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It was Dressing Up Day– an end-of-term concession to the spirit of Misrule

and a nod to boy bishops and topsy-turvy mayhem at St Birinus Middle

School.  Although a challenge to discipline, it generated some charitable

donations, for the boys who dressed up had to pay into funds for Curs

in Crisis.

Sir! Sir! A forest of hands waved at Mr Milford-Haven as he came into the

form room to take the register.

Sir! Guess who Boothroyd-Smythe is meant to be?!

Nigel paused and immediately the class sank into their seats, as one.

He was under the impression that his training session on classroom

management must have delivered results, but then he saw the

shadowy face of Senior Master, Mr Augustus Snodbury, grimacing

through the glass porthole of the classroom.

Sir! They were quieter now, but still fizzing with exuberance.

Boothroyd-Smythe simpered.  He was wearing some kind of white

satin all-in-one.  Nigel didn’t know how to describe it to himself.  Had

the boy raided his mother’s lingerie drawer?  He averted his gaze and

knew that he was being sucked into a black hole.

Sir, don’t you know who Caitlyn Jenner is?

Nigel couldn’t say that he did.

What about the Kardashians?  Sir!

Nigel wondered if they were assault rifles. Settle down! 

He handed Boothroyd-Smythe a Wet One.

Wipe that lipstick muck off your mouth before Assembly! he ordered.

Aw, sir!

Post-Assembly, the first period was Class. Civ. Mr Snodbury had already

selected a passage from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. He’d show the little




Translate the following lines- after Teiresias experienced a ‘strange’

transformation. (You wouldn’t be allowed to use that adjective nowadays,

he thought.)

The boys were fully engaged by the argument between Jupiter and Juno

as to who had the best time in bed- men or women. You had to hand it to

Old Snod- he picked some racy passages for discussion and yet the parents

couldn’t complain, as they had all signed up to paying a fortune for their

offspring’s Classical Education. Some parents had blushed in the school

yard when confessing that the previous evening’s prep on Daphnis and

Chloe had taken them out of their comfort zones,

and they didn’t mean their grammatical limitations re/ the subjunctive.

You see, clarified Snod, Teiresias had experienced love from both angles,

having been changed into a woman for seven years.  He knew what it was to

cry when criticised.

(The latter jocularity went over their heads, but then Snod’s lessons

were for his own enjoyment as much as for theirs.)

Sir!  Did he change back then?

He did indeed.  Ita vero.


A glare! A hand went up.


How, sir?

He spotted the original two snakes that he had cudgelled when they were

in-ha!- congress and whacked them-thus!

And he banged the wooden blackboard pointer on the floor, startling

Young Fitzherbert, or Sherbert as he was known, which had been the

intended effect.

Pay attention! So, to conclude: what do we learn from all this gender


There’s nothing new under the sun, ventured Ingoldby-Pritchard,

uncertain that he had pulled the correct aphorism out of the metaphorical


At one level that will do, Snod graciously conceded. And who do you think

was right- Juno or Jupiter? His gaze fell upon Sherbert, who slightly leaked

into his lederhosen.

I’m afraid I wouldn’t like to say, sir.

…is the right answer.  Never, I repeat never come between a man and his

wife.  Life lesson Numero Uno.  Never side with one against the other. The

Battle of the Sexes will never be won.  Lesson Numero Duo.

Boothroyd-Smythe shuffled in his chair and looked at the clock.

The clock is for me-not you!  And, by way of revision for next week’s mini-

test, what should you do if manhandled by Potiphar’s wife, or any other

spoken-for woman?

(This was a reference to last week’s RS lesson on the insufferable goody

two shoes with the rainbow coat, Joseph.)

Flee, sir! they chorused.

That covered the Ethical assessment objectives for the termHe must

remember to note down in his planner the date on which they had been


Well, off your marks then!  Don’t be late for Mr Milford-Haven’s lesson, or he

will be within his rights to banish you into exile in a remote province on The

Black Sea – a fate suffered by Naso, or a poet also known as-?

Ovid, sir! they cheered.

Yes, the big-nosed one.

On the way out he confiscated Boothroyd-Smythe’s phone.  He was not

prepared to be photographed with the ridiculous boy in one of those inane

selfies-even if the boy did look remarkably like that Jenner person who was

all over the news like a rash.

The wretched boy could collect his property from the Bursary at close of play

and pay a fine toward Curs in Crisis.