It was the end of a long day of nine lessons (and no carols) on the trot
and Nigel Milford-Haven, Junior Master at St Birinus Middle School
was attempting to unwind by flicking through last month’s How To
Spend It FT supplement, which only served to underscore his deep-seated
financial insecurities and general lack of self-esteem.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to drive into the staff car park in a
Lamborghini Murcielago and spray some gravel onto John
Boothroyde-Smythe and Co., accidentally on purpose?
Maybe he should get a tattoo like David Beckham, only with
correct spelling, of course.
He adjusted his frayed M&S tie and wondered why he couldn’t strike
a sartorial pose like the youthful- looking millionaire ‘Tiger Tutor’
of Hong Kong’s Beacon College.
There were just as many tiger mothers in Suttonford and environs, he
mused, as in Hong Kong. They were just as ambitious for their-what
Robert Shrimsley of the FT termed ‘spawn’- as their oriental
Actually, ‘spawn‘ sounded similar to the contents of dim sum. He felt
he was well acquainted with the term in human form, as he had to deal
with those wretched twins, often in detention.
Castor or Pollux, translate the following: Dim sum.
I am stupid, sir?
No, judging by the parental modes of transport, there was no
shortage of dollars, banked in Hong Kong, or otherwise.
Why couldn’t Snodbury and himself set up a tutorial agency and gain
significantly higher rewards from legions of costcentres? Surely the
gratuities would be greater than a fusty and corked bottle of Taylors
Port that had been round the carousel of many a local raffle? That was
the type of recognition of services rendered that they were wont to
receive at the end of the Autumn term. He didn’t even drink and had to
pass it on to his mother for her Christmas drinks cabinet.
He opened the top drawer of his filing cabinet which had to be
stationed in the staffroom as there was no space in his classroom,
now that several rest stations for the junior fatigued had been installed.
He fished out the Terms of Employment that he had foolishly signed.
Drat! He was not permitted to coach any of the pupils that he had
been contracted to intravenously feed at St Birinus. He would have to
solicit external students and that would entail hiring premises, paying
insurance and installing photocopiers etc. He would even need to apply
for a separate child protection thingy.
If he avoided rental on premises, he would have to visit the needy in
their own homes and then he would have to drive through their
ornamental gates with CCTV, thus recording his arrival in a shabby
Morris Traveller whose wing mirror was fixed to the rusting bodywork
with duct tape.
The sniggering student watching his progress up the lime avenue would
have lost any respect for him before he had even crossed the drawbridge.
They’d be texting snaps of his vehicle with captions such as WTF and
LOL. Even Nigel knew these acronyms did not stand for, Well, that’s
fabulous! or Lots of Love!
As for Snodbury, The Senior Master did not believe in extra tuition, come
to think of it.
Other masters may invite indigestion by bolting their lunch so as to
make a silk purse out of some kid’s ear- a kid who had probably pranked
around and not paid attention when the lesson had been originally
delivered. Snod had been heard to mutter:
Should have listened the first time. That’ll teach ’em. Anyway, the mocks are
only an organised shipwreck to see who can swim. He would then eye the
clock and make himself as scarce as hens’ teeth before the 1 o’clock
This was especially true on a Wednesday when there was a limited
amount of roast pork on offer in the refectory. If one arrived in a tardy
fashion, there would be no apple sauce remaining and the little
buggers would have scoffed all the crackling.
Nigel looked at the clock: Four thirty. Good! The parents should
have cleared the drive by now and so he should avoid the traffic
He gingerly opened the staffroom door and peeked outside to see if
the coast was clear.
But to his chagrin and extreme annoyance, the aforementioned
Boothroyde- Smythe was hovering, with a Maths ink exercise book
in his grubby paws.
Sir! he whined. I didn’t understand…
Nigel wearily beckoned him towards his classroom. He wasn’t
even paid overtime!
What exactly didn’t you understand? he asked in a scarcely disguised
attempt to sound concerned.
Oh, just something that Mr Snodbury said about some educational
establishments being loser-making factories that produce the likes of
Oh yes, add the vocative ‘sir’ to any kind of impertinence and it sanctifies
bare-faced cheek, Nigel thought. However, he judiciously replied:
I expect that he was being sardonic. Do you know that word? I suggest
that you run along and add it to your extensive prep for this evening.
But, sir, the precocious one responded, I did all my prep last night
with my tutor.
In that case, take this declension sheet as an extension. We don’t want
your parents to think that you are being underwhelmed, do we?
Two could play at that game. And the exercise was in multiple choice
format, so the marking would be easy-peasy.
In some ways, this type of interaction was strangely satisfying in a way
that money couldn’t buy. Maybe that was why, in recognition, his pupils
called him Caligula.
Who needs to be a tiger tutor when you can be a leopard that doesn’t need
to change its spots?