Drusilla Fotheringay-Syylk, Housemistress at St Vitus’ School for the
Academically-Gifted Girl, yawned repeatedly. She did cover her mouth,
however, as it was one of the social skills which she tried to impart to
her creme-de-la-creme and she attempted to lead by example.
It was the second week of public exams, and, after a hectic term, she felt
utterly drained. She should not have stayed up so late, catching up on
Arne Dahl’s Swedish cop drama.
She did admit to herself that some of her fatigue was probably
attributable to the emotional mangle that she had been put through
when she discovered her true parentage. However, ‘Drusilla
Fotheringay-Snodbury’ would not fit onto staff templates for end-of-term
reports, so she decided to stick with the status quo and retain the surname
suffix which had turned out to be her step-father’s appellation.
It was very difficult to remain alert and not to nod off in the hall. Mind
you, it was all very different from when she had sat her examinations.
No one then was allowed out for comfort breaks- unless a certificate of
incontinence had been drafted by a GP. Now she was up and down like a
yo- yo, calling for assistance to take girls out when they had simply not
‘gone‘ at the appropriate time. She had tried persuading them to avail
themselves of the lavatorial facilities at lunch break, whether they needed
to or not, but, knowing that exits and re-entries would be permitted,
the blighters simply refused to comply.
It wasn’t as if enlightenment had dawned on staff conditions of service.
Oh no! Knitting was not allowed for the relief of the boredom of
vigilance and one was not supposed to pace up and down the aisles,
to ward off leg cramp. Squeaky shoes were outlawed.
As she was reading out the list of prohibited objects, she felt like an
EasyJet air hostess whose recital and mimicry of safety procedures
everyone completely blanked out.
The moment when the instructions had been read and the clock
hand ticked inexorably towards the number twelve increased any
For it was at that precise moment that, board pen in hand, one had to
calculate in front of allegedly numerate candidates, the finishing time
of (say) an examination lasting one and a quarter hours which began at
1.39pm. Once the pen marks had been committed to the board, it was
humiliating to have to make an alteration.
Drusilla had been sharp at mental arithmetic in her youth, but under the
scrutiny of seventy pairs of teenage eyes, she blanched a little. She also
had to process what the time would be for those who had 25% extra time.
She felt like Carol Vorderman, only not.
Hmm… she had read that the latter had turned up at her daughter’s 21st
birthday party in a tight red dress and killer scarlet heels. She could
imagine how members of the present audience spread before her would
have reacted if their mothers had tried to outshine them at any such an
She thought of her own mother. Granted, Diana could probably still carry
off a spray on dress and stilettos, given that she had been a lax-or lacrosse
to you and I- mistress. Her mother still maintained her figure, chiefly by
running keep-fit classes for geriatrics. She could probably have won that
beauty contest for the over sixties in Sao Paolo, which had been in the
press only that week.
So what was she to do for the next 1 hour, 33 minutes and 45 seconds?
Her gaze alighted on a non-regulation bottle on Juniper Boothroyd-
Smythe’s desk. Surely that clear liquid couldn’t be other than H2O? Did
she dare to sniff the contents? Would she be sued for disturbing the child,
or congratulated by the exam office for spotting contraband Smirnoff,
probably supplied by Olga Robinovitch from behind the Dramatic Arts
She thought of Carol Vorderman again. Allegedly, the presenter had
only achieved a third class degree, in spite of having an IQ of 150
But she did have other assets, apparently.
Actually, she and Drusilla had a lot more in common than was
immediately evident. Carol had not met her father until she was 42.
And Drusilla had not known that Augustus Snodbury was her father
until very recently.
However, as she turned round from revising the date on the whiteboard,
she was conscious that her own derriere was not quite in the same league
as Carol’s and that was down to the genes she had inherited from the
Viggo Norlander look-a- like she would have to learn to call Daddy. In
fact, the way things were heading, she would soon be gaining more
than a passing resemblance to Jenny Hultin
and could kiss goodbye to any fantasies of pulling a cheeky Chavez stand-in.
You have five minutes left…..Okay. Stop writing! Put your pens down now.
And that includes, you, Juniper Boothroyd-Smythe.
She could tell that they thought her bum looked big in her outfit, even as
she collected the final script. She knew that she could hardly be described
as a Loose Woman.
She affected an air of authority and dismissed them, out of the hall and
out of her life. Tonight she would watch the rest of the recorded
Scandinavian drama and would thank her lucky stars that the marking
would be done by someone else for a change..