Battle of the Sexes, Black Sea, boy bishops, Caitlyn Jenner, Classical Civilisation, classroom management, Daniel, Daphnis and Chloe, gender transformation, Juno, Jupiter, Kardashians, Metamorphoses, Misrule, Naso, Ovid, Potiphar's wife
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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
(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 term. He 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.