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Two weeks for half term this year!

Augustus Snodbury, Senior Master at St Birinus Middle School, could hardly

believe his good fortune.  He had actually managed to stagger on and had

avoided becoming a stretcher case, even though he had received his flu

jab mid-session, which left him somewhat debilitated for a couple of days.

The Parents’ Open Evening had almost finished him off.  He had been

stationed in the Library, now designated The Discovery Centre,

but had hoped that no one would ferret him out from his hiding place.

He was supposed to showcase its latest technology to prospective

‘clients’, but such a role reminded him of the Major in Arms and the

Man, who kept boasting to all and sundry of his latest piece of technical

kit for the reading room, namely an electric bell.

A divorced father wandered in, but he made a very hasty departure,

as he thought that Snod had given him his marching orders. In fact, the

prematurely-aged one had just been introducing the ostentatious Shavian

character’s name- Petkoff!- in order to make ironic reference to

furnishing accessories for educational spaces.  However, Snod was

discovering out that fewer and fewer people shared his cultural references

and, consequently, his jokes were misconstrued, as we shall see later

in this post.

(That’s a proleptic allusion, by the way.  But I digress.)

Snod may have lost the school some ‘business’, I fear.

While the elusive Master hid behind the bookshelves, he consulted

a Medical Dictionary.

At The Well Man Clinic, which Diana had urged him to attend, he had

been surprised to learn that he was close to the margin for being

diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  However, he had been advised that

he could hold back the waves, unlike Canute, if he reduced his sugar

intake.  Worth a try.

Geoffrey Poskett, Head of Music, had been stunned earlier in the

day, by Gus having eschewed, rather than chewed, the last biscuit at

break.  He had held out the Tupperware box to Poskett and waved the

Bourbon, usually his favourite mid-morning nibble, under the puzzled

choirmaster’s nose.

You have it, he had said, graciously.

Cup of tea and bourbon biscuit.jpg

Geoffrey sat down and dunked the dark brown chocolaty finger into his

coffee while he waved his left hand in time to a beat that only he could hear.

Gus screwed up his nose.  Dunking! This was a practice which he considered

to be anaethema– yea, beyond the pale.  If he could have predicted the

biscuit’s fate, then he would have offered it to Nigel Milford-Haven, whose

eyes had followed its trajectory and milky disintegration.

Nigel had not bothered to open the cupboard in the staff kitchen, as he had

known that by now, there would only be packets of Garibaldis remaining, and

he would never ingest these, as they had far too revolutionary a name.  One

could call them Flies’ Cemeteries, but a sweetmeat by any other name would

taste just the same, and revolution stuck in his craw.  Leave it to characters

such as Red Ken Livingstone, who, no doubt, had sucked on the curranted

Italian perforated strips since boyhood.  As for Viennese Whirls, they were

more Vince Cable, he had thought, ever since seeing the politician strutting

his stuff on Strictly.

And Nigel was not a Lib Dem. He wasn’t sure what he was.  And that was why

he had been overlooked for promotion.

Garibaldi biscuit.jpg

Gus, skulking behind the Human Biology section was looking up information on

nocturnal emissions.  When the hymn  All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name had

been announced in assembly that morning, Snod had been reminded of

another medical problem that he should have discussed at the clinic.

Let angels prostate fall, in line two, had leapt out at him, even though he knew

that there was a difference of one consonant. For, yes, he was getting up

several times in the night to take a leak, in prep school parlance and, so he

really must phone Bupa to see if he could choose a urologist who might be

in the country over half term.  Vain hope!

He had glared at some of the older boys during the Junior Choir’s rendition of

Faire is The Heaven.  It may have been a trial run for a future performance,

but he was too long in the tooth not to anticipate the sniggers at the phrase:

in full enjoyment of felicity.

Actually, Poskett was doing a good job.  He had elevated himself in Snod’s

opinion by planning the Britten Christmas concert.  It was ambitious, but,

apart from the difficulty of finding a harpist for The Ceremony of Carols, he

was managing the rehearsals sensibly and hadn’t requested anyone’s

absence- as yet- from a Snodbury lesson.  Hence the biscuit offer.


It was the morning after the Open Evening and staff were all rather

exhausted. Snod had leapt up two minutes before the bell at break.

There was only time for a coffee, or for visiting the little boys’ room.

Avoiding chatty colleagues was a necessity for the implementation of

good time management at the interval.

However, just as he was about to exit the staffroom, he collided with a whey-

faced loon in the shape of young John Boothroyd-Smythe who had been

knocking on the door.

Is this a query which could be addressed in lessons? barked Snod,

practically wetting himself.

Well, sir, I’m not sure.. B-S stammered.  It’s just that Dad gave me this letter

to give you.

Back to lessons! shouted Gus, hurrying down the corridor and pocketing the

envelope for future perusal.

It was only at lunchtime that he remembered to take the missive out of his

Harris tweed jacket pocket and then he read the parental complaint.

Apparently he was being accused of having told B-S’s father to ‘*** off’

the previous evening.  Snod was confused until he recalled that one of

Shaw’s characters had similarly misunderstood the Major’s name and had

uttered the immortal interrogative:

A Pet what?

(To which the immortal reply should have been: a Petkoff.)

Snod muttered the well-known aphorism: Never apologise; never explain,

to himself. 

But he knew that he would have to try.

No wonder B-S had problems when his father was so dense!  And B-S,

wasn’t that some kind of intestinal problem which had been mentioned on

the comprehensive leaflet which he had been given at the clinic?  It was

related to stress and Snod was having bucketfuls of that experience every

day.  Perhaps he should have that possibility investigated at the same time

as his prostrate, or whatever it was called.