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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.

Vintage Port page

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

himself, sir.

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?