"Mad" Jack Smithies taught at Brighton Hove and Sussex Grammer School, where I spent my Sixth Form years. He was, indeed, a brilliant and inspiring English teacher - he could bring Shakespeare to life in a quite wonderful way
Joe Bennett, a few pages later in the book, also refers to the characteristic clock at the school: there was a sort of 'master clock' in the main hall, and each classroom had a 'subsidiary clock', connected to the master one by a series of rods and links. All the clocks were therefore in sync, and their minute hands clicked round, minute-by-minute, in unison; really quite spooky, when you think about it!
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