Written by Rosemary Mason. Tx 25th February 1986
Mr Griffiths is being his usual intolerant self. Regarding the gleaming corridors with pride, he confides to one of the cleaning ladies that it’s only the incoming influx of children which is a problem – without them the school would run much more efficiently!
Two things are concerning him today. One, the general level of smoking (which is also the main topic of the episode) and two, the current amnesty on school library books. Organised by Janet, it’s a painless way to ensure that overdue books are returned with no penalty – but this is something that Mr Griffiths simply can’t understand.
So he takes to lurking in the corridors, biding his time so he can spring out and nab an unwary child. When Gonch, Hollo, Robbie and Ziggy learn this their eyes light up – each load themselves up with a collection of books and dash around the playground (Robbie’s “whhhhhhheeeeeeeeee” as he runs past Mr Griffiths is especially memorable). This is rather silly, but entertaining nonetheless.
Even better is the moment when Mrs McClusky bumps into the boys. She’s impressed with the number of books they’re returning, but she also can’t help but peruse some of the titles. Lifting the top book from Gonch’s pile she reads the back cover blurb. “One Day You’ll Go. Cathy knew with a certainty from deep within that one day she’d find Chris”. When she asks the boys to write a précis of the top book on their pile, Mr Griffiths approves wholeheartedly (his look of total admiration as Mrs McClusky walks away is plain to see).
Smoking has been a fact of life at Grange Hill since the series began, but this is pretty much the first time it’s been discussed in depth. Both a section of the staff and pupils are disgusted with the habit – amongst the staff it’s Mrs Reagan who’s the most vehemently opposed which forces smokers like Mr Kennedy to keep a low profile. I like Mr Bronson’s chuckle after he asks Mrs Reagan if she’s the smoker (naturally she denies it strongly).
Everywhere you go in the school there’s evidence of smoking. The workmen putting up the temporary classrooms are indulging, the teachers are enjoying a puff, the children have their own secret smoking den whilst the evidence of their habit is all around the place (piles of fag ends scattered everywhere). This seems a little like overkill, but it does serve as the trigger for the first issue of the new school magazine.
Everybody’s got views on smoking, so it’s an obvious topic to discuss. Surely nobody could disapprove? Well, Mr Bronson’s not happy for one. The notion that the pupils want to see a non-smoking ban extended to the staff room appalls him – he may not smoke, but for him pupils dictating to staff is the thin end of the wedge.
Mr Bronson clearly has a sixth sense where Ant is concerned. Whenever Ant’s placed in a compromising position Mr Bronson always seems to be there – ready to pounce. Here, Ant’s handing round copies of the magazine to the smokers and Danny, interested in the logo competition, asks him to hold his cigarette whilst he has a look. Mr Bronson, with the righteous fury of an avenging angel, sees Ant holding a ciggy and unsurprisingly jumps to the wrong conclusion. Oh dear.
Gonch and Hollo have thrown themselves into the anti smoking campaign woth gusto. Popping up posters around the school, they wonder if Mr Griffiths might want one (after all, he’s always complaining about having to clear up after smokers). Shock, horror it’s revealed that he’s another secret smoker – although it’s a pipe for him. Resplendent in a very natty cardigan, he’s enjoying a quiet puff in his room, only to be rudely interrupted by the boys. Shoving his pipe into his pocket (he’s another who’s obviously a little ashamed of his habit) he then proceeds to set his cardigan on fire in another classic Mr Griffiths comedy moment.
There’s no particular rush to confront Zammo’s problem. We only see him briefly when he, Jackie, Banksie and others attend the school magazine meeting. It’s surprising that Zammo, who’s hardly been in school recently (or so it seems), should have allowed himself to be dragged along. But at least he’s granted a few lines, which is more than Banksie is allowed (poor Stephen Banks, relegated to the status of a non-speaking extra at present).
Roland discusses obliquely Zammo with Janet (although he doesn’t mention him by name). As yet, Roland hasn’t done anything about what he witnessed in the arcade and despite the evidence of his own eyes is clearly not willing to believe that Zammo could be mixed up with drugs.
Elsewhere, outside of school Mr King and Fay literally bump into each other. With plenty to discuss about the school magazine, he suggests they grab a coffee. This is innocent enough, but it’s the start of a slippery slope – especially after Julia and Laura see them together.
2 thoughts on “Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Fifteen”
George A Cooper was a welcome addition to Grange Hill in it’s golden era.
Although his background is never explored, Mr Griffiths appears to have some military traits and I suspect he may have been just old enough to serve Queen and Country in WW2.
The role of school caretaker is a often thankless role with little reward for efforts and achievement. Mr Griffith was the true dedicated professional who was eager to do his job 110% despite the set backs and criticism he often faced.
His presence offered some light hearted relief to the programme until he was forced to retire at the end of Series 15.
IIRC Mr Griffiths’s true age is discovered when he talks about having joined up at the start of the Second World War and it was now 53 years later.
This episode seems to take place over an extended period such that the first issue of the magazine gets all the way from format discussions to distribution. Not a problem for the magazine itself or the anti-smoking drive but it does highlight just how long Roland, Julia and Laura are taking about Zammo and the Webbs’ respective problems.
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