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Nigel Milford-Haven, Junior Master at St Birinus Middle School, was enduring

the purgatory of his quarterly visit to his mother in Cornwall.  The harmony of

the previous week, when he had taken part in musical workshops in Bath,

had been transposed into all-too-familiar familial discord within a few

hours.

Geoffrey Poskett, Choirmaster, was enjoying full participation in the St

Endellion Music Festival.  He had been very keen to take part in its current

opera: Carmen, ever since he had read that the plot was set in a cigar

factory.

Once a sycophantic and subsequently threatening parent had been

insistent that his son should have the solo in the Wind Band concert

and had successfully bribed the Choirmaster with a humidor of plaited

cigars, of the genus Culebras, individual examples of which resemble

a naked woman whose arms are entwined above her head.

Apparently the flexible form of these cigars meant that they would not

snap when carried in the breast pocket of a worker who had to continually

bend, presumably to pack cases of Cuban Habanos.  The cigars’ suppleness

came from the oiliness of having been rolled on the inner thigh of a Mulatto

maiden, or so it was alleged, by Augustus Snodbury, who took ownership of

this Cretan gift, as he termed it, almost as soon as Geoffrey had deposited the

wooden box of goodies in Snod’s pigeon hole.

Geoffrey had reacted fairly positively to this bribe, but his motivation in obliging

the belligerent barrister was influenced by a somewhat sinister implication

in the fact that the curved smokers’ delights came in a container which was

technically termed a coffin.  He worried that if he did not give full parental

satisfaction in the matter of promoting this tone deaf and arrythmic child, then

he might have the disturbing experience of having the legs of his beloved

Steinway collapse during Assembly, having been sawn through, thus sabotaging

his lively rendition of Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus.  After the gift

would come the threat and after the threat, extermination.

No matter that Geoffrey was a non-smoker. He would give Old Snod a

treat, just prior to the End-of-Term report readings.  By dint of this

generosity, Geoffrey hoped that he would not be hauled over the coals

re/orthography, in quite so thorough a manner, by the ancient, proof-

reading pedant.

Geoffrey had auditioned for the minor operatic role of factory lector, or

reader, and had been successful, mainly owing to his magisterial  in the

Classical sense, credentials, rather than to any vocal skills.  He had

accepted that a role as toreador was unlikely, given his expanding

waistline.  Even a cummerbund had not disguised the physical consequences of

his termly addiction to nursery fare and to Spotted Dick in particular.

Now he was desperately writing to his aunt who wintered in Benidorm every

year, as there had been a run on castanets in Port Isaac gift shops.  The

lacquered percussion instruments were as rare as Spanish mortgage payments.

Surely his aunt still had a pair of the aforementioned clackers hanging up in the

dining room, beside the Flamenco doll with the nylon lace ruffles and mantilla,

who faced down a moth-eaten, gored bull with the haughty expression Aunt

Margaret had directed towards her now mercifully deceased spouse.

Placido Domingo would have had to change his name and character to have

survived the basilisk glare from Aunt Margaret’s Spanish eyes, which had

mutilated more than a few matadors, leaving her triumphantly elevating

ears and tails, metaphorically speaking.

So, Geoffrey was relying on The Royal Mail, or whatever it called itself

nowadays, to come up with the necessary stage props for his committed

performance.  He hoped Aunt Margaret would spend the extra postage

compensation he had sent her, to ensure Special Delivery of the coveted

item.

Castagnetten.jpg

It was a pity that his musical talents had not been recognised.  However,

perhaps he was lowering himself after his immersion in Monteverdi

the previous week.  This was purely for fun and even Bizet had stated that

they asked for ordure and they have got it.

It was a pity that his friend and colleague, Nigel, had had to respond to the

maternal summons and had been denied the opportunity to wallow in the

musical mire with him. He missed his company and thought of him with

empathy every time they rehearsed Parle-moi de Ma Mere.

However, it would have choked him if his companion had stolen a more central

stage role than himself, purely on the strength of his narrower waistline.

He also hoped that Nigel was not going to come between him and that rather

interesting female teacher from St Vitus’ that he had spotted at the

Monteverdi concert.  This had been a rare occasion when he had thought that

there might be the possibility of compatibility between himself and a member

of the opposite sex.

Nigel had better back off, or he, Geoffrey Poskett, would see to it that Nigel’s

school bed was made up in apple-pie order for the whole of the Autumn term.

If he didn’t take the hint, it would be drawn conductors’ batons before dawn.

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