It must be 1978 and I’m in English class with Frank Ormsby. This is a good thing. He will enthuse about Louis MacNeice and TS Eliot. He will share our dismay as we read about Tess d’Urberville and her trysts with the eternally wet Angel Clare. Frank has thick rimmed glasses, a fringe and a Fermanagh accent. Sometimes he bins the syllabus and reads us lesser-known Irish poets or he fetches something out of The Honest Ulsterman, a publication that he’s edited since 1969.
These moments don’t do much for our exam capacity but we like it. Frank gets into raptures over the words, the style and the sentiment. When he’s like this, he’s barely conscious of his pupils. Next, he picks a moment in a story about a devout student who levitates during an exam and has to resort to filthy blasphemy to descend. We laugh forever. Our systems have been altered by punk rock, Embassy Regal and Mundie’s Wine. Our limbs are solid with excessive time on the sports fields. We can parse any number of Latin verbs but we can barely talk to a woman. We think Frank is OK.