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Augustus Snodbury, Senior Master at St Birinus’ Middle School,

wandered into the corner of the staffroom that was designated

the staff ‘kitchen’.   It was there that he usually prepared his

solitary breakfast, while the more diligent members of his profession

were singing tunelessly at Assembly.

He opened the fridge.  There was the usual array of plastic tubs

brought in by female members of staff, containing strange salads

and supermarket sushi.  He was looking for milk.  Nothing weird and

wonderful, such as the rice, soya or coconut variety, but something

white that had drained out of an udder in some English rural hamlet.

He was just about to place a third Shredded Wheat into his personal

cereal bowl with its calligraphic flourish: Dotheboys Hall, when he heard

the voice of his conscience- ie/ the dulcet tones of Virginia Fisher-Giles,

School Secretary and personal PA to the new Headmaster:

Two would be lovely, but three would be too much.

Now that seemed familiar.

Dead poets society.jpg

Of course, that was exactly the sentiment he felt regarding school

terms.  After the Moveable Feast, it used to be all downhill: sitting under

a Sycamore tree with a couple of scholarship acolytes, ‘analysing’ poetry,

while actually studying Wisden; coaching the Junior Team on a Wednesday

afternoon to the mellow thwack of willow on leather.  The most strenuous

activity might have been manning the bottle stall at the school fete…

Ah, now he remembered.  It was Botham who had appeared on that

advertisement for Shredded Wheat.  A big, beefy guy like him was a good

endorser of the product.  Snod felt that personally he had more in common

with Nigel Hawthorne, who had also recommended the carbohydrate-ridden

wheaten rectangles, in a scholarly capacity on one of the other memorable

promotions.  No doubt the health freaks on the staff would blame his madness

and purple urination- Nigel’s (not his) on the evils of gluten.

This wretched newcomer of a Headmaster had Ideas.  Snod sensed the danger

of that approach.  When the children were finished with their summer exams

and were on school trips, that was usually the time for the Senior Masters to

take a little well-earned snooze in the somewhat lumpy chintz armchairs in

the Senior Masters’ Common Room.  Some had even been known to smoke a

pipe, or study racing tips.  Not now.  Oh no!  Not now.

More meetings had been arranged on the school calendar.  Curricular

Development, they called it.  More ****** worksheets to be prepared

for the following year.

Snod had never used a worksheet in his entire career.  He was a chalk

and talk man and somehow vital information had been driven into the

resistant skulls of his protegees as effectively and ruthlessly as if it

had been planted there by Jethro Tull’s innovative seed drill.

It was all too much.  No rest for the wicked.

He pressed the Weetabixes flat with the back of a spoon which still had

someone’s National Service number engraved on its bowl.  He managed

to squash the third pillow-shaped nibble down, before dowsing it in

white sugar and then drowning it in full-fat Gold Top.

Nigel Milford-Haven breezed in singing ‘O what a Beautiful Morning! 

Assembly had ended a few minutes early as Mr Poskett had played

the recessional molto allegro.

Snod gave him one of those looks which he had perfected over the

decades, which was wont to silence the most ebullient pupil.

Not feeling so good, sir?  Nigel was complicit with the mythic alibi that

all absentee and truanting Senior Masters employed, should their

absence be noted.

Snod stepped aside with a heavy deliberation that would have

characterised one of the heavier dinosaurs.  Nigel opened the fridge

and took out some rice milk.

So, it was his after all.  ******typical!  Gus inwardly commented.  ‘Milksop

came to his mind.  However, he tried to dismiss that term as he knew that

Nigel might end up as his son-in-law.  O tempora!  O mores!  That

unsweetened muesli rubbish was his too, it seemed.

The election will soon be upon us, Nigel pressed on, ignoring Snod’s

reticence.  Nick Clegg’s on a diet.

I suppose he doesn’t want anyone asking: Does he take sugar?  (Snod

was referring to a Radio 4 programme from the past.  He laughed at

his own joke.  He always did.)

An annoying habit, thought Nigel daringly.

Well, the Junior Master continued, the boys are setting up some

hustings and we will need to borrow the staffroom guillotine to cut the

ballot papers.  We have created various parties for them to feel affiliated

to and they are electing representatives.  John Boothroyd- Smythe is

wearing a rosette which represents The Monster Raving Loony Party. 

Who will you vote for, sir?

The Populares Party.  He sprayed Nigel with some cereal.

The Popular Party?  Not like you, sir.  Is that Farage and Co?

No, that sounds more like you.  Same name for a start.  I refer to the

party whose principles the Gracchi supported.  Whoever controlled the

grain supply held control over the city of Rome.   Grain collected as

revenue would be sold at a subsidised rate.  Like keeping the price of

Weetabix reasonably low so that a working man could have three,

should he so desire.  And I do.

Oh, I see.  Politics has always been about Corn Laws and public ire has

always been aroused if the -I was going to say ‘plebs’-  Can I say ‘plebs’?-

Nigel appealed to the Senior Master for clarification and permission-

if…if the people have to eat brioche, or whatever they were offered

instead of bread.

Something like that, muttered Snod.  And don’t let that Boothroyd child

stir up insurrection.  Tell him from me that there is still a guillotine in the

staffroom and I won’t be using it for trimming flyers.


And what do you think of Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Snodbury? asked the new

French mistress, provocatively.  She reached into the fridge and took out

a Vache Qui Rit to unpeel at break, which she took in the Modern

Languages base room.  That department always kept themselves to


Vache qui rit.png

Snod looked pertinently at the red disc in her hand.  No laughing matter,

he opined and, bolting the last fibrous spoonful, he dumped the un-rinsed

bowl in the staff sink and headed for his first lesson, which he was

preparing even as he walked the length of the corridor.

Slow burn‘ was something Ed Balls had worryingly claimed to be a master of,

but three Weetabix was truly the slow energy release that all in authority

needed to perform their challenging roles, whether that be PM, or plain

Senior Master.  And, as for third terms- yes, they should be abolished.

Snod would certainly make his mark against that one.