A strange day for me, or really a strange afternoon of reminiscing and regaling. My former maths teacher and mentor Geoffrey Elderfield passed away on 28 June and I attended his ‘wake’ at Portsmouth Cricket Club this afternoon. Truth be told, I barely recognised a soul apart from another former teacher who apparently went to school with ‘Sir’, so would have known him for over 70 years. I chatted with a couple of others who looked similarly lost and it seems we all had similar memories, though from different schools.
Sir was a great teacher who really instilled enthusiasm into many of his pupils, including me, and fear of the flying chalk or board rubber. He also loved his cricket, though I didn’t understand how much until an incident when I was 17 in the summer of 1981. A few of us were watching the Headingley Test match during lunch break in the school TV room, with a Botham and Willis inspired England getting close to victory. His double maths lesson was on the agenda for the afternoon but he allowed us to carry on watching until the end, around 25 minutes into the afternoon lesson. We then went back to the classroom and got our books out, intending to work really hard to make up for that lost time. However, Sir had other ideas, first asking us about the match and then going into great detail on the days he skipped sixth form to watch Bradman’s great 1948 Australian side.
I hadn’t seen him very much since school, only bumping into him a couple of times, but he was very well known in cricket circles. I saw a few people today I recognised by face, and there were men in various club blazers present. But, to be honest, I felt a bit out of place. There was a nice speech by someone from Portsmouth CC and stories that sounded quite typical of Geoffrey. I wasn’t able to stay for (free) food and drinks at Eastney Tavern, but I’m glad I paid my respects.
OK, this is a blog about walking and this post was nothing about walking. But what people are today is only a result of the input from loads of people whom they have encountered and events that have occurred, and Mr Elderfield, Sir, Uncle Geoffrey – he played one of the greatest parts in my development between the ages of 13 and 18. It would be a bit trite to say that everything I have achieved is down to him, but I would certainly be a lot less if he’d never lived. Perhaps he even instilled the character that helped on one or two really difficult days during the walk. I’m not saying that I did think it, but if I had imagined him saying, “Spicer, dear boy. You’re not thinking of giving up are you?”, you would have read a far more positive blog at those times.
Uncle Geoffrey is the man on the very right of the photo, second row up, next to the head teacher. This photo is taken before I knew him, so please nobody ask where I am in this picture, because I’m not there!