Mr Snodbury opened his classroom door and permitted his class to make
What on earth is that racket next door? Milford-Haven should be on
top of that lot and should start as he means to go on, he fretted.
It was true: Snod never let up on discipline till his charges had
left university, married, sprogged and then bumped into him in B&Q,
usually with their current female in tow. He would, as likely as not,
raise his hat to their enamorata and would greet his erstwhile pupil
with, Ah, dear boy, how are you?
This served to disguise the fact that he didn’t have a clue as to their
identity, but vaguely recognised their physiognomy and was making an
attempt at fraternity, if not egality.
The off-duty master would then feel trapped in the sugar soap and wire
wool aisle and would have to rehearse a charade of interrogating the poor
young man as to his career and its success, when all the grumpy old so-and-
so really wanted to do was to buy a sink plunger and beat a hasty retreat.
As to the unwitting victim, who had merely dropped by to purchase a bag of
charcoal for his barbecue, he immediately shrank to his pre-adolescent self
and was mesmerised by the silencing of his whining, trolley-transported
toddler by a Snodbury glare, perfected over decades and instantly recalled
by its father, who had suffered from a minor form of post-traumatic stress
disorder for a number of years, after having received the treatment himself.
How did he do that? he wondered, as he observed his muted offspring. I’ve
been trying to shut him up all day. I suppose it is because Snod is a
Yes, he was and still is an adept at manipulating youths.
Silence! he bellowed as the class next door made their chaotic way to
assembly. Titters and sniggers ceased and the smiles on their individual
faces appeared to have frozen instantly. Their teacher emerged rather
sheepishly, carrying a plastic bag and stammered: I believe this is your hat,
Mr Snodbury, sir. You left it at the Monteverdi concert and your-ah! Drusilla,
or should I say, Miss Fotheringay-Syylk?…
Here Gus interjected, Drusilla, you say..?
Er, yes, she asked me to deliver it to you.
Nigel Milford-Haven could not help but notice how red Snodbury’s
Brunelleschi dome of a head had become over the summer. Was it
down to sunburn, or rising blood presure now that Snod was back in
Oh, thank you very much, Milford-Haven. (He almost said Caligula) Very
decent of you to bring it back.
No worries, Sir. The minute Nigel uttered these words, he knew that
they were inappropriate regarding tenor and formality level. His eyes
nervously followed his disappearing class.
You’d better run after that bunch and see that they get to Assembly
on time, Snod advised.
Nigel was just about to march down the corridor, trying to look
authoritative- and failing, as usual. He was actually very worried
indeed. He felt certain that Gus would notice that the label inside
the brim read seven and a quarter, when the original had been a
seven and five eighths. Weak though Nigel was at Maths, he knew that
these were not the same measure. He could also see that Snod’s head
had not shrunk in the holidays. He felt semi-paralysed.
What is it , boy? snapped Gus. Can’t you see that we are having a
conversation? He adored rhetorical questions, though they could be
risky. Run along to Assembly!
Please, sir. I have a note from my mother which asks if I can be excused
Assembly as I am a Zoroastrian.
Indeed? Snod appraised the situation at lightning speed. Well, I’d get there
super quick, as Zoroastrians are known to be very keen on convocations and,
in fact, put those of their own kind who failed to attend to a rather grisly and
drawn out death.
So saying, he tore the note into sixteen pieces, took the plastic bag from
Milford-Haven and frogmarched the unfortunate B-S down the corridor, by
the ear, while humming Who Would True Valour see…?
It was number 576, his favourite hymn and he hoped it would be the one
chosen by Mr Geoffrey Poskett, Choirmaster, for the start of term.
Nigel scurried after him like a tug in the wake of The Fighting Temeraire.
Later, at break, he read a report from the journal, Science, that
revealed that whooping cranes found that the presence of older,
more experienced birds during migration, assisted and ameliorated
the performance of the more juvenile members of the flock.
He decided to look to the elder statesman for example and direction
in his personal pilgrimage through the Purgatory of the present
academic term. He just hoped that the hat would fit and Snod would