Can you imagine the comments Shakespeare might have made on his
pupils’ chapbooks, or whatever they wrote on? Nigel was warming to his
theme, but Snod was noting something down in his staff planner.
Do you know, he said, not apropos of the current subject, I have noticed
that for every packet of Custard Creams in this staffroom, there are two
packets of Bourbons? It is simply not good enough and I intend to note
it in the comments box regarding the kitchen staff appraisal.
He ate the biscuit in one bite and, showing that he had been listening
in the way that teachers through the ages can monitor situations while
filling in their crossword, or scanning the latest hot racing tip, he added:
The Bard may not have used red ink, but he would have dipped his quill in
vitriol, no doubt. He was the master of the put-down, after all.
‘You scullion! You rampallion! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe’. That
used to be one of my favourite quotations. It used to quieten the Lower School
rather well. Another good one was : ‘Methinks’st thou art a general offence
and every man should beat thee.’
He took a sip of stewed tea. Just the way he liked it.
Nigel’s smile faded. But we are not permitted to write such comments now,
or to make threats, he reminded himself, as much as his colleague.
More’s the pity-no! said Snodbury, reaching for a Jammie Dodger, which didn’t
feature highly in his list of favourites. The goo tended to stick in his dentures.
The heart shape in the middle was unmanly, he thought. Nevertheless..
On a scale of 1-5, Nigel might have to rate Snod as a 1 for Pastoral Care.
He could hardly vouch for him by writing on his appraisal form:
Every wretch, pining and pale before,
Beholding him, plucks courage from his looks:
A largess universal like the sun
His liberal eye doth give to every one..
Maybe it would be more honest to pen:
a candle, the better burnt out.
But what if Snodbury were to write on his:
You botcher’s apprentice or You shallow vassal?
Maybe they could prop each other up and Snod could write
something like the following against his rugby coaching:
A sweeter and lovelier gentleman,
Framed in the prodigality of nature,
Young, valiant, wise, and no doubt right royal,
The spacious world cannot again afford.
Snod stood up first and, collecting his weary pile of paperwork, made
as if to leave the staffroom.
Next Friday, periods 2 and 3 all right for you, Milford-Haven?
Nigel couldn’t see the point in him being assessed by someone so old in
tooth and claw. With a heavy heart he noted down his nemesis in his
As Snod opened the door, he turned on his heel and in an oracular voice
he addressed the empty (save for Nigel) staffroom:
They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,
But bear-like I must fight the course.
Amen, replied Nigel, deeply affected, and added, under his breath,
lest the staffroom be bugged, something which he felt was personally
O limed soul, that struggling to be free
Art more engaged!
And taking the last Garibaldi, he took up his burden of marking, like Christian
before he had passed through the wicker gate and, through the staffroom,
he took his solitary way.