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(Image: NASA)

Boothroyd-Smythe and Peabrain Minor had actually

impressed Mr Augustus Snodbury with their results in

their latest Latin ink exercise.

He walked into St Birinus Middle’s staff-room and bumped

into Nigel Milford-Haven, whose countenance was somewhat

crestfallen, since he seemed to have  been issued, via his

pigeon-hole, with a dreaded luminous pink notification that

he had a cover lesson after break.

It wasn’t fair.  He had a bit of a sore throat.  Whatever member

of staff had phoned in on this inauspicious morning simply

couldn’t feel  worse than he did at that precise moment.

What ho, old boy!  I have just received the equivalent of some

gravitational waves which have issued from those two infamous

black holes in 4C, boomed Gus.

Nigel looked puzzled and he frankly wished to avoid such an

encounter, as once the old buffoon revved up, there would be

little chance of being able to seize upon one of the scarce, but

ever-popular chocolate Hob-Nobs on the staff refreshment


To wit, that this is a cataclysmic event, only to be celebrated in

greater style by the University of Glasgow, after its global contribution

to astrophysics and cosmology.

Nigel still looked puzzled.

I’m afraid that you have lost me, sir.

Ahh, if all of us in the learned profession were to switch on our educational

detectors, then we would possibly be able to receive signals, whose dimension

might be the equivalent of a trillionth trillion of an atom.

Education is a project which can seem fruitless.  It can appear a thankless

task for decades. We must remain ever-vigilant and note the slightest

pulsation of a neuron!  Posterity may depend upon it.

 Today I rejoice that I have tuned into the mysterious workings of

the juvenile brain.

A ripple passed through the staff-room, as one or two of the older

members of staff who were familiar with the overly metaphorical style

of The Senior Master lowered their newspapers for a nanosecond, in

order to make an infinitesimal response.  This reaction might have

registered with Nigel, if he had not been utterly consumed by the

shattering paper communication whose imperative had shredded any

hope that he had harboured for a respite period, after teaching his least

favourite class of the day.

Now he would never have time to sort out quelque chose for Valentine’s Day.

Drusilla would be so disappointed in him.

But, hold on!  That pink paper was not a cover slip.  It bore an embossed

depiction of a Cupid, or a cherub.  Was this some sort of a trick?

Snod took the missive from The Junior Master’s trembling hand.

Excuse me, but I think this has been delivered to the wrong pigeon-hole.

It is clearly addressed to me.

Like a prestitidigateur, he conveyed it to the inner pocket of his Harris

Tweed jacket, with aplomb and surprisingly little sign of embarrassment.

Goodness only knew what company it would keep in the fluff-lined depths

of such a recess. The last time Gus had emptied his breast pocket he had

found a confiscated note from 1977 which bore a fading priapic drawing

and the Classical legend: Snod cloacum est!

Nigel experienced a wave of subtle emotion- the same feeling that he had

attempted to explain to his English class:  Ambivalence.  His mental universe

seemed to be imploding.  When it came to affairs of the heart, he felt like

Philae hitching a lift on a comet.  He hoped that he would not come unstuck,

but decided that his best bet was to hang on for dear life and share the

determined course of one who seemed to be making progress in that

other-worldly realm.

Hale–Bopp seen from Croatia in 1997

(Hale-Bopp seen from Croatia, 1997)