agape, Bradford on Avon, C S Lewis, centaur, Cubist painting, Evac chair, Galahad, Inkling, James May, Jeremy Clarkson, jousting, Lancelot, Lothario, Monteverdi, Mr Tumnus, petrol head, Stannah stairlift, Surprised By Joy, The Four Loves, Thora Hird, Top Gear
Nigel Milford-Haven was rushing down the stairs which led to the school
vestibule when he almost bumped into Augustus Snodbury, Senior Master,
who was struggling with two suitcases on the landing. Nigel was just about
to volunteer to sherpa at least one of them, since Old Snod seemed to be
moving in a curiously painful fashion, but then the erstwhile boy scout noticed
the damsel in distress and offered to take her arm and hold her crutch while
she zoomed down the flight on one of those institutional Evac chairs, like a
marginally more attractive Thora Hird going in the opposite direction to her
usual demonstration of a Stannah Stairlift.
He thankfully failed to observe Augustus’ clutching of his own bruised
and battered crotch as he descended the stairwell like a Cubist painting
You know, I think we’ve met, the Junior Master said thoughtfully when he
reached the bottom and unstrapped Dru from the safety belt, in a curiously
intimate gesture of assistance.
Yes, it was at the joint schools’ evensong, Drusilla replied, holding onto
the polished banister with both hands, now that they were free. I teach
at St Vitus’.
Mr Milford-Haven, my daughter, Drusilla.
Nigel nearly lost his footing on the last step. Daughter! He hadn’t known
that Snod was a married man. Oh, maybe he wasn’t! Nigel knew that he,
himself, was rather conventional when it came to that sort of thing. But who
would have guessed that Old Snod had hidden fires. Maybe he was a
Nigel had always viewed Gus as a kind of non-Christian Inkling, if that wasn’t
an oxymoron. He would ask Matron, Fount of All Information, if she had any
inkling about it. (He was rather pleased with that joke.)
Hmm, Snod as Lothario! Mind you, he was a law unto himself. He had been
known to skip Assembly and Hymn Practices when the Spirit did not move him,
so any level of debauchery was theoretically possible.
Now that he was able to glimpse the woman, she did bear a resemblance
around the jawline. Did women have jowls? Would it have mattered to C S
Lewis if they did? He would probably have still married anyone who needed
a British passport, out of sheer agape.
But it was one of the stronger Four Loves than agape that struck the youthful
form teacher. He felt Surprised By Joy.
Enchante, he said in his best Franglais. You do seem to have been in the
wars somewhat. I trust that the injury is not too severe? He shook her hand
vigorously, forgetting that her equilibrium was not yet steady.
He glanced at Snod, but decided to say nothing about the old boy’s
Let me carry your cases out to your car, sir, he offered in his new-found role
as Sir Galahad. You look as if someone has kicked you in the..
Yes, all right, Milford-Haven, Snod interrupted, nodding towards Dru, to remind
Nigel that he was in the presence of a female. Sir Galahad and Lancelot
would not have been employing such non-courtly language, so Snod wasn’t
about to award his daughter as jousting prize to a Knight with No Garter of
Having safely stowed Snod behind his own steering-wheel, like Polonius behind
an arras, Nigel carefully took Dru’s crutches from her and placed them in the
Going anywhere nice then? he enquired, according to the textbook of chat-up
We are going to my mother’s house in Bradford-upon-Avon, she volunteered.
It’s to be a nice surprise.
Well, that is a surprise indeed, said Nigel, who was completely on the ball
now that the term was over. You see, I’m going to Bath with Mr Poskett,
the choirmaster, to take part in a Monteverdi workshop for countertenors.
Perhaps you could all come to the final concert on the Saturday? He felt in
his pocket and took out a crumpled flyer.
Drusilla accepted it and couldn’t help thinking that her father should join
the class as his voice had been elevated by a couple of octaves after the
attack on his crown jewels. However, she suppressed this amusing thought.
Can’t say it’s my cup of tea, said Gus, winding down the car window and
signalling his eagerness to depart.
Having helped Dru to swivel her fairly attractive legs into the small car, Nigel
mimed a telephone call as Gus reversed.
Call me, he shouted enthusiastically. The number of the music school is on
the back of the leaflet.
He leapt out of reach of a spray of gravel as Snod pretended to be James May,
or Jeremy Clarkson. He was showing off to his daughter, who actually
detested Top Gear and all it stood for. She preferred centaurs to petrol
I’m surprised that he’s lasted more than a term here, said Snod, a shade
ungraciously, given the logistical assistance that they had just been given.
But Dru had always found the counter tenor voice very alluring.
What is he called? she asked airily. I didn’t catch his name.
Secretly he reminded her of Mr Tumnus. Bless!