acolyte, aleatoric, Arms and the Man, Avant-Garde music, Battle of Little Bighorn, Beast of Bolsover, Black Rod, Custer's Last Stand, Denis Skinner, front bench, Get out of Jail Free, House of Commons, John Cage, nursery pudding, probationary teacher, Raina Petkoff, Scarlett O'Hara, SNP, Spotted Dick
It was the end of the week and the St Birinus’ Middle Staff Meeting had rolled
around once more, with terrifying regularity. The gathering was a
sacrosanct feature on the school calendar.
Mr Augustus Snodbury, Senior Master – ‘Snod‘ to all and sundry-made his
slightly tardy arrival. Some bitchily said this was in order to achieve a
grand entrance, but Scarlett O’Hara he was not, nor even Raina from
Arms and the Man, though he DID know the original source of Shaw’s
play’s title, being a Classicist.
He knocked the door peremptorily, provoking Mr Geoffrey Poskett to
move his lithe frame which was appuyant against the staffroom exit.
Who does he think he is? Black Rod? The Head of Music fulminated
silently. Geoffrey had conveniently positioned himself so as to be
able to leg it over to lunch while there was a possibility of Spotted
Dick still being on the menu.
Snod directed a crushing glance in his direction and slid past him,
negotiating his path towards his favourite seat in the front bench,
correction: front row, from which he preferred to challenge The Head
Teacher, pretty much in the sarcastic manner of Dennis Skinner, MP,
in The House of Commons.
But, mehercule! Qu’est-ce-que-se-passe ici?
He whom the Junior Masters had nick-named The Beast of Bolsover II
had been supplanted. A probationary Minister, nay, Master was
ensconced in Snod’s favourite armchair.
I think you’ll find that I had reserved that particular place, Snod
menaced, looking for the evidence of his battered and displaced
I didn’t realise that places could be reserved, replied the impertinent
Don’t take that particular SNP tone with me, young sir, Snod
answered. I inherited this chair three decades ago, on the demise
of its previous incumbent, my own House Master, Mr Stickland. It is
directly in the line of fire and consequently only for occupants of a
rebellious nature. You, sir, have not enough experience to be able to
sabotage at the appropriate level. Half the Junior Masters are toerags
Kindly withdraw that pejorative remark, Mr Snodbury, commanded The
He was also looking at the clock and was itching to conclude proceedings
so as to leg it to the refectory as fast as was decently possible. Nursery
puddings-yum! He wasn’t allowed them at home.
Snod threw his hands in the air. All right, sir. The other half aren’t.
The Headmaster gave up any idea of ingesting the last of the
It wasn’t that Snod sought to emulate Dennis Skinner, except in that
old curmudgeon’s conscientious record for best attendance and so on.
However, Snod and the MP shared an appreciation of the importance of
Custard- Freudian slip!– Custer and his Last Stand.
Early bath, Mr Snodbury! warned The Headmaster. The Battle of Little
Bighorn had not even commenced.
Everyone sniggered. The usurper, however, moved to the seat behind,
chiefly because he required the support of The Senior Master in a little
matter in which a parent had complained about the distinct lack of prep
that he had recently set and marked.
Boys to be discussed…? The Headmaster wearily inquired.
Boothroyd-Smythe, a Form Master suggested.
Everyone groaned. The Supplanter sweated under his collar. He knew
he was in for it.
Can you comment on this homework matter, Mr Snodbury? The
Certainly, sir. It is a matter of ‘when posh boys are in trouble they seek
to sack the servants.’
Resolved then? Let’s go to lunch.
Collective stomachs rumbled gratefully. Mr Poskett heard nuances of
an aleatoric symphony of Avant-Garde music. But then he had just been
teaching John Cage to an unresponsive bunch, so the similarity sprung
Thereafter, The Junior Master gave place to his elder and better as
he knew that his career at St Birinus’ was entirely dependent on his
ability to extract a Get Out of Jail Free card from Mr Augustus Snodbury,
Senior Master. And with this revelation, he joined the ranks of