The New Headmaster had summoned Nigel
Milford-Haven, Junior Master, into his study.
I have to warn you that it has been observed that you
have been taking coffee into the classroom. I would
regard that as unprofessional and I am not alone.
The new superhead at Ryde on The Isle of Wight, Dr
Rory Fox, has said virtually the same thing and has
been lauded and applauded for his zero tolerance of
Nigel had thought that he was going to be commended
on his recent results. He wondered why staff were
always treated as if they were the miscreants. It was so
unfair. Mr Snodbury had been sticking his head in his
cupboard for years, in order to have a quick, boozy
inhalation to see him through the final double lesson on
a Friday afternoon. No one had ever summoned him
into the study for a disciplinary de-briefing. And Snod
had never been known to tidy that aforementioned cupboard.
There were Banda-ed worksheets in there which dated from
the early Seventies. When Nigel had commented that he could
have sworn that he smelt alcohol, Snod had explained that it
was Methylated Spirit, for reprographic purposes.
Sorry, sir. I won’t let it happen again.
Good. Now, can you tell that Boothroyd-Smythe lout
in your form that his trousers are too tight and that it will
affect his adult sperm production? You may not get a
Christmas card from him, but we can’t be too draconian with
such upstarts. He and his fertility will thank you for it in
No, you will when intake numbers are swelled by
future generations of Boothroyd-Smythe progeny,
Nigel inwardly replied.
What we don’t require is fraternisation with the enemy.
Theirs is not to reason why.
Nigel reflected that he wouldn’t have expected a seasonal
greeting from any of his form anyway. The blighters appeared
to despise him.
Furthermore, staff should not accept any tributes of a value greater
than a Christmas card. I have instructed Mrs Fisher-Gyles that
any bottles directed to the Staffroom should be brought to my
office and I will see to it that they are stockpiled safely for post-
Very good, sir. There was no danger of Nigel being festooned
with festive tokens in any case. And yet Snod would, no doubt,
amass a heap of bottle-shaped offerings beneath his pigeon-hole,
starting from the first day of December. O magnum mysterium!
How did the old boy do it?
You see, Milford-Haven, what we do not need is misplaced
niceness. It is the enemy of goodness, as Dr Fox has so
pithily pronounced. I want you to re-inforce that boys should
sit parallel to their desks, with their eyes forward and they
should have their basic learning kits with them. We need to
expect great things from them.
Nigel blushed. Absolutely, sir. He dismissed an embarrassing
memory of having had to borrow a pencil sharpener from
Boothroyd-Smythe, in the previous lesson.
You see, we mustn’t be complacent. Even Independent Schools
can exhibit poverty of spirit. We want to enrich even the
least likely lad and give Value Added. Oh, and by the way: Merry
Virginia, the School Secretary spotted Nigel’s disconsolation
as he exited through her adjoining office.
Oh, cheer up, Nigel. That’s just how he is. He’ll be a
lot more amenable after The Governing Body’s Sherry Party,
you’ll see. By the way, Mrs Boothroyd-Smythe left this for you.
It isn’t ticking, so I think it might be something acceptable.
I’ll keep it under my desk for you till after school. I’ve got
two glasses in my drawer, so we can toast the end of term
and raise a glass to zero tolerance!
And suddenly Nigel felt a little less fearful at these glad tidings
and went about his Herodian task with a gladdened heart,
though his spirit had been a little dinted. The Angel had
blessed and encouraged him by her promise of things to
come and so he found the winter rage emanating from the
sod froze his page-like blood less coldly.