The sky filthily weeping.. He thought that was a very apt example of
personification which he could use with his English group later that
day. Wasn’t it a Norman MacCaig poem? Figurative language.
Always a good filler for times when preparation time had been
eroded by Life.
Snod had just had a rugbyfest over the weekend. He had watched
Scotland win against Italy at Murrayfield and had then done his
ironing while taking in the French game against Wales. Sheer
indulgence, but it was very satisfying. But there’s no such thing as a
free weekend, not if you are in teaching, and Snod had been a
teacher for a very long time indeed.
Monday seemed flat. But-hello!- what was that in the criss-cross
board? A letter without a stamp. There was a perfunctory label
with notification that he should have had to pay the postman £1, but
he had got away with it. Or they had. Whoever they were.
He ambled into the staffroom, which was curiously empty. In his
non PC youth the hub had been humming with staff asking each
other crossword clues, reading racing tips and laughing about
certain idiots in 2C, while smoking pipes in an Inkling manner
and burning holes in the upholstery. Ah well, he was free, periods
1 and 2. They called it preparation time now. He used it as a kind
of Gird up your loins, old boy breathing space, before
the onslaught. Now where was that Telegraph?
Milford-Haven burst in. He noticed Snod had the letter in his hand.
Early Valentine, Snod? he quipped.
Insolent puppy! He waited till Nigel had grabbed his teacher’s
planner and left, slamming the door in that irritating manner of his.
Snodbury’s heart gave a lurch. He recognised the handwriting- or
the green pen that Diana had invariably used. He was always telling
the boys that the use of anything other than blue or black ink was a
sign of neuroticism. Well, maybe he could qualify that judgement if
the ink was used by a woman. Let’s face it, they were all neurotic
He read the message and clutched at his chest and turned pale.
The Headmaster’s Secretary entered the staffroom with a pile of
publications which was destined for the pigeon-holes and shortly
afterwards for the re-cycling bins. She was going to give him her
signature look which suggested that she was surprised that he hadn’t
anything better to do, but then she asked him if he was all right. She
even used his abbreviated Christian name: Gus and suggested that
he go and lie down in his flat.
I’ll arrange cover for you. Let’s see..who is free periods 3 and 4?
I’ll just write out a pink slip.
I might just go upstairs after all, said Snod, who had never had a
day’s absence since he commenced his career, even though many a
child had been praying for the occasion- and many a colleague.
Nigel rushed in at the end of period 2. He had an hour to mark that
wretched prep before 5 and 6. Coffee! He knew that he had to pay
the price of watching the rugby, but thankfully most of the questions
had been multiple choice. Hey! He could get them to swap and
mark each other’s. But one still had to check the totals. He stuck his
hand in his pigeon-hole to retrieve the work and-drat! Double
drat!! There was a pink slip which invited him to cover for Mr
Snodbury’s classes in 3 and 4. That hadn’t been there earlier. In fact
Snod had been in the staffroom and looked perfectly all right. Oh
yes, but he had been holding a letter. Something must have upset
him. But not as much as Nigel was absolutely discomfited by the
shock of having to take John Boothroyde-Smythe and Co at short
Gee thanks a lot, Snod!
He almost wished that a pink slip had retained its original message.
He was past caring about career prospects. He just wanted peace!