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Mr Augustus Snodbury, Senior Master at St Birinus Middle, opened the parental

letter which he had insisted should be sent.

Mum will send you an e-mail, sir, Peregrine Willcox Junior had simpered.

Paper notification is what I require, child, Snod underlined.  I don’t trust

new-fangled technology for record-keeping.

Blimey! thought Peregrine-or something to that effect.

And so it was that a letter, curiously addressed in childish,

round cursive script, landed on the form desk.  There was no

accompanying apple, with, or without a resident worm.

Once the bell had rung and the boys had filed out to Assembly,

Snod took a closer look.  You will have detected a reckless dismissal

of his need to attend such ritualistic gatherings.

At least the missive did not terminate in the infamous:


My Mother.

So… Mrs W was in the travel business.  Might be good for an upgrade.

He had heard of teachers who had taught boys who had become pilots.

Such students frequently proved to be good contacts when a favour was

required from the airlines.  He was short on such sources of beneficence.

But, no-this mother was complaining about the Gove effect.  She could not

comprehend why she could not take her offspring on holiday during

term time.

(OGL image)

Nothing much gets done in the last couple of weeks, she observed.

In your opinion, thought Snod, but in the case of your bratlet, nothing

much gets done all term.

Mrs W went on to recognise that she could face a fine of £60 per day.

She made the point that she would be saving that amount (and more)

by travelling off-peak.  She did not fear the Birnam Wood of prosecution,

nor the Dunsinane of incarceration.  She seemed to fear no man of woman


Aha! reflected Snod.  Never underestimate the power of metaphor.  A wood

did come towards Dunsinane!

He anticipated the appeal to Human Rights and was not disappointed.

She quoted the CEO of a Cornish tourist board who advocated family

enrichment weeks.  Cornwall- that was where that wretched Milford-Haven

hailed from.  The Junior Master didn’t seem to have been enriched by his

upbringing down that neck of the woods. Perhaps it was the radon that

had affected him.

This woman seemed to think that Snod should turn up to teach whether

her child was in absentia or not.  She suggested that staggering the school

holidays might be a good idea.

I would be the one who would be staggering, fumed Snod.  I’m practically

a stretcher case by the end of June as it is.  When am I expected to re-

charge my batteries?  I will not utilise the ghastly phrases about losing my

mojo, or va-va-voom.  I just need to vamoose.  Preferably for eight weeks.

This out-dated long summer break is tied to our agrarian past, continued Mrs

W.  It might have made sense when children were needed to bring in the

harvest.  Things have moved on.

I wouldn’t agree with you there, Snod scowled, though mollified that she

had used a Latin based adjective.  The only interest the children of today

have in land management is an unhealthy curiosity in scything, as

demonstrated in Poldark.  It would do them a lot of good to bring in the

hay, whether the sun shone, or not.

He suddenly remembered how he had assisted the groundsman in his

school  holidays, when no one had collected him and he had not been

invited home with any chums.  He had felt abandoned like the youthful

Scrooge in Dickens’ heart-rending tale.

The summer holidays had stretched out forever.  How bitter some of his

experiences had been back then.

Suddenly he felt quite benign.  A snatch of that awful song from a

Disney film came to his mind.  Let it go!  It will be one fewer ink

exercise to mark.  He, or she, who pays the piper calls the tune.  And,

yes, Mrs W pays the school fees, whether her son attends or not.  It is

just a pity that a greater proportion of that payment doesn’t filter down

to the rats who, as in my case, are contemplating leaving the sinking

ship of Education anyway.

And was he a piper then?  He had no intention of leading his students

into a Rip van Winkle cavern.  Maybe he did induce sleep in some, especially

on a Monday morning.  That would be his drone.  Piper…drone!  Puns had

always amused him.

No, the boy could go.  What did he care?

Felicitously, Snod didn’t have to worry about what to teach in Period


The woman had jolted his memory of how successful a source

Browning’s poem could be.  Now where was that copy of Narrative Verse

through the Ages?

Maybe his tolerance and compliance might be good for an upgrade after

all.  Hamelin– he didn’t think he had been there.  Maybe he and Virginia

could take a river cruise down the Weser?  He wondered if that might tie in

with the consumption of some fine German wines.  He would ask Mrs W for


No problem, Mr Snodbury.  We can arrange a Hanseatic cruise for you with

a two day Schlachte Embankment break.  Tell you what- we will throw in a

complimentary Musicians of Bremen beer garden experience at no extra

charge, in view of all that you have done for Peregrine since last year.

It wasn’t exactly Moselle and Riesling, but at least that was some of

the school hols sorted.