For once, schoolboys wrongly accused of high jinx in the classroom.
Here's how it went.
We were working on our O-level art projects, heads down in concentration, when somebody screamed. If 15 year-old boys do scream. There, in the middle of the art room floor, was what appeared to be a severed hand. There was enough commotion to bring Rick James, the rather dapper young master, from his ante-room.
"All right, all right, that's enough!"
He stooped and picked up the gruesome object. Chris Wintle looked guilty.
"Who's been messing about with this?" Asked Rick, blowing the dust from the fingers.
"What is it, Sir?" (Truthfully, we were all slightly freaked out by the limp, lifeless, open palm and pale fingers in the middle of the floor)
"It's for an exhibition. Quite an important show, actually."
An exhibition of what was never revealed. It was obviously a personal project. Rather the like the one across the quadrangle, in the loft between the two chemistry labs, where Mr Smith was scratch-building a scale model of a steam locomotive between lessons. And even during them.
Rick shuffled off to his garrett, and we settled back down to our Letraset and Kodatrace. Normality was restored. Someone shoved Paul Davis off his stool. Probably the same freckled lad who'd placed a rather realistic plastic hand on his shoulder a few minutes earlier. We couldn't be sure.
All was well until French. Last but one lesson. A meek little messenger arrived at the door, sent by the formidable deputy head. One Fred Jessop. Those from the art lesson were requested to re-convene after the last bell. It was a stern affair. Phrases like 'woe betide' and 'every man jack of you' were bandied around, although I wasn't really listening. My main concern was wondering if I would still be home in time to see Jenny Hanley crossing her bare legs on ITV's 'Magpie.'
The hand had gone missing. The culprit had been given 24 hours to return the Hammer-Horror object, or the whole class would be given detention each subsequent night until it reappeared. Letters to parents would be issued, seriousness of situation, blah blah blah. Messrs Wintle, Overton, Johnson all declared their innocence on the way to the bus stop.
The following day, after assembly, a solemn little gathering was addressed by Mr Jessop. What were we hearing? An unconditional apology being dished out by one of the most feared figures amongst these hallowed halls and redbrick walls? The truth was indeed told. Mr Jessop was on his usual after-hours rounds, banging locker doors shut, tutting at the chewing gum stained tiles and bursting into empty form rooms expecting to find someone in there up to no good (a seance had once been busted). A piercing cry came from the cleaners' station and he dashed there post haste, fag firmly clamped between dry, tight lips, black gowns flowing behind him, to discover Molly the Mop all of a dither. There, in her galvanised bucket, was a severed hand. Behind her, head caretaker Vic, was in fits of laughter.
Vic was a relatively new addition to the supporting cast staff at Cheltenham Grammar School. With his Brylcreemed black hair and pencil moustache, he was a big departure from recently retired post-holder, the kindly old Harold Whitworth. Vic, a Cockney fellow, looked like the sort of character who would lurk in doorways after dark and try and sell knocked off nylons to passing office girls.
Yet, to his credit, he (as the youth of today would say) 'fessed up' to the theft of the hand. "Honest guv, I can't tell a lie, it was me. Just a bit of a larf, so to speak, like as not and no mistake. Lubbaduck. I never meant no harm, honest I didn't Mr J." Or something like that.
The curious incident of the hand in the nightime was over.
But this is where the story starts. For Vic the Caretaker, somewhat improbably, was to become step-father to Robert Fisher. I don't know the ins and outs of it, but somehow it happened. Rob was a year above me at school and, therefore, I didn't know him at the time of the wedding. Then, as now, it was not cool to socialise with younger boys - at least not during school hours. But I always imagined it would be a little embarrassing to see your new Dad slopping out the staff toilets as you passed by at break time.
Rob lived at Gretton Fields near Winchcombe, a semi rural location in a big Victorian double-fronted house with a lean-to conservatory. I never went inside the place, but imagine it was well maintained and kept clean by Mr Vic, and that his mum probably never went short of stockings or Jeyes fluid. I'd got to know Rob through a mutual friend, and found we shared a common interest in music, as well as in Bev Rees. But I had a bike and he had a Ford Anglia, so I guess he was bound to win that one. Although a few months later I did find myself snogging Bev at a party in Winchcombe. In the garden, while Rob was playing the piano inside.
And my, could he play the piano. He'd written his own original version of the Four Seasons, from which 'Autumn' was particularly lovely. Like all students, finding a new life elsewhere and a circle of friends at Uni inevitably meant us losing touch. I last saw Rob in 1988 at a wedding. By then he'd made quite a name for himself. At Bath University, his musical tastes had found new directions too - drifting into synth pop, and after playing with various musical combinations he settled into Neon - who evolved to become not one but two successful bands, Naked Eyes and Tears For Fears. Rob and Pete Byrne, as Naked Eyes, had chart success here and in the USA, before dissolving the partnership.
It was as Fisher 'out of' Climie Fisher that Rob probably found most fame. Of a quiet and slightly shy nature, Rob was always destined to be the one in the background, while Simon Climie stepped into the limelight. Major international hits such as 'Love Like A River', 'Love Changes Everything' and 'Rise To The Occasion' elevated Climie Fisher's reputation as writers and producers as well as performers, and they went on to work with major music industry figures such as George Michael and Aretha Franklin. After Simon Climie pursued a solo career, Rob (who by then had his own London studio) worked with Rick Astley and re-kindled a partnership with Pete Byrne. Naked Eyes were to embark on a new album, before the new millennium.
The album was never to be completed. In the Summer of 1999, I had a phone call from a mutual friend telling me that Rob had died from cancer. Measured in terms of chart success, Rob's total was four top 40 singles on the US Billboard charts with Naked Eyes, and five UK top 40 hits with Climie Fisher - peaking at number 2.
'Always Something There To Remind Me' (a Burt Bacharach cover) was probably Rob's most commercially successful track, reaching number 8 in the USA. I was picking around some new tunes on the guitar a few weeks ago, and stumbled upon the haunting refrain from 'Autumn.' And it is for that I remember Rob Fisher most. The quiet man I knew but hardly knew, can still say something to me through his music.