EVERYONE KNEW HIS name was Michael, but no one whom he instructed in Latin would have dreamed of calling him anything other than Mr Keary. On the occasions we have met since my schooldays, in fact, the sensation of calling him “Michael” has seemed the most appalling breach of propriety. It even takes a certain amount of fortitude to write about him: I’ve been staring at the foregoing five lines for half an hour. But, as they say in the classics, alea jacta est (the die is cast). As I recall they do anyway.
For I was never a scholar of significance in Mr Keary’s language. About the only phrase I retain today is one for use when people, learning that I studied Latin for six years, ask me to translate something into Latin: Illud Latine dici non potest (You can’t say that in Latin). My ineptitude is revealed most starkly by mottos. “Oh,” I say, “it’s something about work. And God. That looks like the Latin for owl, too; no, it can’t be. Might it be to do with cheese? Or a chair? Look, errr, I’m a bit, y’know, rusty.” In other respects, however, Mr Keary taught me quite a lot of everything I know.
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