There was a play on. The cast was drawn from the upper three forms. It was a modern dress version of Twelfth Night or What you will by W Shakespeare. The school possessed a purpose-built theatre. Of a Saturday night Sean went to watch the performance. The costumes showed that the story had been set in the American Civil War. Sean was not to keen on modern dress versions of Shakespeare. Burley Wookey was one of those who starred. He wore the blue uniform of a Union cavalry officer. His rendering of his part showed surprising maturity. Why could he not behaved like that in History. The flame haired pupil named Miss Cruttwell acted as a southern belle. Verity Tiptoft also tread the boards. Her marizpan skin was coated in makeup which gave it a waxy appearance.
THIRD FORM PROJECTS
Sean was told to have third form do projects. He was sceptical about the value of these. They would have to do coursework soon. This was a dry run for that perhaps. There was something to be said for learning in a different style.
Sean had to prepare five different info packs from which pupils could choose. This would help them. He prepared them on the Incas, the death penalty in the United Kingdom and other topics. One one went for capital punishment.
It was reasonably well. He took them to the library to find sources. They also went to the computer room to write it up.
Verity Tiptoft was one of his abler pupils. The others found and unflattering photo of her singing on the internet. Sean could not but help chortling at it. In the snap she resembled a shaggy dog.
Winterson got onto Verity’s computer. He typed in porn and pressed search. The school firewall would not let filth through. It was just mischief on the boy’s part. He had to be reprimanded.
Only one sicko chose to do a project on the death penalty in the UK.
Sean was dining in the staff dining room. Twas luncheon. Along came Murphy. ”Did we not have a meeting scheduled today?”
”Oh yes sorry I forgot.” It had genuinely slipped his mind.
Murphy then tried to be magnanimous. He spoke to his mathematical mate Coner Donnelly. ”Sean brings youth and hair to the department”. This was his leaden footed attempt at self deprecating humour. Connor Donnelly, the sabre toothed mathematician, laughed dutifully and brayingly at his chum’s laboured witticism.
Then Sean went for his meeting with Murphy.
”You need to do better paperwork”, said Murphy sniffling. ”It is not rocket science. Lesson plans need to be at least five pages.”
”I see” said Sean drily.
”You need to make one heck of a bit improvement” Murphy twisted his mouth to the right. Murphy’s standards were will o the wisp. Sean could never reach them.
”I need more vital data on all the key performance indicator” Murphy ranted.
This obsession with measuring things was stifling all actual teaching. How could fledgling historians be nurtured when all Sean was supposed to do was endlessly come up with statistics about them? Murphy’s attitude was predicated on the notion that all achievement was quantifiable.
Sean responded with a mock incisive ”of course”
Sean later discovered that Murphy was pals with the head of Religious Studies at Winchester. This came as little surprise since that man was equally control freakish. Lisa applied for a post there and the man informed Murphy.
Sean came to know a Nigerian boy in his lower sixth class. He was a slim and good looking child. He was not especially attentive nor was his academic work pleasing. Marcus was at least not malevolent like the others. He spoke with a perfect British accent. Marcus was in every way in harmony with his British peers.
Henry was a bulky boy in St OLaf’s upper sixth. Sean taught him and this lad was not the brightest spark. He was a superb rugger player and indeed played for the county. He was 6’1” and very well built. He had strawberry blond hair and the tiny eyes of a bruiser. He spoke in low pitched monosyllables. Rham kept up a permanent he-man act a d had a surly face.
WALKING TO WORK
The 20 minute walk from the village to the school was a valuable time for Sean to clear his head. Surveying the beauteous pasture allowed him moments to reflect on more cheerful things. It was blissful to look at the green fields even when they were damp and devoid of flowers. There was something placid about gazing on the ruminants. He was tempted to climb over the rude fence and chase the ovines but that would be trespass. He wondered how much sentience these dumb beasts had that stared at him so blankly. Some of the ewes were clearly pregnant. Lambs. A lamb to the slaughter – that was what he was with some of his classes and all in the name of the holy lamb that was slain. These feckless pupils were supposed to worship the one who was sacrificed and that was to lead them to laudable behaviour. In some cases it worked marvellously. But he came back to thinking about the mangy sheep with their stained coats. Why did they peruse him so?
He passed a sheep fold and saw that it had a window. That was quite unaccountable. Did these animals like the view? The window was covered in condensation. Outside some tressels stood on the mud.
The weather was mournful and sometimes this affected him. He reflected that perhaps he had a touch of seasonal affective disorder. His mother certainly suffered from this condition and it may well be heritable though he did not take many phenotypes form her. Perhaps in his psychology he did inherit her traits. The similitude between them was in their choleric nature and their resistance to tyranny.
He knew that the job was going badly. He trembled at the thought of being turfed out of this situation. He began to think about it almost unceasingly. The vagaries of life had been far harder than he had anticipated ten years before. How had someone so talented ended up in such a woeful predicament? It was all but inexplicable.
Sean came to know Mr Burge Torrent. He was slender Oxford educate Classicist at least ten years older than Sean. He spoke with a cerebral lisp and was gentle of manner. Sean sometimes sat near him at luncheon. He noticed the man bless himself before he ate. Burge Torrent. He was a soft spoken man and very sincere. A thin thatch of mid brown hair sat on his skull. His nose was a little wide for his slightly swarthy face. His brown eyes twinkled avidly. He listened intently but said little. Occasionally Burge Torrent would turn up to afternoon tea in a boiler suit. ”I have been working on the set in the theatre” he explained. He was married with three children. How did such a man quell an unruly class. He seemed far too nice for that.
Sean was down the ale house and feeling jovial.
Unaccountably Melanie was down the pub with her husband. I used to see graffiti on dusty cars saying ”I wish my girlfriend was as dirty as this” said Melanie. Sean chortled. He had never heard that one.
ALong came the man from Tyrone. The Troubles came up and he spoke very placidly. ”When I was a schoolboy soldiers would stop me on the way home and tip my books out. ” He had no political agenda. Sean wanted to disbelieve it. But he knew that soldiers were usually the stupidest and most bullying cunts around.
Melanie noted that whenever the United Kingdom was at war her enemies had striven to foment separatist revolt in Ireland.
Along came John Malone. This chubby drama teacher was in his late 20s. He wore glasses and his dense brown hair was parted in the centre. He was a likable Lancastrian and had a winsome personality to offset his ugly face.
”John, really like the play – marvellous” Sean exaggerated.
”Oh thanks very much. I am very pleased with the cast.”
”Even the Scouse art teacher liked it and she said she had never been to a play in her life.”
”Well I am glad to hear it. As for the Scouser – I am not surprised. My family came from Ireland and they had the good sense to go on to Lancashire. Those who stayed in Liverpool well they have lived in ignorance.” he laughed only half jokingly.
”Hey where is the cravat?”
”Oh I only wear a cravat on Tuesday. Me and my mate invented cravat Tuesday.”
”It is the uniform of the pinko liberal.”
”Pinko that is me.”
”Ah so you will not be directing the Falklands Play next.”
”Well actually that is the only thing that Thatcher did that I agree with. Dictators should not be allowed to seize land and get away with it.”
Whenever Sean saw John Malone again he would say Hail Thatcher. Malone took it in a good spirit.
Lisa was there and her boyfriend was not up that weekend. Sean was tempted to make a move on her but there were too many people around – and she was sober.
The school foregathered in the gymnasium atop the hill. The houses sat in their separate sections. The staff stood around the walls seeking to supervise the conduct of their pupils. Some of the girls and boys were impetuous as ever.
Sean was opposite Murphy. He saw Murphy with his arms folded looking world weary. He had such a weight on his mind.
Sean did not bother to reprimand his pupils when the chattered when they should not. WHy should he care? What good would it do.
Brown and the headmaster walked up the aisle – once all the pupils were somewhat settled. The tiny headmaster took to the podium. He read some announcements from the lectern and hissed his S’s all the way through. He hardly looked at the audience. His discomfort in addressing the assembly was very palpable. His speech was objectless as always. The man clearly wished to vanish – not to be the centre of attention.
Brown’s trouble was his prolixity. It is the curse of the extrovert. He always went on a little too long and began to lose his audience.
Then it was Brown’s turn. His oration was masterful in delivery. Then he presented a prize to Henry Rham. Rham got up to accept his award for prowess on the rugby field. All the boys held him in awe for his sporting accomplishments. In their eyes this was the acme of all achievement. He strode slowly towards the podium – striving to look like Rambo. He struggled to suppress all emotion – keep up his hard man image. What Sean would have given to be Rham at that moment: adulated by the whole school. Sports was what the boys and to some extent the girls admired. More than scholastics, or drama or music or any other area of achievement – this was what they respected.
As they filed out of the gym Sean noticed one of the lower sixth girls. Her face was wan and her skin was drawn tight over her bones. Her hair – of chestnut hue – was thinning. It was plain that she was battling with anorexia. It would not take much more for her to be a walking carcass. She was a ghastly sight – someone who was in the flush of youth and otherwise health. She lingered in the doorway and steadied herself against the wall. She was that feeble. The school needed to do more to help her.
Some of the boys tustled in the hall. Sean chose not to intervene. He would leave it to others. Some held much more sway than he did. How uncouth of these boys to start to fight within minutes of praying to be good.
Sean came to know a teacher of English. Ellen Thomas was in her late 20s. Her figure was not her strong point but she was at least stacked. She was hard of hearing and so her voice was far from dulcet. She was self-assured and vivacious. Ellen was also from an academic family and was an intellectual herself. ”I went to Warwick for my Bachelor’s degree and then to York for my Master’s. I know the two classic Oxbridge rejects unis.”. She stomped around and spoke loudly. Sean found her affable but she did inadvertently take a patronising tone sometimes. Sean ‘s desperation was such that he wondered, would he? Then she spoke of her religiosity ”I go to church every Sunday – United Reformed. Vital to attend divine worship on the Sabbath day. That is closest to Church of Scotland which is what I am. I am as sabbatarian as possible. Lord’s Day Observance Society – I am in it. I do extra duties to get out of Sunday duty.”
”I see. So how are things here?”
”Well overall I like it but some of the students are insensitive. I remember when I was doing Big Study duty – you know supervising detention that Dutch boy from your house came along and was late. He said ”Argghh sorry I am late miss I have cancer.” I said ”My father died last year and do you know what he died of? Cancer.” That shut him up”
”Wow. Glad you like it. WHat is the best thing about it?”
”The headmaster. I went in for the interview and he said – is your father the Lollards man?”
One weekend Abel’s dad came to stay. Sean told Abel to bring his dad around for drinks.
Abel waited in his cottage.. On Saturday night at the appointed hour there was a knock on the door. Sean opened it and was happy to welcome in Abel and his pater – Samuel.
”Dr Kennington, please to meet you” said Abel.
”Good evening. It is Samuel please” said the man. He was a man somewhat over 50. He was slim and had dense mid brown hair with a slight curl. His skin was reddish and his nose was overly large. His cheeks were a little pinched. He walked humbly with his shoulders down. His brown eyes were a little distant as though his mind was too busy grappling with abstruse matters to properly engage with the world around him. He spoke quietly with an accent that one could vaguely locate in south-eastern England. The man wore dark blue cords and a good pale blue shirt – he had a navy blue overcoat on. He did not wear spectacles. Dr Samuel Kennington appeared to be rather younger than he was.
”Please come in. Hello Abel” Sean shook his pal’s paw. Abel wore a beige overcoat and his trademark brown fedora. He had a three piece tweed suit on – the waistcoat was double breasted.
Sean showed them into the drawing room. Beers were served. They supped their tinnies and conversed happily.
”I hear you are an economist” said Sean
”Ah yes that’s right. I was told to do a useful subject” he said putting his hands up and twitching his middle and forefingers to indicate quotation marks as he spoke. ”So I read Economics at Cambridge. Unfortunately I did not know when to stop so I ended up with a PhD.” Samuel hardly looked at his interlocutor.
” I see fascinating.”
”Well I don’t really. I work for the EU in Brussels.”
”Ah shame” said Abel.
”Yes he is a eurosceptic.”
”So am I” said Sean ”I suppose everyone there is a europhile”
”Well many are and that is partly why they are attracted to working for the EU but you would be surprised. They know what is wrong with the EU so some people are disaffected.”
”Ah makes sense.”
”Beforehand I taught in the United States at a Naval Academy.”
”Yes I remember when I was with you in a bar with your students. Then I said I needed to go to the harbour to get some fags and your students looked at me – with a face that would sink a battleship. They thought I meant picking up gays. I had to explain that to us fags means cigarettes. Used to smoke ciggies in those days. That reminds me.” He got out his hornbill pipe and put the tobacco in. ”Got some fine shag” he said. It was more studied eccentricity. This young fogeyishness did not suit him.
”Well homosexuality used to be the norm for sailors” said Sean
”Not for officers” said Abel ” and for able seamen it was not to be as a catimite. A gay friend of mine told me that if two catimites meet and they cannot do it it is called a catimiteastrophe.”
”Please do we have to discuss the mechanics of it?” said Samuel.
”No, you are quite right” said Sean
”Change the subject.”
”This new Bond film is fantastic” said Samuel. ”I remember seeing From Russia with Love as a boy and being entranced by it. I went with my father . He was Norwegian and not really into cinema but he was agog. Our name is not really Kennington. We changed it. People could not pronounce it.”
”It is so good to smoke again. I gave it up between the Feast of Epiphany and Candlemas” said Abel. ”May have to give up again for Lent.”
”All those weeks without smoking.”
”No I am allowed to smoke on Sunday. Every Sunday is a feast day even during Lent and one is permitted to break one’s Lenten fast on the Lord’s day.”
”Ah but apart from that you smoke always.”
”Except for on Trinity Sunday” said Abel with self-satisfaction.
”So how is school here” said Samuel
”Pretty dreadful. I am leaving the end of the year.” said Sean
”Sorry to hear that but I know your head of department is a complete bastard. He is reviled throughout the realm.” Sean replied.
”That is right” said Sean
”Any success with Oxbridge this year?” asked Samuel
”Yes a few offers” said Sean.
”Abel’s school was not so good at that. I was very pleased he got into Oxford. I know you went to Winchester so you must have got armies of boys in.”
”Yes we did. So much so that if someone at Winchester said I am going to Exeter people assumed he meant Exeter College, Oxford and not Exeter University.”
”I know” said Samuel ”It was so amusing when I was at Varsity and American tourists were there. We could tell with a straight face that Jesus is down the street. THEY could not work it out – What is he like?” he put on an American accent for that. ”I would say about 30 foot tall mostly and half a mile wide.”
”I see. Hilarious” that comment from Sean was a bit forced. ”How come you chose to no longer work in universities?”
”Oh got bloody fed up with them. Under the Tories we had to produce so many research papers. All about quantity not about quality. Had to accept ever more undergraduates at lower and lower standards. Not that Labour has made it any better. In fact under New Labour it disimproved. There is also so much rivalry for professorships. Relentless Jockeying for position in the department. I was at an American college a few years ago as it was being set up. Odd to be there at the birth pangs but fun.”
”I see – fascinating.”
”It was but they made me teach other things – had to pretend to be an expert in History which I am not. ANyway I prefer it in Europe – nice and licentious. In the United States if you have a second drink at dinner they say you are an alcoholic. They have dinner together and go home right afterwards. ”
”Dad worked in Russia too.”
”Yes, I did a few months there in Russia in the early 90s – advising them on the transition to capitalism. It was a hairy time to be there. Shock therapy was the buzz word there. I was one of the people telling them to change the sclerotic system. It is better not but I recognise that the shock was not good. But things move at such a bloody glacial pace if we had not got it going it might never have changed. Problem was not the free market. Problem was they did not get a free market. It was totally unfree. There were these auctions all controlled by the KGB goons. Same bastards who had been terrorising the people and sending them to slave labour camps for 70 years ran the show. That is why an oil field would be sold for the price of an apartment so about 0.001% of its true value. The publicly was massively ripped off. I know we rail against Russian kleptocrats in this country but where did most of the loot end up? London property.”
”Wasn’t it dangerous there?”
”Oh yeah it was – a lot of kuckleheads around. Soft security and then hard security at every nightclub and casino. There were also hookers – wall to wall. As a single man I did not know what to do with myself. I was propositioned by a whore in the lift in my hotel. It was quite a smart hotel as well. In every hotel bars there would be whores tarted up at 9 in the morning. I would get phone calls to my room from reception – a very sophisticated English voice asking me if I wanted a woman sent up. But they were butterflies. Tell you you to have a shower. You come out and your wallet is gone. Can’t go to the police because prostitution is illegal. And it was the Wild East. I remember I went to Vladivostock. I had a letter from the Ministry of Economics. It basically said afford this man every possible assistance he is here to help our government. Then trying to get the flight back to Moscow the bastards are refusing to let me check in my suitcase unless I pay another $100. I show them the letter and they say this is Vladivostock here. We are virtually an independent country. You pay the 100 bucks or no bag.”
The idea of being on the wrong side of the Russian mob was shudderingly scray to Sean even hundreds of miles from them.
They went down the boozer. Samuel was an amiable sort but was not humorous.
Abel’s mum came to stay. She was a mathematical academic and took the family to luncheon at the White Swan. She was a woman in her 50s who was not too dumpy. Her chin length hair was skillfully dyed. She wore demure clothes – neither too dowdy not was she mutton dressed as lamb. She had the same phlegmatic personality as MELANIE. Sean perceived there was something in that. Abel must have had a close relationship with his mother which is why he had gone for a woman of a similar character. Then again Abel had a shotgun wedding.
The huskiness of this woman’s voice indicated that she was a smoker. As Sean did not see her puffing away he surmised that she had kicked the habit not long before.
At a table nearby a few people were fagging away. This indubitably caused Abel’s mum some aggro. Their exhalation of smoke tempted her and she fidgeted awkwardly – twisting her napkin in frustration.
There was a vivacity to this woman that was missing in Nigella. Did this suggest that Abel did not have a good relationship with his mother as he went for someone so dissimilar? This woman was very open. Nigella always seemed to wear a carapace.
St Olaf’s held a house punch. Oddly this was held in the house and not in a dining room. Sean happily attended. It was a time to let one’s hair down. Alcohol was available to all even the 13 year olds. They were allowed very diluted beer. To think that in the United States a parent could be gaoled for supplying alcohol to a 20 year old. The 13 year olds were policed to see they did not get their hands on more than their small beer. Sean was grateful that he had not be allotted that unenviable task. It was asking for trouble. The boys were inclined to abuse this limited access to booze. Had he been them he would have abused and in fact had done at the same age.
There was a show. The Donnelly brother played their bagpipes. Trevor Abbot did magic tricks. These astonishing. 80 sets of eyes were fixed on him. He could take two coins – one inside a volunteers first the other on top of it. By touching the coin with a wand he could swap the coins around. They were all flabbergasted by this coup de theatre.
Trevor had Sean come up to help. He was to lay out cards in two rows. As many as he wished in each row. Sean decided to be unhelpful and out 10 in one row and 1 in the other. Abbott then insisted they be equal numbers.
There were a few performances. Then lower sixth came on dressed as the back street boys. They lip synched and danced to I want it that way. Everyone chortled. In the front row sat judges from outside the house. The PE History man was there as was the deranged father Francis. Francis laughed himself silly. He was as old as the hills and as daft as a brush. Of course he had not the foggiest notion who the back street Boys were.
Vinter did a terrific comedy routine. This bravura act was appreciated by even the glumest boy. For once Sean wondered if beneath all their cruelty even the worst boys had a profound decency to them.
Then the judges retired to mull over their verdict. They returned to announce their winner.
”The bagpipes are an acquired taste that I have not acquired.” said the PE man. He praised the magic but said that something else had stolen the show.
Drum roll please – they awarded the prize to Back Street Boys by lower Sixth.
Sean Gallagher sat around with lower sixth in the drawing room of the house as they supped on bottles of beer. Even the most obstinate boys relaxed and opened up. They played a curious game where they had to gurn their faces or make bizarre hand gestures. One facial expression was supposed to imitate a fish swimming. Sean came up with another by putting his right index finger into a loop formed by his left thumb and index finger it was supposed to indicate intercourse but these lads were two dim witted to deduce that. They all thought it droll and copied it.
Mr Gallagher was too eager to impress the boys. He drank fast and would put his empty beer bottle upside down on his head – to prove there was not a drop left. He drank the next one to the lees. He drank a third bottle a little too fast. He felt nauseous and made his excuses. He hurried off. He felt reflux – the vomit was massing in his throat. Thanfkully he made it to the loo on time and was able to puke in private. He reflected on what a fool he had been. If he had vommed in the presence of the pupils he would have been shown up as a douche bag. He was immature to try to show off how bibulous he was. Incredibly none of them twigged that he had run off to barf. He returned to them and carried on as though nothing had happened.
Sean came to know a boy in St Olaf’s Upper Sixth. He was a short and scrawny youth. His schnozz was too generously proportioned. Robert had a cheery demeanour. He was short of pigmentation for one form Cyprus. Perhaps he was only half Cypriot. Verner was a most amiable sort. However, he was not blessed with mega super intelligence. He was clever enough to speak too but his academic ability was very low indeed. He was not all boorish. He also requested things courteously. Sean came to like him. The boy decided not to go to university but to train to be a vintner. It would suit him down to the ground.
Others would go careening around sometimes – threatening the little ones. Verner was above all that.
When it came to the house show Verner had delivered a tremendous performance. The hilarity was enjoyed by even the most stony faced.
Verner was doughty in the face of insults about his academic difficulties. Sean was shocked that people would say such maliceful things.
The monks were concerned about the death rate. Attrition on the monastery would mean that the abbey would go extinct in 50 years. They prayed for monks and got a few. These incantations must have something to them. Why else would someone opt for such a lifestyle?
Of a Sunday evening there was experimental worship in the abbey church. This included Taize worship. This is a sort of prayer invented at a monastery in northern France in the Middle Ages. The Latin chanting would be slow and melodic – in high pitched voices. There would be plenty of repetition of key phrases and one part of the choir would chant a verse behind the other. The notes would blend together. It would work the men into a trance. There was also plainsong in the abbey church.
Sean popped his head around the door. The eery chanting reverberated around the stonework of the place.
There was a most despicable Mathematics teacher named Puddefoot there. He was known as Pussy Foot to the pupils though he was not like that. He was cursed with a body that was too small and a head that was too big which is why he had no visible neck. His brown beard did little for him. Oddly, he shaved just a bit of it below his cheekbones. Anti bugger grips?
It was strange to think that he was married. He had all the sex appeal of a gnome.
Tussock was the most detestable boy in dim lower sixth. He came from the Scots Lowlands and spoke with a pukka accent. His skin was a little swarthy and he had mid brown hair. He was conceited rude and disruptive. He was all the negative public school stereotypes rolled into one. Sean found him very ennervating. Why this shit had not been expelled was beyond Sean. The youth was stupidly and idle to boot. He was cruel to the others.
Later he spoke to the boy one on one and he was reasonable. Despite being a Catholic he was a Rangers fan. His father had converted to Catholicism but kept his footballing allegiance. Nothing amiss there. The problem was with anti Catholic Rangers fans which is not all of them. ”I think religion should have nothing to do with football” said Tussock. It was the only decent thing he ever said.
Why was top management so forgiving of such an arsehole? Money may have had a lot to do with it. Tussock was turning lower sixth lessons into a debacle. He had been caught doing everything except drugs. He was always let off the hook. There was incontrovertible proof that such a lax policy meant that he would continue to cause grief and was not reforming. Yet still the school favoured him over everyone else.
This boy was also in lower sixth – the slow set. One could not be impressed by his appearance. Graham-Irwin was short and slim. He had plenty of red hair, a permanent smile and milk jug ears. He was thick as two short planks but agreeable. He was like something out of a bygone generation. He was not too badly behaved. Sean could not see Graham-Irwin brokering deal. His father was an estate agent – a typical thicko job. The father was plainly good at it or he would not have had the loot for his son.
Sean met his father. He was gangly and gormless but not disagreeable. Sean recommended Cirencester to Theobald and the boy was enthused. It was a notorious dumping ground for the ineducable – so long as their parents were solvent.
VIVIAN BIRDWOOD WHISTLER
He was lanky youth in 4th form. He had pale skin and very black hair. He also had nothing to say for himself. He had a perfect posh boy name. Sean wondered if he was related to the notorious anti Semite Lady Birdwood. He dressed in a very old fashioned style.
DOWN THE WHITE SWAN
In the local Abel was drowning his sorrows. ”How is it going ?” said Sean his tone implying that he had deduced things were not rosy.
”Not so well” said Abel averting his eyes ”Had another row with her. She wants to go on contraception after this baby. I told her contraception is an abomination. We had this argument before. I quoted the Catechism to her. It is a gravely disordered action and frustrates God;s will”
”Could God not overcome contraception if he wanted?”
”That is not the point. It is a sin”
DIM LOWER SIXTH
Every time Sean stepped into the classroom with this lot he felt he was going into a hostile environment. The most hard bitten teacher would have trouble with this lot. There were some personable pupils there – particularly the Belgians. But for these Wallonians a sense of impudence pervaded the class. They were avowedly boorish and anti intellectual. Sean found it very galling that his mortal hours were squandered on this lot.
Pupils are divisible into good, bad and neutral in terms of behaviour. If the bad were allowed to get away with it the neutral would turn bad and the good would turn neutral. At this school the disruptive ones were always allowed to ruin the education of those who wished to learn. They had no compunction about cat calling all the way through the lesson.
Sean could not ward off Murphy’s criticisms. Murphy said that Sean failed to keep order. If Sean attempted to do so he was told not to. The prime function of a teacher was to teach them which was impossible if they were screaming all the time. The upper echelons had no sympathy for him when he sought to enforce the rules. There was no fairness.
There was rampant disruption in the study when prep was on. People would wander around to borrow things or ask things. They were supposed to sort this out before prep began. If this behaviour went unchallenged soon everyone would be walking around and talking. Prep time was wrecked by such low level disruption. The school had grandiose schemes to improve results but would never uphold basic standards.
There was plenty of squabbling and sniping in dormitories as Sean patrolled late in the evening – making sure third form went to bed on time.
Again the knell tolled. The bell rang for a geriatric monk who had been called to the womb of the eternal unknown. This monk had been infirm for a long time so it was not unexpected. Did this not cause the others to ask themselves why they were spending their lives doing something incomparably dull and futile? Evidently it did not. Sean did not go to the chapel for the funeral of a perfect stranger. It reminded him yet again that death most certainly shall have dominion.
Spending their lives praying was causeless. Did the Almighty hearken? Were their bounties gifts in store for those who denied themselves earthly pleasures? It was especially odd that these men should choose to forswear things that were not forbidden to them by the Gospel. It was unaccountable that intelligent men should convince themselves that this is what God really wanted.
There was one monk who lived in solitude. What an inexcusable waste of his life that was. If he wanted to do good there were any number of people around the world who desperately needed help.