Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Tie That Binds

The first time I ever got paid for writing something was in 1985. I'd forgotten about it until yesterday when I found myself in a dusty corner of Manchester University library faced with a long shelf containing bound volumes of The Times Educational Supplement from the sixties to the nineties. I remembered writing a piece for them, and some of the aftermath. I knew it had printed in August, and I knew it must have been the mid-eighties, so it was easy to find. Hint to aspiring writers of educational stuff - pitch your article in July: they are desperate to fill the August columns. My piece was a lighthearted one about the tyranny (which seems even more in evidence now) of the tie as an essential item of the male teacher's wardrobe. I never liked wearing them, and expressed my view in the article. I now wear ties for graduations and funerals, never for an ordinary day at work; but in a school, then as now, it was considered a major transgression not to wrap a piece of silk or polyester around your neck every day. So I wrote this:


We were on holiday in France when the article was printed, and in those pre-mobile days, virtually uncontactable. About a week into the holiday, we found a working phone box and fed it with ten-franc pieces to speak to my father, just to report that we were having a great time. "Have you done something?" he said. "I'm sure I heard your name on the radio - something about an article.." I thought it must be the TES article, but didn't think much more about it until we got home, to find requests from various newspapers for interviews. By then, the moment had passed, of course. This was classic silly-season stuff, but I gathered that for a couple of days the article had generated phone-ins on radio shows and some brief comments in newspapers.  Probably the best part of the whole episode was the cartoon which accompanied the piece, reproduced above. I wish I could ever have looked that insouciant and elegant...

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent!! A second career as a writer, perhaps....?
I loved the comment about the ancient tweed jacket with the "inevitable leather appendages". I presume this chap taught geography?

Rob Spence said...

Yes, all geographers were like that then...

Anonymous said...

And I have a copy of that very article . Hoarder moi ???

Julie

Rob Spence said...

I couldn't possibly comment, Jules.

Martin said...

I would say you're elegant as you are!

Anonymous said...

There was an article on this very topic this morning on the World Service. It seems that only 18% of the UK population now wear a tie to work, and sales have dropped drastically in recent years. A reporter took to the streets to find out how people view ties and the wearing of. You are, you'll be pleased to know, considered 'cool' and 'more modern' for not bothering with one, whilst those who do are considered 'stuffy' and 'OT.T.'. The reporter also pointed out that some of the world's most successful businessmen and movers and shakers in general are resolutely anti-tie. So there you are - you're in good company... :-)

Rob Spence said...

Yes, that's good to hear, though I suspect schools are still insisting on ties for male staff.