Okay. I know. I know. I abandoned Augustus Snodbury, erstwhile
Senior Master of St Birinus’ Middle School. He was at the altar alongside
Virginia Fisher- Gyles and both were sharing a service with Murgatroyd-
Syylk and Diana ( renewal of wedding vows for the latter) and vestal
virgins, Nigel Milford- Haven and the chaste- but not very chased, it must
be admitted – Drusilla (Gus and Diana’s daughter and Murgatroyd’s
adopted daughter.) All very complicated, n’est-ce-pas?
However, that is the modern family for you.
Gus, having been a Classics teacher at one time, could have expanded on
that subject ad nauseam – and frequently did so. He loved to read and
re-read Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars. He and ‘Sweaty Tony’
could have told you that there was nothing new under the sun.
Gus felt equally qualified to write a book called The Playground, as
the Classical author had done. Now that retirement had been achieved,
he intended to have a go.
It was one way to have an alibi for sitting in the study alone for long
periods of time, playing Battleship online.
Virginia said that she could bring out a monograph on The Physical Defects
of Men. A very big monograph.
Mehercule! Did that mean that she wanted to share the study?
Married life had brought him face-to-face with the central question of
Suetonius’ works: how does one cope with absolute power? Gus now felt
sure that he was coming to a good understanding of the answer and it
was something along the lines of promptly saying : Yes, dear, to any
assertion, request or remark.
Once Gus had had two very prestigious jobs- Senior Master and (Acting)
Deputy Head. Neither had involved much work. They were posts
comparable to Suetonius’ positions as flamen sacerdotalis and pontifex
Now our newlywed had a very stressful post as Husband. If he wasn’t
careful, he might develop a nervous stammer, like Claudius. Derek
Jacobi- now wasn’t he marvellous…? So, indeed, was that actor who
played Wilfred Owen in Regeneration. Owen had a stammer. Wasn’t
that evidence of Post Traumatic Stress? Virginia wouldn’t develop one,
that was for sure. And she didn’t even have the mitigation of PMT – not
at her time of life… Maybe she had Post Menopausal Something- Else?
But she was not the one who was feeling the pressure… What was her
excuse? He felt like asking her to reflect on her mis-demeanors in some
kind of detention. She could write an essay, perhaps…
Gus! Could you take the bin out?
I could, he thought rebelliously. But will I? Ha! I could say
that I don’t want to be pedantic, but, in fact, I very much do.
Gus! Did you hear me?
Ita vero. On my way. Yes, dear!
Dumb insolence got him n…n.. n… nowhere.
At least he didn’t have to write the Christmas card this year. Wives
seemed to take on that mantle. Virginia had bought about six packs of
In the past, he had only sent one – to ‘Aunt Augusta’ (God Rest her Soul.)
His Christmas shopping had been confined to a bottle of Dewlap Gin for the
Discerning Grandmother. It hadn’t been boutique, but had always been
acceptable to the old bird. He wondered if he should buy a bottle for old
times’ sake. The stresses of connubial bliss were driving him in that