”Northern Exile” ,
”Sacred and profane.”
” The unhappy valley ”
” St Martin’s ”
” Dieulouard. ”
”The joy of my youth.”
”Vale of tears.”
”A school of the Lord’s service.”
”Sean” said Miss J ”we are going to discuss how you keep the place clean”
”All right. Can I hire a cleaner?”
”Yes how about mine Mrs Jackson. 6 pounds an hour. Can you afford that?”
”Yes” he said. He was not that poor.
This old northern Englishwoman came around. Her name was Claire. She pronounced Claire as ”Cluu” and she said ”huu” for hair.
He left out money for her. She also ironed his shirts. He said not to bother with the guest bedroom as he never went there.
Sean hung out clothes to dry.
Sean remained in regular touch with chums in London and Oxford. He emailed and called frequently. His northern exile made him even more eager to contact them. People in the Thames Valley seemed to be having fun and he was missing out – too far away. He had to work on Saturday till lunchtime. The idea of getting down south for the weekend was therefore impractical.
Sean came to known Alexandra Bishop. Her name was apt as her grandfather had been a well known left wing prelate.
Alexandra had every left wing prejudice going. She was not an extremist but her self righteousness was tedious. She was forever blathering on about how so many people were fascist. Sean did not inflict his right wing views on her. He noticed that leftists were seldom shy about boring on their their opinions. Despite her tiresome left wingery she had her charms and was a fabulous conversationalist. Alexandra Bishop had a pale, mathematically round face. Her dark brown hair set it off. She usually wore black. At first Sean could not figure out whether she was nubile or not. Sean could not decide if he fancied her or not. Did her face not resemble a soft cheese? Then he saw her at a party one night and found her really hot.
Then one evening there was soiree. Alexandra was dolled up and wore a flattering dark dress. He found lasciviousness stirred in him. Tucked away in her aggressively left wing person was a pantherine sexuality.
”I went to a school that was big on performing arts. Public speaking and so on – that is my thing” she said. She had a very high opinion of herself and took her work very seriously indeed. ”Lesson planning is really important”, she announced.
Alexandra had a boyfriend named Jeff Powles. He had applied for Sean’s post and unfortunately Sean had got it. Powles had dodged a bullet there. Powles was a Mancunian with black hair, pale skin and small eyes. His forehead was very prominent and his nose curled upwards. He had a driving licence whereas she did not.He functioned as her chauffeur. Powles always dressed elegantly. Sean got the distinct impressionn that Alexandra wore the trousers in the relationship; and the strap-on.
Sean came to know Powles and found him most amiable.
”We need to set an exam for year 9”, said Murphy as he cleared his sinuses ”It is not rocket science.”
”Do we each set one ourselves?” Miss Cavanagh asked Mr Murphy.
”Yes according to what you have been teaching them then bring it to me for moderate” he said.
”Ok then” said Miss Cavanagh and made a note on her blackberry. She was Murphy’s golden girl. When Murphy had met her presumably he could not believe his luck. Her was a woman after his own heart. She had the same monomania for organisation and disregard of historical information. How had she got the job? She had not fluttered her eyelashes so much as her filofax.
”Make sure that the exam is strictly in accordance with the criteria set forth in the curriculum” said Murphy. Sean had not bothered to lance thereat.
Sean had developed dangerous habits of independent thought. He was going to have to unlearn these pronto if he was to survive in Amblefifth. He was unsure as to whether he could do this. He also believed in improvisation. A teacher needs to be a little reactive and not totally proactive. Things taken longer or shorter than anticipated. Sometimes many pupils are away. Sometimes an activity might be more successful and popular than foreseen. One needs to respond to the pupils’ needs.
The tutor group filed in. Sean saw Magnus holding a copy of Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. Magnus must have been studying that in English. Magnus would never open a book himself – not unless you put a gun to his head. Would Magnus appreciate this poem. ”Dull would he be of soul…” Sean Gallagher did not believe that Magnus cared much for prosody.
”Ah Magnus – have you read Composed Upon Westminster Bridge? It is a marvelous poem”
”Er… no… not all of it… I sort of … got to about the third line and then I got bored with it. It is about a bridge and bridges are boring” he droned. He had not managed to get all the way through a sonnet? It was 14 lines for Pete’s sake. When would the boy scale those heights? Why had he considered English A level at all?
ASSEMBLY. ANNOUNCING A NEW GIRL’S HOUSE
Fr Michael stood at the back of the gym ready to walk up the aisle. His more capable deputy head Mr Brown was beside him. 500 pupils sat on chair in their house groups. The teacher stood by the walls. Sean stood on the far side of the gym from Andy Murphy. He could see Murphy sniffling – his arms folded. Why was Murphy always so deeply uncomfortable? Fr Michael looked as though he would prefer to face the noose than address the pupils.
”From next year a new girl’s house will open. It will be called St Margaret Clitheroe’s House.”
Tittering erupted. The laughter spread from the older pupils and gradually rose to a mighty roar. Boys in particular were almost falling of their chairs. They were repeating a certain word then a phrase. Some of the staff struggled to contain themselves. It took them all their professionalism to do so. Sean had no professionalism. He also would like to be seen by the pupils to be a sport. He suddenly burst out laughing. The boys noticed and began to roar even more. They repeated the word ”clitoris” then they were saying ”clitoris house.”
”Um er excuse me” said Fr Michael feebly ”er… that was not… er an ….er… invitation for comments …er…”
Fr Michael looked thoroughly intimidated. His pasty grey face grew greyer and even more pasty. It took up to five minutes before order was restored. Of course it was Brown who took the lead – who stood up and hushed the hundreds with sheer force of personality. Fr Michael just stood there like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
Sean reflected poor Fr Michael – what an inept choice of name for the house. But Michael had probably never heard of a clit. He would not know what one was if it came up to him and slapped him in the face. No wonder Fr Michael dreaded assemblies.
Mrs Arrowsmith had to go and see him to tell him to drop the Clithero from the name. Just call it St Margaret’s.
Sean reflected that neither Brown nor Fr Michael were public school boys. The pupils disrespected them for many reasons. Brown had had a bit of an education knocked into him in an Edinburgh state school. Among the reasons the pupils looked down on these men were their provincial ways. Fr Michael had at least been to the city of dreaming spires. However, some of the pupils were so pig ignorant that they had not heard of Oxford.
EMILY HAS NEWS.
One mid morning break Sean was sipping his coffee. The Griffin bounded up to him beaming. ”I have news!” she said elatedly.
”WHat’s that?” he was all ears.
”I am engaged!”
”What? Wow. Fantastic.”
”Yes, I got engaged. Bob proposed this weekend.”
Sean was thinking she had only known him for two months. Reckless?
”Well done you. My heartiest felicitations.” This woman was crazier than he had previously realised.
”We were walking on the beach by Robin Hood’s Bay and he suddenly went down on one knee and asked me. I wanted to say ‘shit!’ because I was stunned but I said no I am not going to say that so I said Yes. ”
”Marvellous. How come you are not wearing the ring?”
”I do not want all the students to know.”
Sean spoke to Lisa about it. ”You know the Griffin is engaged?”
”Yes, I heard” Lisa lisped. ”It is wonderful but I think it might be a bit soon – a bit reckless.”
”The Griffin is not known for her circumspection.”
”You are right. She is a nice person but I am surprised anyone even considered her to marry. I do not mean to be cruel but she is a bit… daft” said Lisa.
Sean suppressed a smirk. Lisa was not quite as daft as the Griffin. This, for once, was the kettle calling the pot black.
Sean recalled three years earlier. The Griffin had got blind drunk and assaulated an ambulance man who came to take her to get her stomach pumped. She had then been rusticated from Oxford for the rest of term. The Griffin had gone to see her boyfriend Paul in the middle of the night and brandished a knife. Paul had then called the police. The person on the phone was asking Paul his name, address and favourite colour when he had had to shout that there was a maniac hacking at his door with a knife and if the police did not get their sharpish he was going to die. The police came and disarmed the Griffin who was then sectioned for a while. The Griffin spent some time in the Warneford – Oxford’s psychiatric hospital. It did not stop her getting a double first in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. As the saying goes the Warneford has more firsts than any other Oxford institution.
Sean wondered where the Griffin would be three years down the tracks. He was too kind to spill the beans on her time away from education.
Sean was delighted to be going to Buckingham for PGCE lectures. It was an excuse to be away from the valley. My God he needed it.
Sean got into casuals one Monday night and took a taxi to York. Patrick the white haired Basque driver picked him up. Sean address the Frenchman in English.
”Monsieur ca me plait rencontrer un anglais qui parle bien le francais.”
”Mais je suis irlandais.”
”Encore meilleure. To revert to English for a moment I speak English well because I came here even before you joined the EEC. I had a work visa for 3 months only. They wanted me out by winter. Anyway I married and Englishwoman. Got to stay here permanently. I founded a restaurant it was called La Maison Francaise. It did very well. We rented the property from the Church of England. They charged us a very high rent. I think it is wrong. A Christian organisation should not charge so much.”
”I suppose they would say they would say they need as much money as they can to spend on good works..”
”Yes but they do not spend much on good works. They spend it so the archbishop can live in the palace. These cathedrals look great but do they really need that to pray to Jesus? It is showing off”
Sean got out at York STation. He was delighted to board the choo choo – all paid for. He still had a young person;s railcard. He scoffed Burger King on the train. The two hour journey to London was blissful. How he loved trains. This was a clean and handsome one – so sleek. What a thrill to rush by the countryside. He saw a power station on either side of the tracks.
Getting out of the station at King’s Cross was Elysian. He was free! At last in London. He walked all the way to Kyrle’s flat in Marylebone.
They found out that Ken Clarke had lost the Tory leadership – again! They went to the pub to celebrate.
Sean got up early next morn and hurried to the station. He caught the train for Milton Keynes. Then he got a taxi to Buckingham. He was there in very good time. His sister had studied there years before. Sean was excited to be here because the chancellor of the university was Margaret Thatcher.
Sean quickly located the building. It was a former warehouse A caretaker let him in. Students from far flung places came along. These people were mostly aged 25 to 40. They were in casuals. People from schools all over England and even British schools abroad.
Professor began a talk. 50 or so people sat in a very large room. White painted walls. The fitted carpet was grey and very scratchy. Then prof put a question to the group
Which fool was going to be the first to put up his or her hand?
No Sean. He was voluble but on this occasion he kept his head below the parapet.
The other students on the course were a mixed bunch. They ranged from 22 to 50. Half were women and half were not. There were matronly types forever frowning, nervously smiling elfin girls, washed up obese dandruff ridden middle aged men, go getters from the City who were now out of the rat race…
The lectures were fun. It was also an education to remind himself what it was to be on the receiving end of eduation. What was it like to sit there listening to people? What engaged his interest? How fast should the lecturer move on? What activities woke them up? What about standing up and acting something out? Was it useful to see things on the screen or get handouts? Were instructions delivered lucidly?
All Sean had to do was show up to lectures for a few days. It seemed too easy.
Sean spent much time in the college bar. He thought of his sister who had spent time there. He chatted to a middle aged teacher who used to be an actress. Sean wondered if she might be an easy lay.
In the bar he saw a list of those who were permanently banned. They were Russian and Arab names.
Sean met Hannah Ritherwidge. He had not seen her since she was 16. Oddly she was even slimmer. She was the daughter of an Anglican prelate and heasmaster. However, she had lost her joie de vivre. Marriage to a teacher at Radley had done this to her. As he said farewell to her at the bar he kissed her paw. He wished he had ended up with her.
Sean also met MATTHEW GOLDIE SCOT. He seemed to have been chasing the dragon. He was 6’4” and wore a three piece double breasted dark blue pin striped suit and black handmade shoes complet with spats. There were 6 buttons on his cuffs. He wore an imperial colour. He blinked incessantly.
”I am the grand panjandrum of Trivandrum. I was raised by the Aborigines in the outback. I was born in Lesotho. My wife is a poetess. I did the education tripos at Cambridge. I have lectured at Oxford. I am a field marshall in the Territorial Army. I support Enoch Powell. My family were surgeons in India. We would go back to Edinburgh for university. We are an old India family – we were there when the capital was Calcutta. My great uncle was in the Gurkha’s his batman is still with him. Unhand me thou grey beard loon; I shall have you know my great aunt mildred once played badminton against the dean of Rochester’s goddaughter.”
Sean also met Nick Playfair – a boy he had known at Oxford. This Biology teacher had dense black tousled hair and pale skin. His thick glasses marked him out as a scientist but he was still very personable. Many scientists lack inter personal kills. Nick was also an ardent Christian.
Too defray costs one night he went to the library and watched Mrs Brown instead of boozing.
There was something very civilised about this place. Even the same brand of coffee tasted better.
Buckingham was a tiny university. It was the only private one in the United Kingdom. Sean perceived why his sister disliked it and dropped out. It was a lovely small town but very much a small town. It was to middle aged and bourgeois for an undergraduate. There was no cinema or nightclub. There was not railway station and many undergraduates did not have a driving licence.
The three days of respite from the sheer misery and angst of Amblefifth was just tonic that Sean needed.
WEEKLY MEETING WITH MURPHY.
Sean approached the dark wooden door. He placed his hand on the handle with the usual trepidation.
Sean recalled his chat with Murphy’s former colleague Marco. Sean had known Marco in his last school – in southern England. Marco had said ”Andy Murphy never smiles. No, that is not true. When a child was run over by a car and killed. He smiled then.”
”Sean” Murphy began sniffling, ”Your lesson plans are not detailed enough. It is not rocket science. They need to be longer. Detailed. Very detailed. You must stick to them exactly. There is no reason to go off script at all. Ever. You must keep to them absolutely rigidly. I will have order in this department!” he almost screamed.
”I see. Sorry.”
Sean had grown accustomed to never measuring up to Murphy’s exacting standards. Being verbally abused and demeaned by Murphy was par for the course.
Sean also had to write an appraisal of every lesson after he did it. The form said such a write up was ‘vital.’
Why did Murphy have it in for him?
EVENING IN THE CLASSROOM
After dinner one week night Sean went to his classroom to do lesson plans for the next day. He had been chatting to the Griffin at dinner.
The Griffin said ”Everyone knows Murphy is an arsehole. He is jealous because of our university. He went to a tacky, brick dust place. He cannot bully the rest of the department because they got here before him or the same time as him. He fancies the thong of Miss Cavanagh.”
”Too true” said Sean.
She came along and snogged him in the classroom.
Sean left – pleased that he had had that fillip. He had not snogged someone else’s fiancee before. He needed all the morale boosters he could get. The twin strikers of Murphy and Miss Cavanagh had been getting him down.
Sean would patrol the house on Friday evening. A bell would ring and the boys in 3rd, 4th and 5th forms would go to the study in the ground floor to do their homework. Sixth formers would be in their rooms upstairs. Sean would patrol with a list and see all were present.
Some pupils asked to go out to Mr George. Me George was a teacher who had made dyslexia his special study. Pupils could go to him and he would assist them with their homework.
Bernd Forst. This 6’4” poodle haired German was very companionable. Sean often spoke to him in German.
Wim Hoogstraaten. This boy was a slow witted progeny of two Belgians. He was brought up to speak his maternal French and not a word of his paternal Flemish. He was dead eyed but amiable. Sean conversed in French with him. The boy spoke English perfectly but was not much use at either French of English when it came to writing. He and Sean got along well. If only he had been in Sean’s tutor group.
Charles Ramsay. He was a rugby hero. When he was given and award in assembly he walked up like he man to receive it. Sean felt very jealous. Oh to be him. The boy was adulated by his peers. Sporting prowess was vaunted above all other achievements. He played for the county and also had a drop dead gorgeous girlfriend.
Brian Olver. He was house captain. He was likable and well behaved but not so well behaved that they others would dislike him.
There was the Spaniard Galian. He was grimed as usual and his odour was noxious. Sean found it galling and hard to credit that a sensible and good looking girl should be going out with this dwarvish mankist.
Some of these boys seemed to be Tim not nice but Grim.
Sean went to Geoffrey’s room. The Hong Konger said ”I know where most of the monks live but where do the monks who are married live?”
Geoffrey plainly did not know the first thing about Catholicism.
DOWN THE WHITE SWAN.
That Saturday evening Sean went to the white Swan. He wore a cream and green hooped Irish rugger jersey.
There at the bar stood the Griffin. For once she was not that sloshed. Standing right beside her was a young man of 6’4”. He had dark brown hair, glasses, a broad grin and a very healthily pink complexion. His teeth were perfect. She was leaning into him. He was clearly hers. What did such a desirable young man see in a deranged mut like the Griffin?
”Hi Sean – you must meet my fiance” said the Griffin proudly.
”Good evening – my name is Sean” he reached out his hand. Bob shook Sean’s hand vigorously. Sean instantly gauged Bob’s strength from the power of his grip.
”Hello my name’s Bob” he said in a mild Mancunian accent.
”I see. Well congratulations on getting engaged.”
”Oh thank you very much. She is very fond of you. We will probably invite you to the wedding. Looking at getting married in July.”
”I see. Well I am delighted to meet you at least. Pity you do not come over more often.”
”I know I would love to get out here to the dales every weekend but I am so busy with being a head of department. I am also in the Territorial Army – captain. I did a short service commission in the army when I finished school. One year in the army before Cambridge.”
”Fantastic wow. I never had what it took to join the army. So you reach Religious Studies do you?”
”Yes I do. Our A level is all about Hinduism though.”
”That must be enthralling. I want to read a bit of the Hindu scriptures.”
”Well it is heavy weather but fun once you get into it like”
”Oh I see”
”I was taught by a brahmin that is a big cheese in the Hindu community.”
HOWARD CHEMISTRY TEACHER
Mr Hogg was a tutor in St Olaf’s. This slim man in his 30s had spiky red hair and a winning smile. He wore checked trousers and grey jackets. His Yorkshire accent was unmissable and he was notorious throughout the school for boasting of his Nazism. In Chemistry lessons he was wont to declare.
”Hitler ain’t got a patch on me. Girls on the right boys on the left – Chinese in the fume cupboard.”
How did Hogg get away with all this?
ST OLAF’S TUTORS
Every Monday after luncheon the tutors of St Olaf’s would gather in the housemaster’s study for a meeting.
The Maths teacher was there – Rebecca James. She had dark brown shoulder length hair. Rebecca was slender and had pale skin. She always looked fatigued. Her voice was slightly croaky and her skin was worn – mainly because she smoked. Miss James had been 39 for several years.
Mr Howard would be there. Mr Clinton was there – a white haired wiry little English teacher. Clinton was a convert from Anglicanism and an absolute pacifism.
Mr O ‘Day was there. This bald little skinny man taught languages. He kept banging on about how one of the boys in the house came from a noble Spanish family. O’Day was unobjectionable though. He spoke Polish owing to his Polish wife. He could often be heard conversing in Polish with the maids.
Fr Augustine would make tea. ”Tea everyone” he would ask sweetly? He would then talk through anything that had happened or would happen in the house.
Sean’s bladder would be set off by the tea. After 5 mins he would have to asked to be excused. He had a bladder with the capacity of a thimble. His frequent need to urinate and defecate indicate a free spirited and expressive character. He was the polar opposite of up tight Murphy.
The Griffin was at the Wednesday night quiz at the White Horse. An ”ee oop” had been the friendly greeting from the owl like barman as she had walked in. The Maths teacher was there. He was an assiduous attender of quizes. Sean was too modest to say that he had been on University Challenge.
Griffin sat there among elderly looking yokels fielding questions from the quizmaster and the surly cider sipping flatulent flat capped farmers. An enormous oak table dominated the centre of the ancient uneven floored low ceilenged alehouse.
Not everyone was boozing. A blue rinse woman was having a cuppa by the fireplace. She looked for all the world as though she was at home on her own. This drawn faced old female was oblivious to the quiz going on.
The white haired ruddy faced farmers with hair sprouting from their massive lugs eyed the Griffin intently and drooled into their pint glasses.
Sean phoned the Griffin up. ”Why don’t you come around to my place?” He lived a two minute walk away.
”Well MATHS GUY is supposed to drive me home afterwards.”
”Just tell him I will walk you home”
”Ok then” she said.
Emily then told MATHS GUY ”I am going to go to Sean’s place for a nightcap and he is going to walk me back”
MATHS GUY laughed knowingly.”Yeah right” he said. The Griffin went the colour beetroot in the face and giggled. She was half cut and toddled off to Sean’s place. She went into a little alley just off the main street of the village. The double cottage where Sean lived was there. As the Griffin approached his door Miss Jenkins chanced to be walking out.
”Good evening” said the resolute Miss Jenkins said as imperiously as only a headmaster’s secretary can.
”hELLO ” said the Griffin timidly.
The Griffin knocked on the door. Sean opened up and beckoned her in. She went to Sean’s place and he ushered her into the drawing room. There they snogged.
”Want to come upstairs.”
”Yes but no sex” said the Griffin. She tottered up the stairs. Yeah right – always a sensible thing to do: a boy and girl to get into bed with the intention of not having sex.
In the bedroom they continue kissing and caressing. They slid and slurped over each other. They undressed but the Griffin insisted on no copulation. They shared the bed.
In the morn Sean awoke hard. The climbed onto the Griffin who opened her thighs. He noticed that her pubes were uncut. He gave her the gallant gallop. Within a minute he had come inside her.
Sean rolled over. He found this woman unattractive but she was at least a woman. There were no other single woman of his age around. Single? Oh God. He remembered – the Griffin was not even single. She was engaged to that Bob bloke.
The Griffin struggled out of it and donned her glasses. She looked down at Sean ”we shouldn’t have done that” she giggled.
Sean had a spring in his step that day. There were a lot of arseholes around but there were a few good eggs. A conquest was good for his self esteem.
DOWN THE WHITE SWAN.
Going down the pub was Sean’s one release. Getting stocious relieved the tedium of his lonely exile.
The Griffin was getting blind drunk as usual.
Abel Kennington turned up sporting a brown fedora. He looked very pleased with himself to have such millinery. There was some maniacal to his manner. He and his wife were like chalk and cheese. No wonder Sean never saw them together. He was like a double bluff. He so overplayed his traditionalist Catholicism it made Sean wonder if the guy was masking atheism. If he wanted to make Catholicism seem crazy he could not have done a better job.
Abel spoke to Sean. ”I called my old tutor – Dr Catto. He remembers you. Says that you are a good thing.”
”Oh thanks well remember me to him again” said Sean.
Abel then got out a pipe and lit it. He started puffing it in a very studied manner. He liked to take it out and gesticulate with it when he made a point. Sean noticed the slight tobacco stains on Abel’s teeth.
”You know the pope can grant dispensations and let a married man become a priest. He did it with those Anglican priests who crossed the Tiber over Anglican priestesses. There is a headmaster of a Catholic school in Hampshire called Farley – and he is a married priest. I might become a married priest. I am in negotiation with the cardinal archbishop of Westminster about it” said Abel. His nose grew a couple of inches.
The scabrous chemistry teacher was there in his hoodie – a red one this time. ”I have just had three shots of ouzo” he giggled. I went to town on the bus. ”Had an Indian. I was farting all the way back. People thought it was the old woman beside me – thought she was a dirty old cow.”
Fr Sylvester was a housemaster. He was around 50 years old but still had brown hair. He was shortish and slender. His skin was mottled and he had a very open and sincere manner.
Another priest was a former doctor. Which was more worthwhile – saving lives or talking to an imaginary friend?
A little monk in his 60s became known to Sean.
”I am the school carpenter. Come and see me in my carpentry shop some time” he said.
Sean would drop in on free afternoon periods. The old monk still had mid brown hair. He spoke in a very RP accent. Edmund sat in a high backed leather chair that looked out of place in his workshop.
”I came to the valley when I was 7”
”I see. Have you been here ever since?”
”Well not quite. I was in the prep school and then I came here. I was not that clever but I was good with my hands. I finished when I was 18. Then I got a job in a prep school. I was every keen to come and join the order but it seemed as though my Latin was not up to scratch. Anyway father abbot let me in. So I have been here ever since. I used to teach woodwork but now that is old hat I am told. They hardly do any technology. Only computer technology.”
”What a shame.”
”Yes, they used to make some wonderful stuff. They used to make Christmas presents and birthday presents for their families. I tell them Our Saviour’s father was a carpenter.”
”Father Edmund – I noticed that postcard from Hungary over there – Szekesfehervar” Sean was very pleased with himself for being able to pronounce it. ”Have you been?”
”Yes, we get to go on holiday once a year. The abbey pays. Anyway, I was not sure if I would go but then if you get to 70 they might not let you go. Say you are too frail. So I went and really like it.”
”Life is good here. I need my brethren. I know what you might think – I am feathering my nest. I do not have all the worries people like you have about money and whether to get married. But it has got harder lately.”
”Why is that?”
”Well my friend Father Paul is away for a few years.”
”Ah” said Sean. He remembered – Paul was the monk who had been sent down for the sexual abuse of prepubescent boys. ”I see that must be difficult for you. Anyway he shall be back in a couple of years.”
”Yes” he said.
”So how are you finding it?”
”No easy. May I speak freely?”
”I mean you will not tell anyone what I have said.”
”Seal of the confessional” he said emphatically.
”All right. I abominate Andrew Murphy. Sick of the sight of him. Such a control freak. So unreasonable. I am stressed out. I cannot do anything right for him.”
”Oh God he sounds like that Brown.”
”Mr Brown? The deputy headmaster? I do not think he is too bad actually but you know him better than me.”
”Well he has only been here three years and he has made it so much worse. The other monks complain it is all form filling and target grades.” said Edmund
”Not entirely his fault. The government has changed the law. Parents demands it. I heard that parents used to see themselves as buying into a community. Now they want value for money. What extra grades am I getting for the dosh?” said Sean.
”Yes and that is just another thing on top of Fr Paul being away. The way the school is being ruined. I have dedicated my whole life to it.” said Sean
”I am very sorry about Fr Paul being away but he did do wrong. Needs to be locked up.”
”Yes I know. I am not saying what he did was all right. It was a sin against God. Homosexuality is an abomination. Catechism says it is a gravely disordered action. But what he did was minor really. He did not rape them. Some of them flirted”
Sean was horrified. Some of these victims were only 8 years old! How could they possibly flirt or have any idea what was going on. Edmund was a very likable chap but his views on this issue were very messed up.
Edmund continued. ”In the good old days this sort of thing was brushed under the carpet. Better for all concerned. Least said soonest mended of course. No need to involve the police. Well now the gloves have come off. The police are very anti Catholic.”
”The police are upholding the law and protecting children – Catholic children. That is not anti Catholic” said Sean tranquilly. He noted that Edmund had more interest in preserving the good name of the church than preventing these crimes occurring.
”Yes it is rather tricky” said Fr Edmund. Sean wanted to give the man a piece of his mind about child molestation. Edmund had never been accused of this. He was a decent man but seemed to have a moral blind spot. Perhaps because he dearest friend was the felon. Surely Paul had told him. It was hard to think that he best mate had not confided in him. ”The accusations against him hit me like a poison dart” said Edmund.
On the way out Sean noticed a large cardboard box marked Father Paul. Must be the paedophile’s possessions.
BOB COMES BACK.
That Saturday down the pub Sean walked in. The Griffin was there smiling and looking shockingly sober.
”’Hello how are you?”
”Very happy because Bob is up.”
”Oh yes” said Sean, ”May I tell him that I entertained you in my place overnight whilst you were engaged?” he smirked.
”I would not because he is bigger than you” she said jocularly.
”Oh really? Exactly how much bigger than me?” Sean held out his two index fingers as if to indicate inches of length. ”This much bigger?” He moved his fingers further apart ”This much bigger?” he smirked.
”Oh fuck off Sean” she said very amused ” I never say that but to you I just have to say it. Fuck off Sean” she thought it was hilarious
”I do believe that you are the only one who has been had by both of us.”
Sharing the private joke was delectable.
The Griffin went over to her boyfriend Bob. He seemed to steel himself for her coming over. Was he not happy with her for some reason?
Sean did not want to be introduced to him again and have to think of something vaguely intelligent to say.
Later in the evening she was inebriated and appeared to wink at Sean from across the bar.
TRIP TO LIGHT WATER VALLEY.
That Sunday there was a trip to a fun fair. After mass coaches gathered outside the chapel. Pupils got into their casual clothes and boarded the coaches – that was for those who had opted for this trip.
The Griffin and Sean were among those allotted this duty. 50 odd pupils headed off to a fun fair. It was not a long trip. Griffin was one of those people who combined extreme academic intelligence with utter immaturity.
There was a large theme park to wander around with all sorts of rides and stalls. It was not Sean’s sort of thing but he had been assigned this duty. It was not onerous and in his cheerfully irresponsible way he ignored the pupils. He saw some of them smoking in the distance. He chose not to intervene and they never spotted him. Why should he care? They had done to harm to him. If it was someone he detested then he would have nabbed the person.
The Griffin and Sean walked around together. They sat on a bench and chatted. ”You don’t use contraception do you?”
”Certainly not it is a gravely disordered action – I read it in the catechism” she said.
It was one of those insane things in which she believed fervently.
”Right but um you know I came inside you?” he asked
”Yes I do” she started to look agitated.
”Are you pregnant?” he asked slowly. It all seemed unreal to him. He waited to see ‘yes’ form on her lips but it did not.
”I don’t know” she said softly – almost giggling. Laughter was the only way to cope.
Sean was amused but also petrified. Oddly, he liked the sense of danger.
”But if you are pregnant you won’t know whose baby it is.”
”Then my life would be like a soap opera” she said tittering.
”Whose the daddy?” he said in a theatrical voice. ”You would just have to pretend it is Bob’s sprog.”
”Yeah. But he and I do not do it that much – we normally do oral. When we do it properly he pulls out. Well, mostly.”
”So you haven’t had a period yet?”
”No it is due next week.”
Sean was anxious lest she blurt out what she had done to her fiance.
Sean happened to know that she was willing to copulate whilst menstruating. She was a noted man eater. A notorious tale had gone around Oxford of Kevin bonking the Griffin. His green condom turned purple with her blood. Fucking a girl while she was having a period did not put Sean off at all. He would not go down on her south mouth while she was menstruating. He drew the line there.
Sean seldom bothered to use a condom. He usual contraceptive policy was spray and pray. So far so good. But he knew his luck would run out one day.
THE GERMAN ASSISTANT
One morning in break the bell rang in the staff room. This was a rare occurrence. People stopped sipping their hot drinks and stopped munching their goodies for a second. The Head of German Mr Partington had an announcement to make. The loose cheeked little man with a very unhealthy complexion began to speak
”Good morning everyone. Sorry to interrupt. I just want to introduce this fine young German who is the new German assistant. His name is Matthias von Pearlmann so please make him very welcome. He will be working one on one with some of the students who are improving their German particularly their spoken German. I am sure we will make him very welcome.That;s all.”
Beside Partington stood a slender boy of 19. He had thick rimmed glasses of a very German style. He wore a grey suit and perfectly white shirt. His face was unbearded and a little tanned. His light brown hair was carefully brushed into a mess.
With that Partington nodded and they all returned to their snacks and conversations.
Sean was a doggy who wagged his tail. He was also dead keen on languages. He made a beeline for Matthias
”Gruss Gott mein sehr gesheerte Herr wie geht es inhnen”
”Ich gehts gut danke” said Matthias elated that someone was so warm.
”ich will mein Deutsch verbessern”
”Ach du kanst gutt Deutsch sprechen. Wie heissen Sie?”
”Ich heisse Sean” and so began a friendship.
Matthias’s thoughts were mouthed into English language sophistication owing to several summers of language courses.
THE ITALIAN ASSISTANT
She was a 20 something blonde single mum. She was lissom and startlingly pulchritudinous. She had once been featured in a lad’s mag. Sean knew it would do his street cred with the boys no harm to discuss her figure with them. He wanted to give them a graphic description of what he would like to do to her. Rumour had it that she was a single mum. Propriety kicked in. He yearned to be in London or Oxford and living the life of a boulevardier.
JAMIE’S MOTHER VISITS
Jamie’s mother came down from Caledonia. This woman bore the regrettable named of Candida. What did it say about her parents that they had named her after a skin complaint? Perhaps the father had passed it to the mother in the act of siring her.
Candida was as ditzy as her son was moronic. Thankfully she was at least quiet. She was slim, away with the fairies and stylishly though casually attired. Her bottle blonde locks clung about her thin shoulders.
”Mr Gallagher we are paying 30 000 pounds a year why is he not doing better?”
”You cannot buy your son a new brain. Though if it were possible I would strongly recommend it in Jamie’s case.”
Actually Sean did not say that. At that stage he did not quite wish to be sacked.
Sean pretended to like her deadbeat of a sun. He did not vouchsafe that he wished to hit the boy over the head with a cricket bat. It might even do his brain a power of good.
Sean was a bookworm. He soon found the library. Murphy was keeping him busy with myriad fatuous tasks. Sean had little time for extraneous reading.The library was beautiful and atmospheric. The high bookshelves were made of polished dark brown wood. They groaned under weighty volumes many of them untouched for decades. The library was of a respectable size. It was frequented only by the cleverest pupils.
The handmade wooden tables had mice carved into them. They were made by a renowned craftsman known as Mouseman. The mice were his trademark.
Three years alter Sean was to see the mice in a sister school.
The librarian was also new that autumn. ”Hello my name is Sean” he said the first time he went in there. ”Hello my name is Susan Hound” she said.
The librarian sat behind her desk and looked the part. The slim woman was in her 40s and wore the dowdiest of clothes. She was deathly pale and had thick glasses hiding her small dark eyes. Her lips were several sizes too big for her face but somehow her lips were totally unerotic. She had a porcine nose and her looks were very bad indeed. She was a very pure hearted and amiable person.
Sean did not have much time for reading. Murphy kept him busy with pointless tasks. Doing and re doing schemes of work. It was a labour of Sysephus. But Sean ordered one book for the library – Spycatcher. He had always wanted to read it.
DOWN THE SWAN.
Sean was there chatting to Lisa and her boyfriend. To their surprise along came Mr Brown
”Hello there how you doing?” he said in his usual sunny style.
”Very well thank you Mr Brown will you join us?” said Sean.
”That is very good of you I will just for one.”
”What will you have? ”
Sean ordered him a tenant. ”Is it very different from Winchester here?” asked Mr Brown with an interested gaze.
”Well fairly. Yes Winchester is quite London centric and more academic”
”Yes we do have an academic tail. This school is about Catholicism and so that is open to people of all academic abilities. God does not love only those whom he created clever. So we cannot be too selective. We are about a quarter northern England, a quarter London area, a quarter rest of the UK particularly Scotland as we are close to Scotland. A quarter come form overseas. Some of those are British abroad. But we get French, Spanish, Italian and Chinese. Mexicans. ”
”I have been surprised the number of Anglicans here.” his eyes raised in interest.
”About 20 % are not Catholics but many of them convert. 20% ” he repeated to confirm it ” ANyway no school should be too choosy. Winchester was a bit too hard on common entrance and ended up about 30 boys short this year. Makes a big financial difference I can tell you. I want to bring in weekly boarding. A lot of parents want to live within a 2 hour drive of their children in boarding school so they can see them on the weekend. That is a headache for us. We live in a low population density area. In Leeds and Newcastle there are not many people with the loot to send their kids here. Anyway Lisa how are things in CT?”
In the pub that Saturday night Emily was drunk on vodka. She began spluttering up vodka as she coughed.
Abel Kennington mouthed off about the need to reconquer the Papal States. ”I shall be sending a letter to the Curia. You know the Pope’s court. It is a sort of parliament. Unelected of course. I shall seal it in wax. I will have you know I have a wax seal.”
”Good for you” said Sean
”Tell me how is it going in the department?” asked Abel he fixed him with a sympathetic look.
”Fucking awful. I detest that man Murphy.” he pronounced.
”Yes he seems like an arse. I think it is jealousy. He only went to King’s London and you went to Winchester and then Oxford. Oxford like me. I get a lot of prejudice because I went to Reading Blue Coat School and people are jealous of that. ” said Abel.
The Chemistry teacher in his hoody drank and reminisced about Greece. He drank wine by the bottle – no glasses.
Lisa Penn drank more than she should and smoked incessantly.
Lisa Penn and the Griffin went on a shopping trip to York. They looked at wedding dresses for the Griffin. As they passed York Minster the Griffin said
”Lisa you do not go to mass every Sunday do you?” she asked very intrigued.
”Well mostly not.”
”You must receive the blessed sacrament every Sunday. It is an obligation. Your soul is in mortal danger if you do not!” The Griffin was in deadly earnest. A glazed look had come over her. What possessed her to make such an outburst.
Lisa was furious. ”Who the hell do you think you are to speak to me like that?”
”I am your colleague, your friend and I am a Catholic I am caring about you.” she took off her glasses and waved them at Lisa as she spoke.
”I was brought up a Catholic too”
”I know and to get to teach Christian Theology here you had a letter from your parish priest saying you hear mass every Sunday. Well you have lapsed. I am a convert and I am twice the Catholic you are. I receive all the sacraments as often as I can!” the boastful tone was galling. ”I am afraid to say you shall go to hell if you do not!”
Lisa stalked off without a murmur.
THE GRIFFIN’S MISHAP.
One Saturday Sean was down the White Swan with his colleagues.
CHEMISTRY was drinking wine straight from the bottle. He was in good humour as ever.
The Griffin was getting sloshed.
Lisa was holding hands with her boyfriend.
Sean relaxed and had several pints. It was a vital chance to de-stress after a difficult week. About 11 he toddled home.
On Sunday he was cooking a fry. Miss Jenkins knocked on his door. He turned off the heat on the pan and let her in
”Good morning Miss Jenkins” he greeted her pleasantly.
”Good morning” she said in a neutral tone ”May I come in.”
”Oh yes please do” he stood back and sway his arm in gesture of welcome. ”would you like some coffee.”
”No, no thank you. May I sit down.”
”Er… yes certainly” They sat around the dining room table.
”Sean – I was away staying with friends last night. I just came back a few minutes ago. Anyway – the Goddards, they live across the lane, they told me something happened last night.”
”Oh really what?” he looked puzzled.
”About one in the morning they heard some banging – screaming and banging. Mrs Goddard came out. They saw girl with blood on her face. She was banging and banging on my door.”
”Oh my God”
”She asked where Sean Gallagher lives.”
”Oh my goodness” he grew frightened.
”She had got the wrong door. She was hammering on my door not yours.”
”Mrs Goddard thought she must be a schoolgirl and she went to fetch her husband. When she came back with Mrs Goddard the girl had gone.”
”Oh my word.”
” Well you know your friend – that teacher who came around to you a few times. What is her name?”
”It couldn’t have been here could it. Does she drink that much?”
”Um well she likes a drink but I do not think she would get that drunk” he was anxious.
”Anyway Mrs Goddard phoned up Mr Brown . It was the middle of the night but she was so worried. She said she had seen a schoolgirl who had fallen over and cut her face – seemed to be blind drunk. He had better go out and find her.”
Later that day Sean walked to school. He always went in on Sunday. Such a boring day might as well get some paperwork out of the way. He would walk past the front hall as they all came out. Mr Brown would be there in a suit having attended chapel. He would nod at him. Brown would notice that Sean had not attended the church. It would also be known that Sean did not go to mass in the village either. Sunday was a good day to be in. Sean had noticed that Murphy never ever came in on Sunday. He preferred to stay with his wife and children. Sometimes Sean would watch a DVD such as from the Reputations series.
Besides there was a good roast on in the refectory. He wore casuals and dined with the Aussie gappers in a private dining room.
At luncheon Brett said ”Hey did you hear what happened to the Griffin?”
”What is that?”
”Well she got pissed down the pub last night. I was there at kicking out time.”
”Yeah I was there. I had a few beers. I went home at a civilised hour” said Sean
”We headed off. She tried to walk home. She was so smashed that she could not even find the way. She was so pissed that she fell over and cut her face. She was so covered in mud looked like she had half drowned in a pool of shit. Then she tried to get to your house but she got the wrong house. It was some ungodly hour. She was banging and banging on the door. Some old woman came out and saw the Griffin with her face bleeding. Middle of the fucking night! She was talking gibberish”
”Yes I heard.”
”Anyway the old woman thought that Griffin as a schoolgirl”
”Well you would not expect a teacher to get so pissed.”
”Exactly. SO then the old woman called Brown and said there is one of your schoolgirls drunk out of her mind, she fell over and cut her face, she is wandering around asking for Mr Gallagher’s house.”
”Oh my God what does it look like? People would think I hit her.”
”We know you did not. I saw you go home” said Brett
”So did I” said the Aussie chick.
”Anyway so Brown has to get up at 1 am and drive around the village till he finds her. He then drove the Griffin home and had to more or less tuck her up she was so helplessly pissed. Then he called her into his office before mass today to lay down the law.”
”I noticed you always call her the Griffin. You got us doing it now” said the girl from the Land Down Under chuckling.
”Yeah I knew her at university and she had such a reputation we called her that like she was a monster.”
Sean realised that the Griffin was failing. Would someone put her out of her misery? In the sense of sacking her. There was no coming back from this disaster.
That afternoon Sean was walking down to the library. He saw the Griffin in the corridor. She looked distant and shaken. There was a livid gash down the left side of her face and bruising.
”What the hell were you doing trying to come to my place in the middle of the night?” was his pointed question.
”I am sorry I got lost. I could not find my way home” she said whimpering
”Well you got the wrong house. What the fuck you playing at? You were so out of your mind. You were banging on my landlady’s door. You bled all over her doorstep. It is very embarrassing for me. Then her neighbour came out to help you. She assumed you were a pupil. She could not believe a teacher aged 23 would behave like that. ”
”I fell over in the dark” she said pathetically.
”You fell over because you were pissed” he said in a quiet but angry voice. ”People might think that I beat you up!” He then regretted putting the idea in her mind. She could accuse him to spare her blushes.
One evening the Griffin decided to go to the refectory to eat. She walked towards the front door. There were several sixth form girls there. She was visibly drunk and fell over. As she lay on the floor she vomited liberally.
The Griffin was summoned to a meeting with Mr Brown (deputy head) and Mrs Monk (the housemistress whom the Griffin was supposed to be assisting). Mrs Monk was a an obese kindly academic type. On this occasion she wore a severe Teutonic scowl. She was half German.
”I am afraid that we have not been happy with the way you have been performing your house duties” said Mr Brown.
”You have not been maintaining order among the girls. You do not know their names – that is the least of my worries. You are not setting a good examples. You turn up late when you are on duty – if you show up all. Remember last Sunday when you were supposed to be running the house and you went swanning off with your boyfriend? I had to cancel a day out with my husband and children. You never even apologised. You have vodka delivered every day. It would not matter so long as it did not affect your house duties but it does. The girls have noticed your vodka deliveries. You were so blind drunk that you fell over and vomited on front of them. ”
The Griffin cringed and studied the floor. Then she burst into tears.
”I should be the one who is crying” said Mrs Monk.
”As you can appreciate your conduct has caused a lot of comment. Parents have been informed by their daughters. We have fielded several complaints about you from parents. It is very hard to tell parents that they are wrong. Fr Michael is aware of the situation. We are profoundly disappointed with your performance as an assistant housemistress. It is a position of great honour and responsibility. You need to concentrate on your teaching. I know the tenor if not the content of your meeting with Fr Ethelwulf. Therefore I have no choice but to remove you as housemistress. As of this moment you are relieved of your duties. You move out today. We have a cottage for you across the valley. ”
”Who is taking over?” said the Griffin still sobbing?
”We have got Vesper Culshaw to take over.”
”Vesper – the American?”
”Yes, the lacrosse coach. We do not want this to be a humiliating end for you. We shall say that you want to concentrate on the department. That will be the reason given”
Her time in the house expired in a limp handshake with Mrs Monk.
”Thank you for the opportunity” she smiled wanly at Mrs Monk.
”Your contribution to the house was …. unique” was Mrs Monk’s parting shot. Yeah right. Unique. Can be interpreted two different ways.
For a fleeting moment the Griffin considered asking for one more chance. But the moment passed. She hobbled to the door and reached for the heavy handle.
A MEETING WITH GRIFFIN
The Griffin was called in to see Fr Ethelwulf. He stared down at her in an uncharacteristically severe manner.
”I am afraid we are not satisfied with your teaching. You have missed a few lessons. You did not even say you were not going to turn up. Plus many students have said you are drinking vodka in lessons. Is that true?” He spoke in his placid and slightly lisping voice.
”No, no it is not” she said blinking wildly.
”Well some of them have sworn they smelt vodka on you. Just do not drink water in class. It gives rise to false rumours. Several people have said this. Not the usual suspects. No not rumour mongers but students with impeccable disciplinary records. People of blameless integrity. Stop doing anything that could give rise to suspicion. There are enough tongues wagging about you already.”
”Yes, Fr Ethelwulf.” she looked very shame faced.
”You do not control the class. You do not set enough homework. It is not relevant to the curriculum. You let them out early. You rarely mark. You do not hand the work back promptly. You need to improve – radically” said Fr Ethelwulf. There was no doubting the gravity in his tone.
”I shall” she said.
”As an undergraduate I worked at a gin factory. I am capable of picking out the smell of spirits from 100 yards off. You have been warned”
Harry Burley Wookey said – ”Christian Theology is fun. Miss WIFFEN is always sipping ‘water’ in lessons. Smells like vodka to me” they all laughed loudly.
”She teaches me CT too. I am in a different class from Harry and I have seen her drinking vodka in class too” said Stephen E -W.
Can the devil speak true? So Sean asked himself. He looked at Stephen ‘s face and could deduce that for once the boy was not lying.
Sean wondered whether the school should have got rid of the Griffin when they took the house of her. A clean kill – not to string it out. She was limping through her teaching literally and metaphorically. But was he wrong? Would she improve? She was very up and down.
MEETING WITH ANDY.
”Teach the way I do. I have got a heck of a lot of good results. They hate me. I have seen it on rate my teacher dot com. But I still get them to pass because I teach to test. It is not rocket science.” sniffle. Murphy pushed out his lips and stretched them to the right.
Sean did his house duty on Friday night. He was always astonished how unreluctantly they attended prayers. If prayers made people better then they boys would all be good. Many were good but a large minority were detestable. It showed what bullshit prayers were. They vowed to be honest, kind, compassionate, courteous and generous. Within minutes of making those promises they behaved in the most abominable fashion.
There was a day when there were lots of matches against Sedbergh. This was the rival school. This local derby attracted many parents.
There was a tradition that boys have cold showers that morning. In house prayers Fr Augustine reminded them at showers were entirely optional.
Sean had to send 3 rd form to bed. After lights out Ogg came out to have a shave
”No you do not have to have a shave. Could have done that earlier. Do it tomorrow.”
Aged 13 Ogg was not that hairy.
YOUNG TEACHERS’ GROUP
Mrs Arrowsmith called them in. She played the parlour communist. Why was she here if she thought the place was rotten to the core?
DIM LOWER SIXTH
This class was the bane of his life. Half of them would arrive late without the things they needed. They made a show of unpunctuality. They would disrupt and carp as much as possible. The heart rending thing it two boys were earnest pupils. They tried to learn and had their schooling ruined by absolute smegheads.
Horace Tussock was the worst offender. He was unwarranted arrogance sorely irked Sean. He was a show off – speaking out of turn and insulting others as much as possibly. Risibly, he thought himself tough. Sean thought it would be the greatest joy in the world to beat him around the head and neck with a broken bottle.