Aged 13, I had an extraordinary RE teacher.
The Rev Peter Hardman was something of a challenge to the school authorities. He played Pink Floyd during Sunday services and also invited the school rock band (Keith’s Mum) in to play live too.
Baffled and delighted, we nicknamed him Hippy Hardman. Four years later, I can remember him driving us up to Liverpool for the day to experience West Kirby first hand. Over forty years on, I appreciate his determination to make us look beyond our privileged surroundings.
He asked us to write a fairy story for our weekly prep. This, unedited, is what I wrote in January, 1974.
Once upon a time, there was an Eastern prince. He was exceedingly handsome and rich and all the princesses wished to marry him.
But he had a motor car which he liked better than anything, a Rolls Royce given to him at his christening with registration number FXP 99F. He received it from a very rich uncle who had three, and really only needed two.
The prince loved this motor car more than anything. He cared and looked after it very well.
On Monday, Princess Pomple arrived during his tea-break to see him and ask him to marry her, but instead of drinking tea he was polishing the hubcaps, and was consequently too busy to see anyone, even her.
On Tuesday, Lady Arabella Thumbsqueak arrived at lunchtime to see him and walk with him in the gardens, but the prince had missed lunch and was just checking the oil, and did not wish to see anybody.
On Wednesday, Princess Martha Crumpet arrived at breakfast time to see the prince and ask him to dinner that night, but he was taking FXP 99F out for a little ride to make sure it was still working. The butler advised her to ask somebody else.
On Thursday, the Duchess of Dew arrived at eight o’clock for dinner, but he cancelled it, and went and washed the windows.
On Friday, Baroness Freagle arrived at dawn to see him; he was cleaning the seats, and so she didn’t.
On Saturday, hordes of pretty princesses arrived to ask him to marry them, but he was overhauling the engine and spent all day doing so.
On Sunday, the prince died, from starvation and overwork. He had been too busy with FXP 99F and had not eaten at all.
So all the princesses went and married princes who were brave and killed things like dragons.