This morning, prompted by the recent news of the death of author Muriel Spark, my Mum began reminiscing about her old sixth-form English class in which she studied Spark's work under an inspirational teacher known as "Buckle". Buckle was so named because of her buck teeth. "She had a face like a pig," Mum said, though not unkindly.
Spark's most famous novel was the brilliant The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which tells the story of an unorthodox teacher who leaves a lifelong impression on her class of girls but also spends lessons extolling the virtues of Mussolini and is eventually sacked following an affair with the art teacher. Given such a storyline, it seems notably strange that Buckle, echoing Brodie, referred to my Mum's class as "the crème de la crème", and continued to do so years after they'd left. Despite such sinister undertones, they all got 'A's and this was where my mother's love of literature and reading really began. In the words of Jean Brodie, "Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life."