Athos, Blackberry, Cloak app, curriculum frameworks, D'Artagnan, danse macabre, Machiavelli, management skills, model railway, Mt Athos, musketeer, oversea recruitment, Ring of Gyges, Sforzas, Sissinghurst, Stainer Crucifixion, telegram from Queen, White Garden
Augustus Snodbury, Acting Head of St Birinus’ Middle School, was on
his way to a Leadership Course for Heads, which sought to promote
excellence in Independent Education. Virginia, his PA, thankfully was
He yawned. He was going to have to endure lengthy sessions on
curriculum frameworks, public exams, charitable status, oversea
recruitment, admissions and pointers on how to inform parental
decisions. Scarily, he had just thought that one informed the fee-payers
and then sat back to wait for the fireworks.
You didn’t even get a nice pub lunch any more. A ‘working lunch‘
was provided, with curly edged sandwiches and carafes of lukewarm
tap water. Appetising, not. He needed something stronger in the
beverage line to face the ordeal.
Why, oh why could he not simply disappear into a chintzy wing armchair
in the staffroom until his lump sum came through?
As for this Blackberry thing, he could never get the hang of it. His digits were
too podgy to hit the keys precisely. What he needed was one of those Cloak
apps that would screen his doings from all and sundry. Failing that, the Ring
of Gyges would come in handy.
Soon the absent Head would have to make a decision as to whether he
would be returning to duties, or not.
If the Head decided to take early retirement on the grounds of health, that
would mean that Snod’s present temporary position would have to be
They’d probably get some idiot like Poskett applying- a man who couldn’t make
his beat clear to a bunch of trebles, let alone stage manage St Birinus with its
daily issues that would have challenged Machiavelli, or a whole family of
For the honour of the establishment, Snod might have to engage in a duel
with the likes of the inefficient choirmaster. He could envisage swords drawn
before dawn, with Milford-Haven as his ‘second.’ He nostalgically returned to
his days in the school fencing club.
As a boy, his nickname had been D’Artagnan. Now he wondered if it should be
amended to Athos. Nothing to do with Mount Athos, though he did live a rather
monkish life. No, it was the name of the musketeer who was apparently immune
to romance. Certainly, he shared some characteristics with him, to wit: only
allowing minions to speak in emergencies.
But there was always a danger in over-extending analogies, especially with the
literally-minded. It was a fault whose influence could be readily demonstrated
in some exam responses.
No, Poskett should stick to his Stainer Crucifixions and other safe options.
Virginia was now on a clear stretch of dual carriageway, so she tried to initiate
How was your Easter break? Did you manage to have some time off?
Um- yes, we-eh-I mean, Drusilla and I went down to Kent for a couple of
He did not mention his father’s death.
Oh, such a nice part of the world, enthused Virginia. I love Sissinghurst. You
know, The White Garden? Do you like gardening?
Snod thought about this for a minute or two: I wouldn’t mind pottering
around an allotment, if I had the time. It would be even better if it had a
Ha! Men and their sheds! she laughed.
Snod didn’t really know what she meant, but felt duty-bound to reciprocate
the interest shown.
What did you do, eh, Virginia? He concentrated very hard on awaiting her
reply, to distract himself from a sheer black nylon knee which was
progressively being shown to advantage as her skirt rode up when she
depressed the clutch.
Oh, I just went to see my sister and the kids.
He hated the colloquialism. ‘Children‘- he much preferred that collective noun
with its connotations of obedience, innocence and wonder. He liked those who
were fast bowlers, good at declining Latin verbs and who comprehended
inflections and he was slightly fond of those who respected the model railway
layout and who didn’t knock the carriages off the track. The rest could.. Mind
you, Dru had been a child once and he had missed out on her childhood.
Whose fault had that been? Actually, the carpet fitter’s, in all probability.
If only his Valentine card and proposal had not gone between the carpet
and the underlay all those years ago.
But, those old embers had burnt out. He and Diana were good friends now,
but that was it. He hadn’t been stirred by a woman until… .That knee- very
So, I take it you didn’t go to Sissinghurst then?
Ah, yes. I mean no. Not this time. We are going to take our aunt there next
time we visit her at her nursing home.
Oh, bless. How old is she?
About a hundred.
Wow! She’ll get a telegram from the Queen. You’ll probably have the
longevity genes too.
Not necessarily, Snod replied. You see, she’s not really our aunt. It’s a
Oh, do tell. I love stories. Especially ones about skeletons in people’s family
cupboards. We’ve all got them.
Really? said Snod, encouraged that he wasn’t the only one.
Virginia slowed down so that she could concentrate and laughed:
Do take them out and let them have a danse macabre. And then she
patted his knee. I’m all ears.
No, you’re all woman, he thought. Well, recently there’s been a lot
happening, especially since Drusilla came out of the woodwork, so to speak..
And though Snod was to learn about leadership, he could certainly have
taken a leaf out of Virginia’s book of management skills. He was putty in
her hands. And that was even with both of her hands being firmly on his
He spilled the beans..