Gisela Boothroyd-Smythe was becoming desperate. It was only the first week
of the holidays and she had been unable to persuade her pre-pubescent son,
John, to get up in the morning. She had called through the door of his
bedroom: Don’t be so monosyllabic! She had just about heard the reply:
Today she had heard nothing and was becoming concerned.
She had come across an article which stated that a million young people-
and some not so young- remained holed up in their bedrooms, sometimes
for decades at a time. They slept by day and stayed up all night, in a
withdrawn state known as HIKIKOMORI.
Gisela was afraid that John might be lapsing into such a condition. She
checked the article again. It commented that the youngsters often
exhibited infantile behaviour and could have violent outbursts. But, as
the French would say, for teenagers: C’est normal!
Was she worrying inordinately?
The Japanese feared loss of face, she’d read. Maybe if the children didn’t
do well in their exams, they and their parents, would experience SEKENTEI.
This might lead to AMAE, a kind of extreme dependence. In bad cases,
sufferers would have to be re-introduced to society through a halfway house,
or IBASHO. But when she had tried to discuss her worries with her soon-to-
be ex-husband, he had only scoffed: I’m already sekentei of you and the
children. Why do you think I left?
She hadn’t known that he took an interest in global culture.
It would be all too easy to become an over-pushy parent, like so many others
who sent their offspring to St Birinus’. It was just that she didn’t want John to
end up a NEET-(Not in Education, Training or Employment.)
It was so difficult as a virtually single parent and she was trying to be both
mother and father to her children, during the divorce period. They, of course,
were running rings round them both.
She returned to the article. Goodness, in Japan some parents approached an
agency which sent round hired, not assassins exactly, but strong persuaders,
who basically broke down the doors and hauled the hermits out, gave them a
severe dressing down and then took them away to a dormitory.
Well, she had already done something similar by sending him to boarding
school. But what was she to do in the holidays?
Maybe she should phone the mother of those twin boys who were in John’s
class- the ones with the ridiculously over-pretentious names. They seemed
quite nice and couldn’t help their parents’ labelling choices. A rose by any
other name would smell as sweet.
But they might not want to come round as John often teased his peers. This
verb was a euphemism and she knew it.
Just at that moment, with Gisela’s hand hovering over her mobile, her daughter,
Juniper sauntered into the kitchen, opened the fridge door and proceeded to
drink pure orange juice straight from the carton.
Gisela refrained from expressing her outrage and casually asked: When did
you last see John? She felt a role reversal, as if she was a blue satin-suited,
ringleted child being asked by a committee of Roundheads for information as
to the whereabouts of his Cavalier father. Wasn’t there a famous painting
of this subject? Her mind began to wander through Art History. Wasn’t it in
The Walker Art Gallery?
Ha! I was wondering when you would notice that little darling was missing,
sneered the evil Juniper. I yarn-bombed his door handle and connected it to
his window catch, so he can’t get out of his room. I’m writing it up for my
Street Art Project and it can go into my portfolio for A2. I’m calling it
‘Prisoners For Art.’
Mum! groaned a shaky voice from behind the door. Let me out! I’m hungry!
Clearly he had finished all the food stashes under his bed.
Juniper! You’re grounded!
But Juniper was already halfway down the street, having performed a Djokovic
slide on the kitchen tiles which continued down the laminated hallway, until she
laughed and ran out of the front door.
Drusilla had managed to reach the A&E Department of Suttonford’s nearest
hospital. She suspected that she had badly sprained her ankle by tripping
over that wretched girl Juniper Boothroyd-Smythe’s street art installation.
It would have to have happened on the very first day of Dru’s holidays- before
she had even had time to vacate her flat and head off to her mother’s house
She was sitting very uncomfortably on the metal seating, which was obviously
meant to be indestructible, but which was the most excruciating furniture to
accommodate any injured person. There was a queue for X-rays and she had
read all the magazines, which dated from 2008.
There was a diversion as an older man entered, completely doubled up and
clutching himself in a Michael Jackson manner, without doing a Moonwalk.
Heavens to Murgatroyd! It was her father, the prep schoolmaster, Augustus
Snodbury. Relations had been cool between them since an unsuccessful family
reunion at The Longs Arms in Lower Wraxall.
She couldn’t prevent herself from hobbling over and clutching his arm.
What on earth has happened to you? she asked solicitously.
I was bowled a googly by that wretched John Boothroyd-Smythe at our final
cricket practice, he groaned. It got me in the goolies.
(Drusilla blanched. It was not an expression that was in common parlance
at St Vitus’ School for the Academically Gifted Girl. That was not to say that
its meaning was not fully understood. Indeed, English Language studies
encouraged the tracing of lexical etymology, so she fancied that she recalled
that this particular word evolved from the Hindi: a small ball or bullet.)
It was the only time that I was not wearing my Woodworm Cricket Box, he
continued. I’d packed it away as it is the start of the holidays tomorrow.
Drusilla did not know whether to feel concerned, or merely glad that this
ailing organ of generation had fulfilled its destiny many years ago, when
she had been conceived. She did not think that the accident was of any
life-shattering import now.
However, in the next few hours, once two ice packs had been applied-
actually three, as Drusilla had one applied to her foot also-they managed to
raise the emotional temperature in a positive way and applied their new-
found goodwill as a Balm of Gilead, or Mentholatum Deep-Heat salve, to
the emotional scars which had been mutually inflicted on their last meeting.
They deliberated on a plan to break the ice that had formed since Easter
between Gus and Diana, Drusilla’s mother.
By the time that they had been confirmed as Walking Wounded, but not on
Heightened Alert, nor suffering from Aggravated Mayhem, they had hit on
Plan B. They shared a taxi to St Birinus Middle School, where Bursary staff
had enough fuel for gossip to last them the duration of the holidays and to
ignite a bigger conflagration than had had to be extinguished at The Head’s
A woman going up to Snod’s room! What could be going on?
St Vitus’ School for the Academically-Gifted Girl.
Martinmas Term Report
Juniper’s art project was imaginative and evidenced a global awareness of current textile instillation work. Perhaps she should be aware that yarn bombing/ graffiti knitting is still considered a criminal offence and can invite prosecution. Covering the local gold Olympian commemorative post box with a crotcheted balaclava incorporating the slogan Go! Pussy Riot! did not bring glory to the school, unfortunately. Perhaps public art is not the forum for her underage protest. Her domestic, interior piece Deadly Knitshade was worthy of an A*, but I fear that she may have plagiarised the title.
The Dean and Chapter would be grateful if she removed the string of knitted women bishops from the cathedral railings. Point taken.
Drusilla Fotheringay-Syylk MA, M.Phil
Tiger-Lily Brewer-Mead Dec 2012
Tiger’s multi-screenprints of Pooh-Bah the pug with thermal imaging format made for a really hot art project this half-term and owed much to her visit to the Warhol exhibition. The suspended Agnes C poo-bags around the frame reminded us of the importance of the anti-toxocariasis campaign and issues related to wealth and waste. I was grateful that the aforementioned receptacles were empty, from a Health and Safety perspective, so full marks for awareness of these matters. Her justification of the potential medium was well-grounded in the traditions of Gilbert & George and Chris Ofili. If she were to dabble in the elephantine variety, she would need to consider much larger containers and antiseptic handwash.
This was an improvement on her unmade bed installation from last half term, which we considered rather derivative, and grammatically unsound, given that the title Everyone I have ever had a Sleepover With ended in a preposition and that is something up with which we do not put.
Scheherezade Percival Martinmas term 2012
Sherry’s narratives show urgency and her use of the cliff-hanger device makes each story seem of vital importance, creating suspense and keen anticipation in her reader. Her moral fable: Nemesis House, about a couple who lust after a bigger and better home, only to be gazumped in a very public and humiliating way, could be seen to be a tale for our times. Other vignettes with an ethical point included Role Reversal, the sad account of a man whose wife never cooked and who failed to be on the short list in a cookery competition. Less successful was the rather didactic portrayal of the ageing masseuse who failed to attract a television cameraman. It seemed a trifle far-fetched and somewhat untrue to life. If Sherry is prepared to murder her darlings, so to speak, and to write what she knows, from her own experience, then we will perhaps have a future Man Booker winner to add to our alumnae.