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There’s always something! grouched Augustus Snodbury, as his trouser

button ricocheted across the study.  He had just finished lunch and knew

that his reflux would be problematic after a rather large portion of Spotted

Dick and custard, or ‘cow’s turd’ as the boys always called it.

Usually he would just have thrown the trousers away.  How a grown man

with a respectable degree could claim to be unable to sew on a button had

been beyond Diana, his erstwhile lover.

Now he was skulking in his personal loo while his PA, Virginia Fisher-Giles,

took out her emergency repair kit  to achieve closure.  She had already

repulsed several anxious members of staff, who had thought there was a

window of opportunity for them to bend the Acting Head’s proverbial before

afternoon lessons commenced.  She referred them to a important meeting

that would be taking place with the new Head and used all the duplicitous

skills and terminal inexactitudes that she had practised over the years.

The coast is clear! she hissed and draped the mended garment over the

back of his desk chair.  However, just at that moment, an enthusiastic Nigel

Milford-Haven, having checked the timing on the appointments sheet Sello-

taped to the study door, barged in with a proposition.  He had knocked on

the PA’s door, but she hadn’t answered.

Nigel was treated to a vision of Mr Snodbury, in his Gieves and Hawkes boxer

shorts, trying to insert a pale and rather hairy limb into a trouser leg, looking

for all the world like a heron. Gus almost lost his balance, along with his temper.

Nigel was also observant enough to note a slim ankle encased in a seamed

stocking as it disappeared round the door, into the adjoining office.

Women's Missi® CUBAN HEEL SEAMED STOCKINGS Sexy 1940's Contrast Seamer Fashion

Sorry! the Junior master stammered and scarpered.

He had been going to invite Snod to a House barbecue which was supposed to

show staff gratitude for the old boy’s having stood in the gap, taken the helm,

or having put his thumb in the dyke.  Nigel’s fatal mistake had been

improvisation; Snod’s had been that he hadn’t pulled out a plum.

It had suddenly occurred to Nigel that he could include the New Head, creating

an opportunity to kill two birds with one invitation, as it were.  It would be an

informal chance for everyone to get to know each other.

Nigel should have realised that initiative was one of the features that was

definitely contraindicated at any level in a school.  It might have been one of

the reasons that his application had been rejected.  Loose cannons not

appreciated, he could hear the panel agree, but still he did not learn: a

worrying trait in any teacher.

Now a bucketful of tact and mature reflection was needed to help him deal

with the overwhelming moral confusion which threatened to de-stabilise his

afternoon lessons and, indeed, the rest of his life.

Mr Snodbury had toppled from his pedestal and, like Humpty Dumpty, had had a

great fall. At least in Nigel’s estimation.  He might never be re-constructed and

so Nigel tiptoed down the corridor, as if walking on eggshells, his world


Shell-shocked, he gazed at a framed 1978 whole school photo, with a relatively

youthful and considerably lighter Mr Snodbury sitting on the front row, legs

splayed.  How have the Mighty fallen! Nigel said to himself.  Or is it ‘has’?

Suddenly he felt a hand being slapped on his shoulder and he turned round,

jolted him from his reverie.

So, you’re the favourite to win the end of term Teacher Talent Competition, I


Crivvens! as the comic book characters of Nigel’s youth used to exclaim.  It

was the new Head, who had arrived slightly early for the meeting.

Take me to your leader! he quipped, revealing his future management style.

Yes, sir! Nigel buckled, feeling like one of the pupils.  He hadn’t the heart to

challenge He Who Must Henceforth Be Obeyed for his lack of a visible Visitor’s

Pass. The owner of the voice didn’t look very like the public perception of a

mass murderer.  And surely anyone intent on entry would just shoot out

the locks and would laugh to scorn any man of woman born?  Wearing a

plastic card on a string for defence purposes was a bit like hoping Birnam

Wood would never come to Dunsinane, or that a condom was foolproof.

But it had been agreed at the last Friday meeting that one could never be

too careful and any member of staff could, and should, ask for ID.  He

thought about calling in at the office to collect a laminated ‘approved

stranger‘ pass, but then thought better of it.

If there was any sign of danger Nigel would sacrifice himself to save his

students- at least most of them.  But maybe not John Boothroyd-Smythe.

No, maybe not him.  He had that look of having been untimely ripped from

his mother’s womb.

He was just the sort of child who would be behind a moving grove.

Lay on, Macduff! the newly-appointed quasi-jovial Head encouraged.  And

so, Nigel re-traced his steps up the corridor and knocked on Virginia’s door,

which was very ostensibly ajar.