number of them again – some reunions being very welcome (the school beauty Christine) and others not so much.

I did work out who the killer was before the reveal, but I jumped about between a few of the characters beforehand, so although it was guessable, I wouldn’t say it was so obvious that it would mar enjoyment of the story.

It’s not out and out comedy, and there is a serious issue within the story about how bullying in youth can lead to severe problems later in life – but you can always rely on Ben Elton to make you smile and some of the dialogue exchanges between Ed and Natasha were very funny.

Just a warning to anyone who doesn’t like gore or sex – some of the murders are particularly unpleasant, and there is one fairly lengthy sex scene which is eye-poppingly excruciating, revolting and hilarious all at once.

Overall, if you have read and enjoyed Ben Elton before, I would imagine you would definitely enjoy this book. If you haven’t read anything by him before, why not give it a try?

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In February 2020, a month before the lockdown due to Covid-19, I went to the theatre to see a live performance of The History Boys. I had never seen the film but the live show captivated me so much that I decided I must see the film as soon as I got chance. Being in lockdown for several months certainly gave me that chance!

Set in 1983, the film revolves a group of working class, high achieving schoolboys who have stayed on an extra term at their grammar school in Yorkshire, in order to be coached for the Oxford/Cambridge entrance exams. Their teacher, Hector (Richard Griffiths) has some unorthodox teaching methods, but the boys enjoy his classes. He also gives the boys lifts home on his motorbike, and touches them sexually, but despite this the boys like and respect him. However, the headmaster (Clive Merrison) doesn’t like Hector’s methods, and his suspicions about Hector’s behaviour leads him to employ a young teacher named Mr Irving (Stephen Campbell Moore) to tutor the boys instead. Mr Irving is less about educating the boys academically and more about teaching them how to present themselves and interview well, so that they stand out among other candidates. The two different teaching methods clash, and the boys are caught in the middle, although the teachers do learn to respect each other.

This is a play charged with sexual tension – not just in the case of Hector as outlined above, but also with one of the boys having unrequited feelings for another, and another of the boys feeling curious about his feelings for Mr Irving.

To put it bluntly, this film is brilliant and far better than I expected it to be, even though I went in with high expectations. It’s an interesting film, because it refuses to cast Hector as a villain, despite his sexual touching of the boys in his charge. His behaviour is obviously inexcusable and completely wrong, but what this play does is show it as part of Hector’s character, rather than the entirety of his character. (Please don’t misunderstand, I am in no way defending what he does, but I do think that this portrayal is brave and unusual.)

Griffiths and Moore are both excellent. Unsurprisingly, so is Frances De La Tour as the only main female role – an intelligent teacher annoyed at being sidelined by her male counterparts, and probably the most clear headed of the teaching staff.

The boys are played by Samuel Anderson, James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Andrew Knott, Russell Tovey, Jamie Parker, Samuel Barnett and Sacha Darwan, and each brought a distinctive and relevant character to the screen.

One of my favourite films of the year, and highly recommended.

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