, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Geoffrey Poskett, Choirmaster of St Birinus Middle School, indicated that

he wanted to speak by waving a rolled up cone of music manuscript

paper. There had not been enough time for his pressing item in the

previous Staff Meeting.

Permission to speak, sir?  He addressed The Acting Head, Mr Augustus

Snodbury, who wondered if the music master detected any irony in his

exophoric reference to Dad’s Army.

It was in the hiatus between a discussion on educational theories and

their implementation, or otherwise, and an expression of subject-specific

discontent with timetabling difficulties connected to The Music

Department and its long term practice of throwing a tuning fork into

the well-oiled, or reasonably well-oiled, machinery of the school day.

Yes, Poskett. Out with it.  We haven’t all day.

The School Song, sir…I think it is a little outmoded.

There was a collective gasp of shock and disapproval.  This had

nothing to do with the view being expressed, but had more to do

with the perceived threat of lunch being delayed for the second time

in a week.

Well, sir, even the C.of E. is changing the lexis of its baptismal rite, to

attract the kind of congregation, or customer, who usually views

Eastenders and suchlike.

Snod looked as if he would explode, but Poskett carried on obliviously.

You see, children and parents today cannot relate to such phrases as

‘soaring Pegasus’; ‘the Herculean task before us’; Scaevola’s flaming

hand of courage and ‘Sisyphean persistence’.

And with what do you propose to replace these time-honoured phrases,

Poskett?   Snod looked at him as if he was a First Year who had

forgotten his pencil case.

Geoffrey unrolled the paper and cleared his throat.  I have taken the

liberty of re-writing our battle-cry and, if you care to listen, it will only

take two minutes to appraise you all of my new draft.

Taking a liberty just about sums it up, whispered a Sports master,

who, having been outside all morning in a howling gale, was naturally

fairly ravenous and just wanted the discourse to be concluded asap.

He couldn’t have cared less about vocabulary, unless it was an

unparliamentary variety on the pitch and then, unless it had been his

personal utterance, he noticed it very much and usually inflicted penalties

of runs around the circumference of the field, the number of circuits directly

relating to the grade of linguistic objectionality.

Spotted Dick Wikimeet London 2005.jpg

Spotted Dick! Snod agonised.  The blasted boys will descend on it like

locusts in the First Sitting.  Would locusts eat sponge puddings?  This

thought troubled him, so that he barely heard Poskett begin his big sell.

It’s to the tune Old Suttonford, the  choirmaster enthused.  He held his

tuning fork to his ear and began to sing:

Our loving saint we’ve come to venerate

once reached the parts of Albion’s coast none else

would ever care to circumnavigate

and of our links to him we proudly boast.

Should our awards go into the minus,

we can always call on dear Birinus.

He blesses our results and should we slip

down league tables, he saves our sinking ship.

All laud and honour be to thee our saint

and may our praise to thee be never faint…

The lunch bell rang and woke several masters.

Nigel Milford-Haven automatically lifted his Teachers’

Planner and register from the floor.

Snod thundered:  The bell is for me; not you lot.  I will

determine when this lesson- er-meeting is over.

Nigel blushed.

The thing is, Snod spoke decisively.  Apart from the fact that

the scansion leaves a lot to be desired, may I say that I happen

to like archaic language.  This wasn’t a question.  It gives us a sense

of tradition.  Poskett, the whole ditty is riddled with ancient second

person pronoun forms and Latinate polysyllabic verbs, to boot.  It

would be even more challenging for those parents whose education-if

we could term their studies such- took place post-Seventies. Who

nowadays has a concept of veneration?

The only Albion the masses- he did not say ‘plebs’-recognise

is a football team from Coatbridge.

And ‘Sinking ship’ I find a cliched metaphor unworthy of this school.

Poskett’s head seemed to disappear into the ghastly non-sartorial

collar space where a tie should have been.

(Snod blamed this fashion faux pas entirely on David Cameron and Nick


And, since society was making inroads into the basic standards for which

St Birinus stood, the Acting Head showed a little mercy, not entirely

blaming the choirmaster for all of Britain’s ills.

Let’s put it to the vote, he declared.  Who prefers this version?

Nigel felt obliged to raise his hand feebly, out of misplaced loyalty, since

he had discussed the re-write with Geoffrey on their holiday in early

December.  He looked around furtively.  No one else had voted.

Snod looked at him in the same way that Captain Mainwaring regarded

Pike.  Only he did not say, Stupid boy!  At least not aloud.

While most of the others gently stampeded out of the staffroom, all

Poskett could do was to direct his crumpled manuscript toward the bin

in the corner.  And, at least his face was minimally saved, as the scrunched

missile met its target in one smooth and accurate trajectory.

The Sports Master, who had been impeded in his exit by a scrum, observed

this impressive hand eye co-ordination and invited him to take part in a

staff/ pupil basketball game in aid of Anacondas in Adversity.

But Geoffrey was too drained to make a commitment.