S02E09 Lesson 15 – Skive from School the Burkiss Way

The Burkiss Way to Dynamic Living, the Correspondence Course you can cut. Just fill in your name here.............. (if you can spell) and you will learn how to miss Lesson 15: Skive from School the Burkiss Way. With hints on truancy from Jo Kendall, Nigel Rees, Chris Emmett and Fred Harris. Forged sick notes by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick and a variety of excuses from producer Simon Brett (who’s got to stay in afterwards).

First broadcast on 9 February 1977

Mother: 17 Burkiss Way, Stepney. Dear Mr BBC, this is just a sick note to tell you that unfortunately, the Burkiss Way to Dynamic Living has caught a chill this week through not wearing a vest. Listen to this:

Music: Burkiss Way opening signature tune

F/X: coughing, getting heavier

Music: slows down, then stops completely

F/X: heavy coughing

Mother: So I’m afraid Jo Kendall, Chris Emmett, Nigel Rees and Fred Harris will all have to be excused the programme this week, so they can stay in bed and recover; and not so they can simply skive off to the pub and have a drink with their mates. Hopin’ this is alright, signed ‘Our Mum’. Brackets, oh what a giveaway. PS.: To fill in the gap, here is a film.

Music: Man of Mystery by the Shadows, then down for

Announcer: We present: Edgar Lustgarten’s Annals of Scotland Yard. Adapted for radio by paying the writers an eighth of their television fee.

Music: up, then down again for:

Narrator: Pierce the surface of the average hardened criminal, and you will find an emotionally unstable victim of human and social deprivation.

Music: stops

Announcer: NB: The next twenty-seven sentences of this introduction have been cut because they are too boring. We rejoin the proceedings now at the point where the jokes start.

Music: re-starts

Narrator: Young Fingus Prondergast was born in Squalor, Destitution, and Barnsley; in that order. He never really knew what a mother was, which explained why he kept trying to fill her up with petrol in the mornings and drive her to work. This then was the chequered background of our central character, the man who, one foggy, pinching cold night in November, was on his beat in East Fulham, when he noticed a strange sound coming from the doorway of the house of the local Magistrate.

Music: stops

F/X: bell ringing, noisy classroom atmosphere

Quelch: Right boys, hurry up and get to your desks, come along now. Alright, settle down, that’s better.

F/X: atmosphere stops

Quelch: Now then—

F/X: door handle opening and closing

Quelch: Bunter! What do you mean by arriving late for my lesson?

Bunter: Oh crikey, oh erm, I, I, I, I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner Mr Quelch, but, but, but I found those books of Latin exercises rather tough, Sir. In fact, I broke three of my teeth on them.

Quelch: Silence, Bunter! How dare you relate such atrocious jokes to your form master?

Bunter: Yes Sir, yes Sir.

Quelch: You are, I trust, aware of what subject it is today, Bunter?

Bunter: Oh, erm, er, oh yes Sir, yes Sir, Double Bricks, Sir.

Quelch: Very good. Bricks. Now, our study of Bricks is getting a little behind, so we have a lot of time to make up. Class, take out your Bricks.

F/X: sound of several bricks being thudded onto a desk

Quelch: Now then, Wharton, where did we get up to last time?

Wharton: Er, I, I think it was as far as Bricks, Sir.

Quelch: Very goood. Now then, —

Cherry: Please, Sir…

Quelch: Now what is it, Cherry?

Cherry: I’ve left my brick in my study, Sir.

Quelch: Oh, very well, you may share with Nugent’s brick.

Cherry: Very good, Sir.

Quelch: Now then, we’d er… Er Cherry?

Cherry: Yes, Sir?

Quelch: Is there something wrong with your chest, boy?

Cherry: I don’t think so, Sir.

Quelch: All the same, I think you’d better pop along to Matron later on, er, see what he says.

Cherry: Very good, Sir.

Quelch: Now then, Bricks. Let us see how well you have prepared today’s lesson. Er Wharton, you will begin construing your brick.

Wharton: Er, yes Sir.

F/X: brick thudded onto desk

Wharton: Er, erm, (long pause, audience reaction) erm, it’s, it’s a brick, Sir.

Quelch: Very good, very good. Er Cherry, you will go on.

F/X: brick thudded onto desk

Cherry: Erm, a brick, Sir.

Quelch: Correct. Bunter!

Bunter: Oh, crikey!

Quelch: Bunter, you will construe your brick!

Bunter: Erm, er, I, I, I, I, I don’t feel well, Sir.

Quelch: (loud) Construe, Bunter!

Bunter: Oh Lord, oh erm, —

F/X: thudding noises from brick

Bunter: —it’s a, a, —

Quelch: This instant, Bunter!

Bunter: —er, it’s erm a, a, it’s it’s it’s, it’s a bacon slicer, Sir.

Quelch: You are, you are guessing, Bunter. You have not prepared this lesson at all. Construe immediately!

Bunter: Er, er er, oh! I’ve got it, Sir. It’s a brick, Sir!

Quelch: Upon my soul, you cheated by looking at Wharton’s. Come here boy this instant!

Bunter: Oh crikey! Er, I, I, I, I say, Sir, I say.

Quelch: Now Bunter, you know full well what the penalty for laziness is. I have no alternative, but to give your hair a perm.

Bunter: Oh no, Sir!

F/X: water running

Quelch: Silence boy, sit over the sink.

Bunter: Oh Lord.

Quelch: Now then, how would you like it done? Swept back with a blow wave, or a straight—

F/X: water stops

Quelch: —rinse and auburn tint?

F/X: scissors cutting hair

Bunter: (squeaking) Ow, aw, ow, yahoo etc.

Quelch: Owww!

Bunter: … ow, ow, yahay!

F/X: hair cutting stops

Quelch: That there, Bunter! And let that be a lesson to you, boy. Next time, I shall not be so lenient. You will have to make an appointment first. Now then, er, who has not construed so far?

Moses Minor (god-like biblical voice with slight reverb): Behold! For verily as I have spake unto these, my people, yea, I do bear witness even unto thee, my form master, that I have not so far construed my brick.

Quelch: Ahh yes, Moses Minor! Right boy, you will go on.

Moses Minor: Hear ye, these my brethren, for verily I, Moses Minor, son of Jabat and of Emos, begotten of Amakeil and Zebediah, sons of Ishmon and Hebemial, daughters of Esekaia and Nemos, —

Quelch: Moses!

Moses Minor: —son of Ahab and [??], —

Quelch: If you do not construe immediately, —

Moses Minor: —begotten of Jeremiah and Gilma, —

Quelch: —I shall send you to the headmaster.

Moses Minor: —of the generation of Esekelia and Remus, begotten of Nememiah and Judacaia—

Quelch: That does it! Moses, you wretched boy, go along to Dr Locke’s study this instant! I’ll teach you boys to make me look stupid; first of all, paint a silly red nose on my face, like this.

Music: Man of Mystery, then down for

Narrator: What then was the secret of the locked drawer in Mrs Thrimpson’s desk? The whereabouts of Sir Reginald Smoth’s dead body was a mystery; he had searched high and low for it, without success. Was there more than met the eye to his wife’s midnight visits to the milkman? The next day, in Superintendent Jobes’ office at New Scotland Yard…

Music: out

F/X: knocking on door

Dr Locke: Enter.

F/X: door handle opening and closing

Bulstrode (young boy’s voice): Er, if you please, headmaster, you wanted to see me.

Dr Locke: Ah, Bulstrode of the Second Form, isn’t it? Come in. It’s about your exam results, Bulstrode.

Bulstrode: I’m sorry I did so badly in the Latin, Sir. I was beaten by the clock, Sir. Mr Proud had left his cane upstairs.

Dr Locke: (just a hint of a German accent begins creeping in) Yes, you got quite high marks in er, German no, didn’t you?

Bulstrode: I know my history paper was very poor, Sir, but I rather lost my head. I think it came off, when Mr Proud beat me with the clock during the break.

Dr Locke: But er, quite an exemplary… er, German paper, Bulstrode? Erm ha ha…

Bulstrode: Yes, Sir. I was always rather good at German, Sir.

Dr Locke: Ha, so I see. What is there so special about German?

Bulstrode: Erm, beg your pardon, Sir?

Dr Locke: (German accent getting rather noticeable now) What’s so special about German, vat, what do you know about ze, the Germans? Er, you know rather too much about zem, it seems to me. More zan is good for you, you weedy little Britischer pig! Admit it, Bulstrode, you are a spy, aren’t you?

Bulstrode: Erm, if you please, Sir, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Dr Locke: (loud) Oh! So you don’t know what I’m talking about, eh! I sink you know a lot more than you’re letting on, come on, out with it, what am I talking about, eh! Eh! Take zat, —

F/X: fists pounding

Dr Locke: —and that, and that, yaha, ha, ha! Have you had enough of me clapping my hands, or shall I go on? Now, tell me, arrgh, what am I talking about? I’ll find out sooner or later!

Bulstrode: (panicking) Erm, erm, erm, I don’t know!

Dr Locke: Arrh! Very vell! Hinaus then! Get out, Schweinhund, and send in ze next prisoner, err pupil! Ha ha!

Bulstrode: Very good, Dr Locke.

F/X: door handle opening, then closing

Dr Locke: Right. Vat is your name?

Moses Minor: Behold! As I have spake forth unto these, my descendants, know ye that I am Moses Minor, he of the generations of Jabat and of Emos, begotten of Amakeil and Zebediah, sons of Ishmon and of Hebemial, —

Dr Locke: Noo! No! Another troublemaker, eh? You have been sent here by Quelch, have you not? I have been hearing things about you, Moses Minor. But zis cannot continue. Because I’m going deaf. I understand you are head of ze Lower Fourth Escape Committee. Well, you’re wasting you’re time, you [heard ?], Moses Minor. Because Greyfriars School is unescapeablefromable… unescapefromable… upable? Unescapeablyablefromeable? You cannot get out of here!

Moses Minor: Hear ye this, Dr Locke, descendant of Mr and Mrs Locke, of the generation of Locke, who was begotten of Locke, of the race of Locke, son of Locke and Locke—

Dr Locke: Oww, cut ze pedigree, and get on with it!

Moses Minor: Unless ye do grant release to these, the prisoners of your vile enslavement which is called Greyfriars, there shall be sorely visited three horrendous plagues throughout the land. And the first of these shall be the plague of listeners’ complaints. And the second shall be the plague of typing mistakes. And the thrid [sic!] shall be (pause, audience reaction), well, a plague yet more devastating than all the others put together. Thus I have spoken, and thus it shall come to pass.

F/X: thunderbolt

Music: Man of Mystery, then down for

Narrator: The plot obviously was beginning to thicken. For clearly, Lady Hawkitts could have been nowhere near the abattoir when the attack took place. And in fact, —

Music: out

Continuity Announcer: We apologise for the fact that these links about Edgar Lustgarten’s Annals of Scotland Yard have little or no bearing on the events concerning Moses Minor and the boys at Greyfriars School. This is unfortunately due to continue.

Music: Man of Mystery, then down for

Narrator: Here then was the mesh of tangled leaves which Jobes had to unravel. So it was that, the next day, he paid a visit to Hawkitts Hall and found himself in a strange room so tall that none of the walls quite reached the ceiling.

Music: out

F/X: bell sounding

Bunter: Psss… (pause) Pssss… (pause) Pssssss… (pause) Psssssss…

Wharton: Er, er, Nugent?

Nugent: Yes?

Wharton: Ssstop ssticking those pins into Bunter and come over here.

Nugent: Sorry, Wharton, sorry. I say, do you think this is safe us being here, in Quelch’s study?

Wharton: Oh certainly! We’ve got to dish the beaks somehow for the way they keep mistreating us. Now I’ve got an incredible wheeze.

Cherry: Maybe you should cut down on all those fags.

Wharton: Yes, yes, perhaps I should take up smoking instead. Anyway, anyway, look at this. I’ve rigged up this inkpot on his desk. (supressed laughter by the others)

Cherry: Gosh! That’s clever. How does it work, Harry, [?]?

Wharton: Well, Bob, er what we… I say Bob…

Cherry: Yes?

Wharton: I, I don’t remember seeing you in the showers much recently.

Cherry: Oh, erm, no, I, I, I’ve stopped going in the showers with the rest of the boys now, I, I, I prefer to go in on my own.

Nugent: You know, you are a strange chap, Cherry.

Cherry: Never mind about that now. How does this inkpot work?

Wharton: Well, it’s so designed, that when Quelch puts his pen in…, (suppressed laughter)

Cherry: Yes?

Wharton: … he’ll get ink all over his nib.

(they all laugh)

Nugent: Look at this, look at this. Look at this, I’ve put some glue, I’ve put some glue on his chair. Here, see.

Wharton: Crikey, so when he goes to sit down—

Nugent: Yes!

Cherry: —the loose leg won’t come off.

(they all laugh and giggle)

Wharton: Are you sure this is all going to work? l mean, what happens if Quelch cuts up Rusty?

Cherry: We’ll just have to get a new school dog.

Nugent: I suppose you’re right.

Bunter: Here I say, look out you fellas, it’s him, it’s Quelch!

F/X: door handle

Quelch: So! I have caught you in the act! For this you will be severely punished!

F/X: thunderbolt

Wharton: I say you fellas, what was that?

Quelch: Silence! Now then, bend over this instant, all of you! I shall give you six of the best!

F/X: phone ringing

F/X: handset taken off cradle

Quelch: Ough. Henry Samuel Quelch.

George: As a regular listener to Radio Four for the last ninety-six years, I would like to complain most strongly about the scene in which a cruel, cruel school master is threatening to beat young boys. Why can’t you pick on someone your own size, like me? Want to meet me, I’m available on Wednesday afternoons, I’ve got all the equipment [??] nurse’s costume and…

Quelch: Oh, this is disgraceful!

George: Oh, why?

Quelch: Because I distinctly told you not to ring me at work, George; now get off the line!

F/X: phone handset being replaced on cradle

F/X: phone ringing

Quelch: Ough.

F/X: handset taken off cradle

Quelch: Yes?

Caller: I’d like to complain most strongly about that last complaint, which had very clear overtones of sexual activities, which, as a regular listener to Radio Four, I can’t take lying down. And in fact—

F/X: phone handset being replaced on cradle

Quelch: Upon my soul! This must be Moses Minor’s plague of listeners’ complaints. Well it’s not going to stop me. You shall all feel the dreaded cane!

F/X: phone ringing, handset taken off the cradle

Michael Caine: Hello, this is Michael Caine here. (audience reaction) I like to have Radio Four on in the bath, ’cause it helps to drown the sound. But I would like to complain most strongly about my name being—

F/X: phone handset being replaced on cradle

Quelch: Ough. This is too ridiculous for words.

F/X: phone ringing, handset taken off the cradle

Quelch: Ough. What the hell do you want?

Caller: I would like to complain most strongly about the way you just shouted at me, when you picked up this phone. As a regular—

Quelch: Ough!

F/X: phone ringing

Quelch: No! Noo, I…

F/X: multiple phones ringing at the same time

Quelch: I can’t take anymore of it! Stooop! Stooooop!

F/X: thunderbolt

Quelch: Ahh, at last. Ahh, thank ludness those folks have stopped singing. (pause) Just a midget! I can’t seem to lay my birds properly.

(laughter and cheering from the audience)

Cherry: Erm, if you sneeze, Sir, I blink it’s the sickened prague of Mouses Minno.

Quelch: (slaps his head) Of corns! The fecund of Morris Minor’s three plaques! Why didn’t I stink of grit before? Less, the place of typing wrist-aches. Well, we’ll see what the headmasher has to slay a kraut all this.

Cherry: Hare he is low, Sir.

Dr Locke: Ahhhh, am I bad to see you, Belch. I sought I heard vices coming from your sturdy whore.

Quelch: In Leeds you did, headmaster, in Leeds you did. This is queerly a threat to all Gayfriars. (laughter and cheering from the audience) Silence, you soys! The whale school is being hip by these plates, of Coses Minus.

Dr Locke: Ahh, Moses Sinus, eh? Well, I shall subshave him, he cannot force meat into an unconditional suspender. At Clayfriars, there is no such worm as surrendage. Britischer pigs, hold out your hinds!

Bunter: Oh crikey!

Dr Locke: Diet! Diet! I shall hare down beverley! Like a ton of bricks! Oh, thank goodness I didn’t get zat one wrong! Ohhh! Hold on! Ze effect of the plague must be vearing off!

F/X: thunderbolt

Cherry: Oh crikey, you fellows, it’s the third thunderbolt. That means the third plague is about to descend. The one that’s more devastating than all the others put together.

Music: dramatic biblical film music getting slowly louder

Quelch: Oh no! It can’t be?!

Dr Locke: It is.

Nugent: Oh crikey, you fellas, it’s—

All in unison: —the plague of biblical film music!

Quelch: Run for it, headmaster, run for it.

F/X: sound of running feet

Dr Locke: It’s coming through ze key hole!

All: Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhhhh!

Music: reaches it’s peak

F/X: thunderbolt, then

Music: cut to Man of Mystery, then down for

Narrator: So that clearly ruled out the only plausible alternative alibi of the wart charmer from Pinner. The pieces in the Superintendent’s jigsaw were slowly beginning to fit together. But there was still one question he just couldn’t answer: Who played right back for Notts’ Forest in the Nineteen Fifty-Nine’s [final ?]? Fortunately, the question was totally irrelevant.

Music: down & out

F/X: ambience: wind blowing

Cherry: Well, we managed to escape from Greyfriars after all.

Bunter: Yes.

Cherry: But I’m not so sure we did the right thing. Look at us, here in this bleak, never ending wilderness, complete and utter desolation, as far as the eye can see. What is this place called, Moses Minor?

Moses Minor: Ealing Broadway. (audience reaction) But, fear ye not, brethren, for lo, we shall all seek out the Lord Old God. And he shall present us with the Ten Commandments, that we may bring moral direction back into our lives.

Eric Pode: Hear, spare a sperm whale, guv’nor.

Moses Minor: Hold, brethren! Who art thou?

Eric Pode: Eric Pode of Croydon. Son of Jim Thrimpson of Croydon, and Beatrice Smoth of Croydon, the descendants of Harold Flark of Croydon and Emily Higgins of Croydon, né Albert Perskins of Croydon, of the generation of Croydon, and cor, spare a sperm whale, guv’nor?

Moses Minor: What is this ‘sperm whale’ which you seek?

Eric Pode: Just a sperm whale for a cup o’ tea, guv’nor.

Moses Minor: But why seekest thou a sperm whale? Why do you not beg for money?

Eric Pode: You know, I knew there was some’it I was doing wrong. Money, o’ course, ye’owww oowwww oww, have pity on me, Sir, they, they tell me I haven’t got long to go.

Moses Minor: Who told you this?

Eric Pode: The script writers. (pause) Oww. I had to call ’em in this morning ’cause I was feeling a bit funny. Anyway, they soon put a stop to that, though. They said, they say, they didn’t think I make it to page thirty-seven.

Moses Minor: I see.

Eric Pode: Yeahh. Fortunately, this is only page twenty-six, so I got another ten pages left in me yet.

Cherry: I say, you fellas, I don’t fancy that, —

Nugent: Yeah.

Cherry: —let’s skip the next ten pages, and go on to where Moses gets the ten commandments.

Wharton: Good wheeze.

F/X: pages being skipped

Music: stab of dramatic biblical film music, then down for

Moses Minor: (over) In truth, is this the place where I shall achieve my desire, the place wherein our journey ends, after being freed from the yoke of our oppressor, and having journeyed across the barren wilderness of pages twenty-five to thirty-six? Is this the divine setting wherein I am to find the Ten Commandments?

Music: out

Wharton: 17 Mount Sinai Cuttings, Catford. Yes, this looks like the place alright, you better ring the bell.

Moses Minor: Very well, Wharton. Leave this to me.

F/X: door bell

F/X: door handle opening

Woman: Yes?!

Moses Minor: I come in search of the Ten Commandments.

F/X: children playing in the background

Woman: The what?

Moses Minor: The Ten Commandments! The divine tablets, whereon is written the guiding principles for my people.

Woman: Ohh. I threw them out, to the jumble sale.

Moses Minor: In truth, thou art a stupid fat old cow! Where may I find this ‘jumble sale’?

Woman: Do you know the dry-cleaners?

Moses Minor: Yea.

Woman: Well, it’s in the scout hut, opposite the Co-op.

Moses Minor: So be it. I shall go there. Good day.

Music: stab of dramatic biblical film music, then down for

Moses: (over) Hear ye, people of Greyfriars, here in this scout hut lie the Ten Commandments. We must bring the walls of the building down, and wear out the occupants until they can fight no more.

Cherry: How do we do that, Moses Minor?

Moses Minor: By marching seven times round the hut doing Groucho Marx impressions. Come, my brethren, one hand behind the back, take up unto ye thy cigars, brethren, bend thou thy knees, and let us go forth.

Music: intensifies

F/X: feet walking

All: (together) My wife’s so fat, the locals speak your weight machine’s got laryngitis. My wife’s so fat, her knickers are built by a zeppelin. My wife’s so fat, when she sunbathes, it’s a solar eclipse. My wife’s so fat, she like to call in Chris Bonington.

F/X: walls starting to crack

All: (together) My wife’s so fat…

F/X: walls collapsing, then some piece of metal clattering

Music: out

Jumble Sale Man: ’scuse me?

Moses Minor: Yes?

Jumble Sale Man: Why couldn’t you just use the door, like everyone else?

Moses Minor: Oh, I never thought of that. Anyway, I am Moses, and these are the children of Greyfriars School. We have come to this scout hut for the Ten Commandments.

Jumble Sale Man: Oh, certainly, Sir. Shall we say, 3 p each?

Moses Minor: 3 p each? The divine, and most holy Ten Commandments!? Thou disgusteth me!! 3 p!!!

Jumble Sale Man: Alright, 2 p.

Moses Minor: That’s better then, 20 p, keep the change.

Jumble Sale Man: You find them in that room, over there.

Moses Minor: Very good, come brethren, children of Greyfriars. Our search is over.

F/X: door handle opening

Dr Locke: So, Moses Minor! I, and my nine colleagues will make you pay zis time!

Dr Locke’s colleagues: (laughing hysterically)

Moses Minor: Noo! No, it cannot be! It is the last remaining effect of the plague of typing mistakes. We have bought, not Ten Commandments, but Ten Kommandants!

Dr Locke & colleagues: Awww, take this, beat this, etc.

Bunter and the others: Aw, no, oh crikey, ow etc.

Music: Burkiss Way closing signature tune

Burkiss Way Announcer: (over) Well, here endeth Lesson 15 in our monumental series of correspondence courses, Skive From School The Burkiss Way. Would you like to find a famous biblical character to help you and you leave school, well your jobe-hunting days are over. Ha, simply write now to Jo Kendall, son of Nigel Rees, of the generations of Chris Emmet, which is begotten of Fred Harris, care of Greyfriars School, Kent. The cast were give a thousand lines by writers Andrew Marshall and David Renwick, which were produced on time by Simon Brett of Stepney. See you next week, everyone, and happy dynamic living!

Music: to finish and out