Mr. Greenshields was everyone’s favourite substitute teacher
And not because he never made a single kid do a single bit of actual work.

Mr. Greenshields talked to us like we were adults
But this wasn’t why we all loved him either
Because he disliked adults as much, if not more so, than he disliked kids.

Mr. Greenshields knew everything about everything
The most knowledgeable man ever to walk the earth
Stephen Fry on crack

He could have been the first to win the jackpot on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire

And he wouldn’t have wasted a lifeline
Even though he had more friends to phone than any other contestant ever did.

Or did he?

Mr. Greenshields lived in his car
And very often he parked overnight in the school’s carpark
Because he had no petrol money.

Had he been married before?
Almost undoubtedly

Mr. Greenshields’ wife and kids now were the horses he lost all his money on.

The gambler will tell you
He is just one win away

From packing it all in
From being sorted.

Mr. Greenshields sat at the front of the room
Studying the Racing Post
Pencil behind his ear

‘Talk quietly amongst yourselves’

This was our lesson
Our hour

This man had just given us a break from maths
Or geography, or English, or history, or business studies

All subjects he could have educated us on
Better than any of the specialised teachers ever could

Man, he would have taught us Chinese if asked
Mandarin or Cantonese.

No one ever played up for Mr. Greenshields
Not even the bad kids.

The longer the grey hair on his head
The longer the grey beard
The longer the losing streak.

A haircut and a shave
A win.

An ironed shirt
The man was on a roll.

Eventually I left school
We all did.

And five years later
I stood next to Mr. Greenshields
At the window in the bookies

Long grey hair
Grey beard
He remembered my name
And asked, ‘What are you doing with your life now?’
I sighed
‘Same as you’
He smiled for a moment

‘Teaching? Or gambling?’

‘Yes. And yes.’

Ten years later I saw him again
He didn’t need to ask
My uncut hair and beard said it all.

Picture: “Anguish” by Masscreation