Ryan T. Pugh

The 'T' stands for Humour

Mr Bird

The following excerpt is from my latest book, Semi-Professional Writer, which can be bought direct (and signed) from my online bookshop here or on Amazon

Whilst in the greengrocers purchasing my 5-a-week (5-a-day is just never going to happen until the NHS do the decent thing and recognise Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Cherry Coke), I happened to look at a box of tangerines. Usually, when I’m out buying fruit from independent shops, I spend the whole time lit up by a golden orb of self-congratulation:

‘Look at me,’ I say to myself, ‘I’m buying healthy food and pumping £2.87 back into thelocal economy whilst doing so. Bow to me, you heathens. Bow before your God.’


But not this time. Something happened. A memory crossed my path; a line of dialogue from fifteen years ago, spoken in an upstairs classroom on a sunny day. The words replayed in my mind:

‘I’m going off on a tangent. And that isn’t a small orange.’

The voice that said it was clear and slightly aged. There was hint of a Norfolk accent. Maybe it had been ironed out by Higher Education and worked its way back in, as accents often do. I replayed the memory again, just to hear that voice.

‘I’m going off on a tangent. And that isn’t a small orange.’

Thus the window to my past was opened. My memory inhaled the fresh air and came to life. I quickly paid for my fruit and exited. A greengrocers is never the best place to stand about in a reverie. It confuses the elderly. I walked home, thinking about the teller of that joke, the owner of that voice.

Oh, how I was obsessed with Mr Bird. He’d eluded me throughout high school. He was one of those teachers that everyone else had for lessons, whilst I only ever seemed to be taught by alcohol-poisoned crossword enthusiasts (that’s a slight exaggeration. I had some lovely teachers). My only encounters with him were when I’d see him policing the corridors during break times. He looked, dressed, and acted like Leslie Nielsen from The Naked Gun. As he made his way down the hallways, he’d stop and fire out one-liners to whomever was in earshot:

‘Can you lot be quiet? I’m trying to sleepwalk.’

‘Is that the bell or has somebody broken into my car?’

‘Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.’


He had a curious walk. A rumour circulated that he’d been hit by a bullet to the spine during an earlier career in the police force. (Maybe he actually was Leslie Nielsen.) This could have been true, although it was near enough impossible to imagine Mr Bird involved in such a deadly scenario. I couldn’t picture him operating amongst the criminal underworld of drug deals, heists and thick-fingered skinheads. It was far easier to picture him pottering about in the Saturday-afternoon world of slippers, reading-glasses and McVities Digestives. His gait, which helped support the legend of the bullet, was cock-legged and he walked with his hands held firmly behind his back, as though they were the only things keeping him upright. He shook with each step. For some pupils (the kind of pupils who walked around picking up litter with sticks whilst everybody else did PE), this was funnier than anything he ever said. They did impressions when his back was turned.

It wasn’t until sixth form that I struck gold. I signed up to do Business Studies entirely in the hope that Mr Bird would teach me. It was a gamble. (I’d taken a similar risk when it came to my GCSE choices. I opted for French instead of German purely on the basis that one of the French teachers was a goddess.) It paid off. After years of admiring the old pun-master from a distance, I was finally going to be in his lessons.

He didn’t disappoint.

‘Sir, what’s the time?’

‘It’s something you use to measure how far into the day you are.’

‘Sir, can I open a window?’

‘I should hope so at your age.’

And so on.

Everything about him was funny. Even his name was a punchline: Roger A. Bird. How about that?

I can’t recall him ever using a silly voice or doing an impression. Every word was spoken in the same dry manner. Every joke bottled and delivered as fact. You couldn’t keep up with him. His wit moved like an endless, heavy freight train. Sometimes it would roll past without you noticing. But up close, you could feel its relentless force.

For more high-class lolz, visit the Ryan T. Pugh bookshop here or buy direct from Amazon

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