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
cabinet of curiosities, Calypso Carol, Carmen, Daily Mail, Easter Island, Financial Times, Hawaiian shirt, huzun, Istanbul, Moai, Monteverdi, Nobel Prize, Orhan Pamuk, oxymoron, Panama hat, Rolls Royce, Royal Yacht, Simon Schama, Singer sewing machine, The Longs Arms, Weekend Magazine
I always feel guilty when I destroy the barista’s carefully created fern on the
top of my coffee, but, then, one has to drink the frothy arrangement.
Goodness knows, one has paid enough for it, especially at Costamuchamoulah
must-seen cafe. At least The Financial Times Weekend magazine can be
appropriated from the public wall rack, to compensate. The Yummies always
go for The Daily Mail, I find.
Oh, the ecstasy of finding Simon Schama and Orhan Pamuk in the same article.
I loved the novel Istanbul and was fascinated by the concept of huzun, a state
of collective memory.
Pamuk has gathered a series of objects which he stores and displays in
cabinets and these items resonate with memory traces of significant moments
in his characters’ lives. Once these memories are categorised, they can be
stored and owned.
I wondered if I could rent or purchase a building in Suttonford where I could
collect objects connected with the narrative of my characters’ lives?
Re-winding some of my posts, I could imagine the first vitrines exhibiting a
crystal ball which belonged to Sonia, the medium who lives in Royalist House.
An empty bottle of Dewlap’s Gin for the Discerning Grandmother would
represent Sonia’s neighbour, Ginevra. The latter’s e-novel based on a meeting
of geriatric hearts and minds could be referred to by a mobility scooter, which,
of course, would take up a large glass box on its own- something like the one
which protected HM’s Rolls Royce on The Royal Yacht, Britannia.
Doomed romance would be conveyed by the original Valentine, complete with
its proposal of marriage (never received) which the youthful Augustus
Snodbury slid under the nubile lax mistress, Diana Fotheringay’s door all those
troubled years ago. The diamond ring which fell down the cracks in the
floorboards at The Longs Arms, but which was recovered, though not without
embarrassment, would also speak volumes to the tender-hearted.
Perhaps there could be an unmade bed which still belongs to Tiger-Lily and a
string of knitted women bishops which was removed from the cathedral
railings in Wintoncester, having been yarn-bombed there by Juniper, the
increasingly famous, gender-fluid, street graffiti artist.
The town’s canine lovers might donate a diamante pug collar belonging to
Pooh-Bah and the ever-present risk of animal vandalism might be portrayed
by the photograph of the priceless Pre-Moai figure from Easter Island, which
Andy, the Border Terrier so thoroughly digested.
Academic life could be shown by the Hawaiian shirt which one of the
Willoughby twins wore when he played the solo marimba in The Calypso Carol
at the end of term concert at St Birinus, and which provoked a caution
regarding the upholding of school rules regarding uniform.
Staying on a musical theme, the programme notes for the Monteverdi concert
in Bath which so riveted Drusilla, Diana and Gus would be interesting to study
in future years, as the cast list so clearly displayed Geoffrey Poskett and Nigel
Milford- Haven, of whom much more has to be said in future posts.
Snod’s battered Panama hat, which he sat on inadvertently at the
aforementioned concert and which Nigel effectively ruined by wearing it
when painting his mother’s bathroom ceiling, should be juxtaposed to set
up a dialogue with the alternative headgear which Nigel’s mother fished out
of her black sack and gave to him to wear to the opera, Carmen. Placed side
by side, the museum-goer should be able to detect that this hat which Nigel,
or Caligula as he is affectionately called by the children in his care, is going to
return duplicitously to his older colleague in lieu of the original- oh, drat, I’ve
given away the plot..- will be seen to be a size seven and a quarter, and not
the seven and three quarters which Snod has always sported on his rather
large dome of a head.
History, and family history at that, will be brought to life by the inclusion of a
Singer sewing machine which belonged to Jean Waddell, Carrie’s maternal
I am excited by the prospect of making the intangible tangible. Oxymoron
creates such dynamic tension!
Thank you for the idea, Orhan. I won’t expect a Nobel Prize for it as it would
be akin to plagiarism, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
(To understand the exophoric references and intertextuality of this entry,
please refer to previous posts!)
Geoffrey Poskett, Choirmaster of St Birinus Middle School and Nigel-Milford
Haven, Junior Master, had thoroughly enjoyed the Summer Music Workshop
and its final concert in Bath. They launched themselves into the next
section of their holidays, humming Monterverdi.
It was true that they had shared a score in the concert, a fact not
unobserved by the keen-eyed Drusilla Fotheringay. Her vision was more
acute than her discernment, however. She had left the concert with
a misapprehension, after the interval, which, incidentally, has been
thought by some to be the highlight of such entertainments.
Her interpretation of social relationships had been skewed by her minute
observation of the close interaction of the two singers. In fact, their
perceived intimacy had been owing to Geoffrey’s pencil having been blunt
and therefore his having to borrow Nigel’s obsessively sharpened HB, to
reduce a semibreve by one beat, as roundly instructed.
Nigel had forgotten his score in his haste to get a position on the front
row of the male participants, where there was some jockeying between
the tenors and countertenors as to precedence.
Divas are found in both sexes, he reflected.
And so the two teachers had shared and halved their logistical problems.
Geoffrey’s heart had skipped a beat when he had spotted that very nice
Housemistress from St Vitus’ School for the Academically Gifted Girl in the
audience. He had been so discomfited that he had whispered an enquiry
to Nigel and had been glared at by the conductor, who, by-the-by, was
NOT John Eliot Gardiner, nor would ever be.
Geoffrey then forgot to reduce the semibreve, earning himself a raised
eyebrow which was the equivalent of a bad order mark.
What was she doing in Bath?
He was surprised to see Nigel delivering some glasses of over-priced
rose to the Housemistress and her friends at the intermission.
No, surely not!
There was that old duffer, Augustus Snodbury, the Senior Master. He
was the bane of Geoffrey’s life, as he was prone to correct the spelling
on the Choirmaster’s End of Term reports, quibbling over the
orthographical differences between practice as a noun and practise as a
Snodbury had also made it his peculiar habit to snaffle the last Bourbon
biscuit in the staffroom, when he ought to have known that Geoffrey was
especially fond of them and looked forward to a couple with his coffee at
The weird thing was that the Housemistress seemed to share the same
jawline as the reprehensible old…Geoffrey restrained himself at this point.
He would ask Nigel about her later on in the pub. (They were permitted to
have some post-concert refreshments in the local hostelry, as they had
had to deny themselves the fruit of the vine for the sake of musical
They were expected to be tucked up in their bunks by eleven thirty, as
if they were still at school- which, in a way, they were.
Being institutionalised, they hardly noticed the restriction to their civil
liberties. So, no rioting in the town square for them.
Yes, I seem to have blown it, Nigel said to himself as he drove down to
Cornwall to check on his peevish mother.
Drusilla hadn’t waited for the second half of the programme.
Mind you, she may very well have left something in the oven.
And so he ruminated over the events.
Maybe he could earn some Brownie points as he had rescued Snod’s
rather flattened Panama hat, which he had left behind at the ill-fated
concert. He would return it with a flourish. If its true owner didn’t mind,
the abandoned headgear might come in useful to screen Nigel’s only just
noticed balding area from the intense rays of the Cornish sun.
He hoped his mother would enjoy The St Endellion Festival. He hoped to
meet up with Geoffrey there in a few days’ time.
Acis and Galatea, Beatus Vir, Fourth Book of Madrigals, Full Monteverdi, I Fagiolini, Iford Manor, John La Bouchardière, Lower Wraxall, Monteverdi, Panama hat, Peto Gardens, The Full Monty, The Longs Arms
Augustus Snodbury, Senior Master at St Birinus’ School, near Suttonford,
shuffled his fundament in the uncomfortable chairs of the music school
concert. Actually there was nothing unergonomic about the seating; he had
regrettably sat down on his Panama hat.
Monteverdi wasn’t really his milieu, but Drusilla, his daughter, had been
very keen to attend the Saturday night, end-of-course, culminatory
celebration of this weekly workshop, ever since she had discovered the
crumpled flyer in her handbag. You will recall, Dear Reader, that Nigel
Milford-haven had given it to her when he had assisted with her luggage,
when they had left the school grounds at the end of term.
Gus’ surprise visit to the mother of his child had been a sudden whim of
Drusilla’s and, over all, the shock hadn’t killed Diana. She had arranged a
mattress on the floor in her spare room and the disastrous previous
planned reconciliation in Lower Wraxall had been largely forgotten. In fact,
Snod had treated both females to some rather tasty lunches in The Longs
Arms, in recompence for hospitality received. They had enjoyed visiting the
Peto gardens at Iford Manor, but Snod’s holiday budget did not run to three
al fresco tickets for Acis and Galatea at £81 a throw. Anyway, Diana would
have been more interested in a musical on aphids, followed by a cup of tea.
At the interval, a somewhat refreshed-looking Nigel Milford-Haven, Junior
Master, bounced up to the party of three and asked if they had enjoyed the
His tutelary cobwebs had been blown away in the rehearsals throughout the
week and he had forged a deeper association with Geoffrey Poskett, the school
choirmaster,who had picked up some very useful tips on conducting during the
Nigel was so glad that Geoffrey had invited him to take part. It prevented
him from having to devote too much of his precious school holidays to visiting
his elderly and rather demanding mother in Cornwall.
Nigel was keen to impress Drusilla, so he solicitously brought her a rather
dispiriting glass of unchilled rose and left her mother to the ministrations
of her erstwhile lover.
You are going to adore the second half of the evening, he enthused. We
have managed to erect-he blushed slightly and flushed a slightly darker
tone than the wine he had just produced –a screen. We can show part of The
Full Monteverdi film by John La Bouchardiere.
Oh, Drusilla brightened. Is that the jolly one where the hunky guys strip off?
Eh, no.. I think you are confusing it with a rather more downmarket
He could read her disappointment. No, it is based on the Fourth Book of
Madrigals. It is sung by I Fagiolini..
I might have known, thought Dru. He seems over-friendly with that Geoffrey
chap. She had spotted them sharing a score. Her Italian wasn’t up to much,
but she could hazard an educated guess as to the meaning of the group’s title
and she didn’t think it had anything to do with beef olives, or a type of haricot.
Each singer is paired with an actor, Nigel explained, and the film reveals their
intense failing relationships. At the end, all they can do is to contemplate
their lonely lives. He felt that the entire teaching profession would be able to
relate to this juxtaposition of high art and real life.
A pity, decided Drusilla. He isn’t too bad-looking. It’s always the same.
Excuse me, she said, handing Nigel the empty glass. I must find my mother. I
think we may have left something in the oven.
It was one of the least creative excuses he had heard and, believe me, he
had heard quite a few over the years-mostly over non-produced prep. He took
it that his own non-existent love life was set to continue.
Can I take that glass for you? Suddenly Poskett was at his side. The film is
about to start.
The three empty chairs-empty except for a battered Panama- hinted at a
failed courtship ritual. The singers began to weave the mournful agonies of
their complicated webs of interaction.