On Friday evening Sean did his duty as per usual. He was there shortly after dinner. Out of the window he saw Mrs Arrowsmith walking her cur. Things were not to bad – he reflected. He would be out of Amblefifth soon enough and have a PGCE to his name. He would never be out of work again. The Amblefifth episode in his life had been disagreeable but was part of life’s curious collage. Years down the line he may yet be glad to have spent a year here. He witnessed the stirrings of Spring. Migrating birds were flocking back from Africa.
He sat in the housemaster’s study perusing the Daily Telegraph avidly. In came Trinny, she was a young Chilean.
”Hello my name is Sean” he said rising from his chair.
”Hello my name is Trinny she said” shaking his hand and speaking in a mild Hispanic accent. She was about 21 and her skin was slightly bronzed. Her brown eyes were placid and confident. She had gorgeous shiny mid brown hair down to her elbows. She wore a white blouse and dark blue jeans that were perhaps too temptingly tight. There were knee high black leather boots on her feet.
”Yo estube in Chile” said Sean – eager to practise his faulty Spanish.
”Claro. Yo he visitado Arrica. Era sur la montana las palabras Arrica siempre Arrica mi lealtad es siempre mayor.” Sean harboured a not so secret desire to fornicate with Trinny.
Trinny giggled at that.
”Yo he jamas oir la tua nombre Trinny.”
”In realidad es Trinidad.” Her voice was soft and soothing.
”Esta significa Trinity in Ingles.”
”I did not know that.”
”So welcome to St Olaf’s. How come you are here?” he tried not to seem suspicious because he was not but he realised the question could come across badly.
”I am here to lead a reflection group.”
”Oh very nice. May I sit in?”
”I think it is better you do not.”
Sean took this courteous refusal well. He went out of the study. Her group began to gather. With a lubricious 21 year old lady leading the prayer it seemed the house had never been so holy. Trinny then took charge of her group. She was a brainy and forward looking young woman. It struck Sean as distinctly odd that she should be so devoted to the Catholic Church which refused to let her become a religious leader when every other Christian denomination outside Orthodoxy would have let her. If she was so dedicated to Christianity did she really observe all its strictures? Was she virgo intacta?
Sean then had to get the others in the main study to get going at their homework. He called on them to be quiet and get started. SOme would not. They were still standing and chatting. He had told them politely a few times. He could not shove them. Dr Shilling came along.
”Is there a problem?”
”Well some of them are not getting on with it. ”
Shilling then stepped forward. He raised his voice but did not shout. ”Guys can we sit down and get on with it please?”
Those who had disobeyed Sean slowly sat down and complied. They had taken their time about it with Shilling just to be a little defiant. Sean was grateful. He was also put out. He knew the boys had more respect for Shilling than they had for him but then they would do. Shilling was the deputy housemaster and had been there for a few years. Sean consoled himself with the thought that once he stayed at a place for a while such authority would accrue to him.
Sean walked around the house. In an upstairs kitchenette some of upper sixth were making themselves a snack. He did not reprimand them. He saw an anonymous short boy and asked ”Are you even in this house?” the other applauded.
Sean went on his winding away around the house. Some boys were still hanging around in the corridors. He would not allow them to chew the fat – there as plenty of time for that before or after homework. He would knock on doors. The policy was to knock and go in immediately. The knock was so the boy could protest that he was not decent. The idea was so that no one could claim that the teacher was going in with the intention of seeing the minor in a state of undress. On the other hand one had to go in instantly lest the pupil have time to conceal contraband. He would check on his trustees and have a chat with them. By this stage Stephen Erwin Montague was openly contemptuous. Sean wished he could tell this little shit what he thought of him but that was not a luxury afforded to teachers.
One of the 3rd formers was disrupting during prep. Sean brought him out and had him clean the kitchen as a punishment. He went back to check. It was not done sufficiently. The boy had to carry on. Sean came back some time later. He then said ”Well done” – the boy interjected which ruined the effect of Sean then saying ”you failed!” which he had learnt from a documentary on the army. ”I will have you hear cleaning it till midnight”/ He could not have people talking all the time and walking around the homework room. Otherwise there would be noisy chaos and no work would be done.
Many of the boys were not scamps. They were cunts.
CLEVER LOWER SIXTH
Teaching this class was rewarding. There was a poster up for a Music festival ‘Sound hounds’. It boasted ”There will be a lot of FIT people from Eton, Harrow, St Mary’s Calne and Queen Margaret’s there”
The boy named on the poster as the one to buy tickets from was one Emile Whitgift. In class Sean greeted him as Sound Hound. The others thought it droll. He took umbrage.
DIM LOWER SIXTH
Horace Tussock thought he led a harum scarum life. He was a wuss and Sean abominated him. He said to his colleagues ”This boy thinks he is so hard. Imagine if he was in a Young Offenders’ Institute.’
‘He would be their bitch” said a worldly male colleague.
Tussock being banged up with the hard lads – that would be serendipitous. Sean was so furious at these arseholes who were so impudent and so frustrated him every day. He dearly craved to exact revenge on them. He wished to throttle some of them. Yet somehow he restrained himself. He knew the catharsis would be followed by condign punishment. It was galling to witness such injustice. These moronic bastards could behave appallingly every day and get away with it.
Sean chatted to Fr David in idle moments. On this occasion he found Fr David in civvies. Fr David wore a three piece cheviot tweed suit complete with black leather gloves even though he was inside. He was 5’4” and had a round though not fat face and a thin covering of grey hair on his scalp. He was 50 but looked older. The capilliaries in his face were all distinctly visible. There was something villainish about his grey eyes.
”Good afternoon Fr David” said Sean seeing him in the refectory for afternoon tea. Fr David stood up languidly and extended a gauntleted hand. The monk shook his hand ponderously.
. ”Weren’t you chaplain of St Benet’s Hall a few years ago?”
”Yes, I was.”
”I see. Did you know that ANglican Fr Jameson?”
”Oh yes I did. A very funny fellow – funny in both senses.”
”I remember the speech he gave to the Oxford Union in the farwell debate – ”The Queen and I hate name droppers. Only yesternight I was dining at Downing Street when Tony Blair said to me ‘Dave. You have done more than anyone else to take vulgarity, drunkenness, blasphemy and sexual perversion of the streets … and put them back into the church where they belong.” Fr David laughed raucously.
”Yes, I remember his next comic turn” said Fr Jameson ” He said, ‘some of you will belong as I do to the Church as by law established. Others of you will belong to the Italian mission to the Irish in this country.’ ”
”It was piss funny”
”Certainly was. Then he said ”The Italians preached Catholicism but the Irish believed it. Look who ended up with the loot?” Then he sang doing the Vatican Rag. Smiles all round.
In Fr David religiosity commingled with sin more perfectly than in anyone else Sean had met.
Sean came to see it was there to tell people that doing what they knew to be wrong was right. You want to invade a country and steal the land? That is immoral. But then invent a revelation saying that it is right to do so. In fact you are doing these people a favour by invading their country. Your mythology is right and theirs is not. You will force them at sword point to subscribe to your mythology. This is the same mythology that allows you to invent messages from God whenever you want God to command you to do something that you want to do anyway but you know is flagrantly immoral. Is this principle of revelation universalisable? If another group invaded your country and said it was permitted because their God had mandated them to do it would you accept this as valid?
It was Lent and it was time for the whole school to go on a retreat. This did not mean going away from school though it could. The previous year Fr Augustine had taken the house to a nearby ruined abbey for a few hours. They had walked there and he had said mass in the remains of the religious house. ”I used my grandfather’s mass kit” he said beaming with familial pride.
There were no lessons that day. Everyone gathered in the house dressed in casuals.
The house was divided into different cross year groups for this. That is to say that some boys from 3rd form would be in a group along with some in 4th, 5th and 6th. They gathered in allotted rooms. A monk would give them a pep talk on their faith. There were members of the Manquehue movement there.
There was luncheon in the house. Sean sat in the housemaster’s study and ate from a plate on his knees. Beside him was a slender middle aged man with a high pitched voice. ”Hello there my name is Sean”
”Hello my name is Valentine” said the man. He was an effete type with mid brown slightly curly hair. He was whey faced and clean shaven. He wore a black polo neck and brown chinos together with expensive black leather shoes – polished to a gleam.
”Are you here with the house retreat?”
”Yes, I am. I live out in Chile. I got invovled with the Manquehue movement there. I am a Benedictine oblate.”
”Oh really and how does being an obalte work?”
”Well one is still a layman and not religious but one takes a vow of stability. So whatever one’s marital state one must continue in that as a married oblate or as a celibate oblate.”
”Are you a celibate oblate?”
”Yes, I am a celibate oblate” Sean had been able to guess.
”Oh terrific. How do you find it here at the school?”
”Well I am an old boy.”
”Ah that explains it.”
”And I knew Fr Augustine at Cambridge. We were both at King’s. He was always very involved in the life of the chapel.”
Later they were broken into groups. They had to come up with an act to tell the parable of the prodigal son. Sean and his group. came up with an act through discussion.
Then it was into the common room for mass. Fr AUgustine said mass as normal but at a certain point the act was performed. Sean had been allotted the role of the fatted lamb. He had to walk into the room on all fours and then lie on a table on his back with an apple in his mouth. This provoked peals of laughter which Sean savoured. Augustine was not po faced and he appreciated some drama and mirth.
An elderly Chilean man was there. He moved but awkwardly with his cane. This grey bearded man wore thick rimmed glasses and a heavy overcoat.
Later they played various games. Oddly there was some rough house game involving dragging people to the muddy ground. Sean was allotted in a group with several boys. AMong them were the McDonald brothers. They were minded to bring Sean down but he sternly warned them off and they did not dare.
Later there was a game of British bulldogs. Fr Augustine led the house to an unmarked field below junior house. The game was to take place there. Augustine affected a walking stick which was odd as he was in his early 40s. He brandished as though he was going to hit someone with it. He came across as very easygoing so it was impossible to imagine that he would ever give anyone a lash of this implement much though many of them deserved it. Why was he carrying a walking stick?
Augustine gave Sean instructions ”If you could just make sure they do not hurt each other?” It was couched in a peculiarly milksop Fr Augustine way ”if you could” – just typical. He was so wishy washy. It was astonishing that he managed to keep order in the house. Most of the boys considered him to be a decent chap. He kept control through appealing to goodwill more than asserting himself.
I WROTE THE BIBLE
Sean had heard of an elderly monk who was responsible for the latest edition of the Jerusalem Bible. That means the translation of the Bible favoured by the Catholic Church.
The weather warmed up a little. Sean was walking past Junior House on day. He saw a trim old man of middle height wearing old his shorts as he dug his gardens. ”Good afternoon” he said in a camp high pitched voice.
”What is your name?”
”Hello my name is Sean”
”Well hello I am Fr Henry.”
Sean realised that was him. Abel had told him that Fr Henry greeted people with ”I wrote the Bible.”
One day Sean heard the bell tolling slowly but constantly. He knew that one of the monk’s must have been called to his Maker. It was the death knell being rung. Think of it – a man had been there since his childhood and would not be buried under the chapel.
Surely the other monks believed that their brother had been summoned to the right hand of the father. So why the lamentations? Does that not suggest that they disbelieved their own core doctrine? Their mantras were about sure and certain hope of life everlasting. Indeed an early death was a prize draw. A person went to the ineffable bliss of being in the presence of the Almighty.
Sean had to get his suits dry cleaned . He had no means of going to town to do so. The woman in charge of sending the monks’ habits for dry cleaning did this for him. He used to go to her. She worked in a building a little bit up the slope from the main school building. This woman was only about 50 but had silver curls. She was a kindly, jowelly woman and spoke with only a trace of a Yorkshire accent. Sylvia was her name.
Sylvia was forever speaking about her daughter. Her daughter married a Pakistani and lived in Italy. It was a very happy marriage. Sean was able to unburden himself to Sylvia and voice his unhappiness with Murphy.
Sylvia remarked ”some of the students are very good looking girls”
”I had not noticed” said Sean with heavy irony. ”I can see their faces. Below that is invisible to me”
”That is very wise” she commented.
BUST UP WITH ALEXANDRA BISHOP.
Sean was doing some dinner duty. He had to be there in the upper dining room. It was not especially onerous. Only a few people were there.
”I wish I could go.”
”I can see why you want to go.” said Alexandra.
”I see” said Sean. He then took his tray and put it away. He headed off.
Next morning at breakfast Alexandra was there. Her chubby face was as red as a baboon’s balls. ”You have a nerve!” she squealed. She then stormed off. Sean was nonplussed. He at his food and thought nothing of it.
Lisa was beside Sean. ”I will go and see what that is about.”
Lisa came back. ”It is about the way you walked off and left her in charge of the dining room”
”She said she would do it for me.”
”Yes.” Sean shrugged it off. He did not care. If she chose to do his duty so what. He was leaving anyway so why keep in the good graces of the school.
Sean later received an email from Alexandra. ”You were unprofessional. A lot of people bad mouth you but I always defend you. Now I understand why they are saying this.”
He wrote back, ”I am unprofessional. I am an amateur. What have people been saying about me?” She did not reply to that. Miss Bishop gradually got over it. Sean prided himself on being an amateur. He pined for the good old days of public school. Only 10 years earlier life had been radically different. Public schools were public schools and state schools were state schools. Ne’er the twain shall meet. The state kept its pesky nosy out of the independent sector. No one who taught Sean had a PGCE. He wanted gifted amateurs to run public schools. As his father said great teachers are born not made.
One of Sean;s favourite things to do was to stand outside her door and say in a high pitched voice ”Miss Bishop” he would then come around and she would see it was him.
The matron in St Olaf’s was an obese blonde named Jane. She was a slow speaking and tranquil woman. Sean found her decent in his few dealings with her. He saw her tiny office. On the wall was a photo of her son in his army private’s uniform. Sean was none too keen on soldiers.
The school had the CCF. There was an ex Irish Guard who ran it. This Corkman had silver hair always perfectly brushed. He hung around in the day in a civilian suit – always immaculate. The Guardsman’s black leather laceup shoes were shone to a fervent brightness. He had nothing to do except when the CCF was active.
There was a former cavalry soldier on the staff too. He was all but bald and was very tidy. He wore a khaki uniform most of the time. Sometimes he was in riding boots when he took people for that activity. He was going out with a particularly dull Music teacher. It took something special for someone who taught so soulful a subject to be boring.
Sean came to know a fascinating character. He was the head of English was James Nixon
”How long have you been here?” asked Sean. ”I came here in 1977.” He had been teaching there since Sean was born.
”I see. Not too remote for you obviously?”
”Well although I am from London this is not isolated for me.”
”My father was a diplomat so we moved around a lot. I went to China in 1969. I remember everywhere we went we were followed by great crowds of people staring at us.”
”Anyway that cured me of any wish to be a diplomat. But the Cold War had an effect on me. It was a very scary time. The whole world could be wiped out by nuclear arms. So when I got to Cambridge I joined the CND and I became a pacifist. I was brought up and Anglican. I read the Gospels and they are very clear on this. If someone hits you then you do not hit back. When I came here I was shocked to find there was a CCF and the monks were running it.”
”But fighting is allowed by the Bible. The Pope has his own army for goodness sake. They do not protect him with words. His bodyguards have guns.”
Nixon was stumped.
Mr George was a pukka chap who ran an SEN clinic. He also took beagling. Of an afternoon Mr George could be seen sporting a green cloth cap and a tweed outfit complete with plus fours. He was bald and always impeccable turned up. He spoke with a cut glass accent and commanded the respect of the posh pupils.
Stoke was one who frequented George’ sessions. Mr George seemed to come from a different and more decent era. How did he fit in with the era of socialist psychobabble and endless pointless form filling? It was beyond Sean. Somehow George got through all that.
Had a high yet hoarse voice.
His wife was egregiously hideous. Must have been ashamed of her.
His ginger son was a fat boy at the prep school. The child was severely bullied. Having a parent at the school did not help his case. This was especially so when his father taught an unfashionable subject such as Maths.
Sean started to notice a matron from another house. This middle aged Scotswoman had a face like a snoopy. She was dumpy, pale faced and deeply unattractive. Sean happened to know she was single. But no. No. No! Even Sean had to draw a line somewhere. The boys said that she flirted with them and he could believe it.
Had it been a man making risque remarks to 13 year old girls action would have been taken. Because it was a female making leading comments to boys nary a word was said. Sexism.
Sean started to get to know one of his colleagues who was his age. Liam Taught thicko subject: Business Studies. BS – that is all you need to know. BS = bullshit. . He was an Irishman though born in England. Face like a 19th century racist cartoon. He looked like a laughing demon – small brown eyes, cheekbones too big and devilment about him.
Sean was finding it hard to cope. He drank wine at home every night. He tried not to leave a wounded soldier behind. But sometimes he came down in the morning and there was wine in his glass. He would gulp it down before heading to school – the breakfast of champions.
DRINKS WITH BROWN
Down the pub Sean ran into Mr Brown.
”How you doing Sean?” said Brown with his trademark bonhomie – only partly put on.
”Top hole thank you”
”Good to hear. Well we are doing well this year – those results from January papers are in. Bear in mind we do have an academic tail. you know what I mean we cannot afford to be that selective. We take in pupils who are predicted to get only E grades in their GCSEs.” said Brown.
”Numbers are looking good for next year. I know that your old school had a problem a couple of years ago. They provisionally accepted only 10 boys more than they could take after Common Entrance. They expected a few to fail so they would then be able to accommodate everyone. Anyway of course a handful fail but then a few people always fail to show up at the last minute. Anyway too many people decided not to come at the last minute so they were 20 boys short. Blew a whole in their budget.”
”Wow a headache for the bursar.”
”You can say that again.”
”How do you get to hear all this?”
”HMC bush telegraph you see. Anyway I do not always talk shop. I like football too. I support Queen of the South. Do you back anyone in the Scottish Cup.?”
”I really do not care. I was told to support Celtic when I was little.”
Sean warmed to Brown. He seemed a little false but there was no rigidity to him.
Sean became more disillusioned with Christianity than ever. There were some sincere Christian who lived righteously. But many were not like that. He came to perceive that many of the
boys do not understand what they claim to believe.
ST PATRICK’S DAY
Sean was down the alehouse on his national day. The acne blemished little barman sported a green leprechauns’s hat complete with buckle. His strap on ginger beard hid some of his face which was very welcome. In reverence of the occasion Sean ordered a Guinness which was not his usual tipple. He hoisted a porter to the saint of our isle.
Sean saw Horace Tussock there. Sixth form were allowed in with their parents. He went outside to smoke. Sean always let it drift with decent ones. Tussock was such an arsehole that Sean relished causing him trouble. Tussock came in.
”Hey Tussock you were smoking out there so hand over the cigarettes”
Tussock looked shocked. But he knew he was stumped. So he handed over his lighter ”That was the last of my ciggies so I through the pack away” he rubbed his nose.
Sean knew that was a lie. He foolishly did not pursue it. Sean immediately sent the boy back to his house. He later called to confirm he had gone back. It was good to hit back and this little cunt. He had ruined Tussock;s evening. Now Tussock would have detention. He had paid back this shit a tiny bit of the pain that he had caused. Tussock thought he was so scapegrace. In busting Tussock he had turned up top trumps. It made his day to finally hurt that little bastard.
Then Lisa came along. She was smoking as she sidled up to Sean. ”How are you?” she said.
He caught a whiff of BO off her.
”I am really well how about you?”
”I am ok but I a bit worried. I overslept. I missed a lesson. Sometimes I do not go to bed till 5 am but then next day I sleep 12 hours.” she said in her dulcet lisp.
”Ah I see.” If he slept through a lesson he would be hauled over the coals for it by Murphy. Others got away with a lot more.
Lisa’s housemate LIZ PAVITT came along. When Lisa headed off to the loo LIZ confided in Sean
”She is terrible with money. She overspends. I have to manage the household budget. Love her to bits but talk about ditzy.”
”You are a better financial manager?”
”Yes well I have to be. I am an only child so my parents gave me plenty of money but I am sensible with it. I was not always like that. I used to be a bit naive. I remember when I started university in London I shared a house with this guy called Gerry Rhodes. He went to your school actually.”
”Oh yeah I heard of him. He was the year ahead of me”
”Anyway he said that I should pay all the bills and he would pay me back.”
”But then he never did. He was always saying later, later, later. But he was leading this party lifestyle. Champagne at lunche. Clubbing every night. He had a sports car. I did not know how he could afford it. His parents were well off but not THAT well off. I meant he was skiing in Courcheval for a month. Anyway he had his mates coming around at all hours. They were not the posh boys you would expect – Cockney skin heads with tattoos. I would go into the drawing room and there would be about five black guys with dreadlocks I would shake all of their hands. I knew something was up. The place smelt of cannabis – I dod not mind that so much. ANyway I went away for the weekend. Then I came back. In my bedside drawer I found poackets of white powder and brown powder. I realised he was dealing drugs. He had been stupid enough to store it in my bedroom too. I thought if the police raid us they will accuse me too. ”
”Oh my God so what did you do?”
”I phoned my parents and they said just leave. So I said what about the money he owes me for bills. They said forget about the money. Does not matter. Get out of their. Your safety matters. So I did. Anyway I am a lot more worldly wise now. I am good with money. ”
LIZ PAVITT wore a little makeup but Lisa never did.
”I remember at this party we had at my house people stayed over. I had to share a bed with my Chinese friend. Just because she is a woman people were saying we were lezzing off.”
”Were you?” he asked mischievously
”No. Two heterosexual women. No way. Then our mate Dan was there had had nowhere to sleep so he slept between us. And he was like – wow this is so cool in bed with two women. We did not let him do anything though.”
Lanky Frank butted in. ”Isn’t it nice there are no coons, Pakis and chinks here” he said clangorously.
”Fuck off” said LIZ PAVITT.
There was Abel raving that contraception was an abomination in the sight of the Lord. ”The Holy Office has said so. I wrote to Propaganda for clarification.” There was a pathos to him. He started to remind Sean of the GRIFFIN– another mad convert.
”Abel” said Sean in a quiet and sincere voice, ”do you think that you might drink a bit too much sometimes. I know that I do.”
”Think I do? I know I do. It is the only way to cope. I remember after my first year as an undergraduate me and my mate Aidan we stayed in a flat on James Street. We decided to see what it would be like for a week to try being alcoholics. Being alkies we had beer for breakfast. We used to go to the pub as soon as it opened. It was fun for a week. Trouble is I acquired a taste for it. Aidan gave up after a week. It just whetted my appetite. I got really into it. You know like Brendan Behan said one drink is too many and 100 isn’t enough. ”
”Any nights you take off/?”
”Yes, when I have house duty. If a boy says he smelt whisky on me it would not be good. Another reason it is good to be a deputy housemaster. Means I take two nights off the booze per week.” He was increasingly sozzled.
”I have had one too many”
”I have had many too many” said Abel chuckling.
”Maybe we should both make it a case of less is more.”
”Oh no – more us MUCH more” said Abel mirthfully.
”I have had much too much. I am offski” said Sean shaking his hand.
”Lightweight ” Abel chided him and belched.
Sean walked out and saw Abel’s eye alight on a trollope who had caked on her makeup with a trowel. That young woman was decent looking but for a forehead that sloped too much. She showed an acre of cleavage and wore a skirt that was too tight for her chubbiness.
Foot was a slightly deranged teacher of an obscure Humanities subject. He was short and a slim man with a pot belly stuck on. This was explained by his constantly downing beer. His hair was a tangled grey mass. He had a quiet nasal voice and a mild Lancashire accent. His wore little thin rimmed glasses.
Foot was an outspoken Conservative and then a UKIP supporter. He had a list of Francophobes’ flag flying dates – recording victories of the British over Gaul. He worshiped Maggie Thatcher. His extreme dishevelement made it hard to think he was a Conservative.
”I grew up in a small down in Lancashire run by a corrupt Labour council and the Tories represented freedom.”
It made Sean wonder whether if the man had been raised in a Tory run town with a corrupt council he might have turned out Labour?
”I love Europe – love the people and the culture. I hate, loathe and abominate the bureaucratic superstate.” said Foot. This dose of euroscepticism provided a welcome corrective to the europhile prejudices of most of the staff room. Sean was a eurosceptic but not to the extent that Foot was.
Foot was a maverick and unambitious. Sean had a lot of time for him. It was staggering that he had survived in teaching. Foot had a sense of humour that was decidedly not PC. A teacher was quoted in a newspaper as sending a child to the Nig Nog corner. Foot quoted it and plainly thought it to be droll in the extreme.
WALK TO SCHOOL
Sean walked through a morning enshrouded by mist. He had been working out in the gym and sensed the potency in his thighs.
He saw a gleam on the dewy fields. A coppered gate held the sheep in their field. He set eyes on such serene placidity and beauty every day. It was balm to him after the clamour and stress of the classroom. The grubby flock greeted him with their mindless bleats. Their gibbering was not as irritating as that of some of his pupils. He loathed going to his hideous classes. Sean recalled how he wished for them to end – counting down the minutes so eagerly.
Not long before he had quivered with cold but he sensed that Spring was upon him. He was burning fires at home no more. The grate was empty.
Sean was in touch with his German ex girlfriend. He wrote to her pleadingly. ”Is your heart made of stone?” He had sent her a Valentine;s card. He also sent her a birthday card very early. It was too late. When he was going out with her he forgot her birthday.
She liked it when his emails were factual and unemotional. Sometimes he wrote of his fantasy of having a baby with him.
She told him
”Ich liebe Volker” – one of the only things she wrote in her native language. That was indicative of strength of feeling. ”I used to love you but not I do not. I do not have you now. I just feel nothing for you. Just nothing.”
Sean then turned to online dating. She warned him against it. ”I live in a remote area and there are very few single women. We do everything online these days.” He had seen an ad for it on the tube in London with a hot couple on it. They should up good looking people on it but not impossibly hot ones. The average person must feel that he or she has a chance.
Sean saw some decent women online. Anyone who was neither obese or emaciated could be considered. His loins were in tumult. He needed some soon! This valley did not seem to be a haven of horny women.
Sean and Alexandra set up a debating society. They did sessions to coach people. Alexandra had never coached people as such in debating. They organised an inter house junior debating competition. It was one of the few things that Sean enjoyed. He knew he was achieving things. One would chair and the other would judge.
Sean had to judge his own house. He then gave a speech praising both teams. He declared that the son of an MP had given a superb parliamentary oration. Fr Augustine stood at the back quietly laughing at Sean’s antics.
Fr Augustine and another housemaster thrice cancelled another fixture. They had to organise the date between themselves. Finally it went ahead. One housemaster forgot to inform his team. The other side showed up. Their housemaster Mr Codd demanded a bye. Sean was sympathetic to the other man but in the end gave Codd his bye.
In most events the public spoke with excessive precision – slowly and to their notes. They built up their confidence this way. Few had the ability to improvise or much poise. But they were taking baby steps. Sean recalled his own flounderings when he first debated.
Lisa held a party in her house.
She wore a white dress but no makeup. Sean wore a dinner jacket as she requested. As Luz came in she remarked to Fanny ”Look at Sean!” He was pleased that he had made a positive impression.
There was music and there was ample drink.
Sean was in Lisa’s house when no one else was there. They talked about their sex lives.
”I am not on the pill or anything. When he does he he pulls out but sometimes he forgets” she said looking distressed.
”Well shouldn’t you be in the pill?”
It was an astonishingly stupid attitude for someone so smart.
”Well at least he barebacks you. As for me it is like a meal without meat. If I have not eaten meat it is like I have not eaten at all. Sex with a condom is not sex at all. ”
”Do you have a big dick>?”
”It is just average. Do you want to see it?”
He stood up and lowered his trousers. He took his boxers and was about to…
”No, no I don’t. Now I know that you really were about to show me. ”
”Ok. Well it is just as well I came in only recently and it is Baltic out there. Baltic is your word.”
”Well I was in St Petersburg for six months so I know what it is like.”
”Where else in Russia were you?” Sean asked. He was not a linguist and was forever in bewildered awe of those who were. Being a linguist required single mindedness, a high boredom threshold and attention to detail. These were all qualities that were absent in Sean.
”Kazan? Isn’t that where Lenin was from?”
”He went to uni there. He was from Simbirsk or Ulyanovsk as they sometimes call it.”
”What was it like?”
”Good and bad. I got out to St Petersburg. I was living with a family They did not tell me this before I got there but I had to share a room with an 8 year old boy.”
”Oh I see”
”They were really nice though. Anyway I was meant to be doing charity work. Turns out my so called charity was basically a business and hired me out to businessmen to teach them. The Russian girls have really bad taste in clothes. They never had makeup before so now they really go to town on it.”
”Wow – how about Kazan”
”Well in some ways it was good. I had great friends there. When we got there we had this talk from the uni. They said we know in your country smoking cannabis is normal but here it is not. So do not do it. There was this ENglish boy who was selling it at the uni. He got caught. They charged him with espionage. He was not a spy! He was a dope head – the last person you would make into a spy. ANyway he got 10 years and they are making him serve it.”
”Oh my God”
”I got arrested a few times. Coz the Russian police do not get paid for months. Only way they survive is to arrest people especially foreigners with money. I saw an opinion poll and most Russian police say they think it is ok to extort. ANyway I would see these police on the street and they would say come with us. They never handcuffed me. A policewoman would pat me down – take my purse. They took all the money out of my purse. Then I had to phone a Russian friend to come and bail me out. I hd to pay them back only 20 quid but that was a lot of money in Russia back then. Anyway it happened 6 times in one year. Arrested for being foreign. Kazan was really cool apart from that. British boys got to shag loads of Russian girls. But there was this house that people said was haunted the KBG used to take people there to kill them.”
Lisa had the milk of human kindness. Why did she hang around with that boy who refused to even send her a Valentine? This was what Sean wondered as he stepped into the mild Yorkshire air. He bent his footsteps homeward.
THICK LOWER SIXTH
Sean was plagued by the fox faced Erwin Montague. The crocodile smile of Horace Tussock was also a problem.
Sean was told by Murphy that he would be observing him. He did not have enough to do. He printed out the Tamworth Manifesto and had them read that aloud before analysing it.
Erwin Montague berated him ”we got nothing out of that. I will say it – it is not the brightest set.”
Sean had started applying for his next post. Destiny danced in the pages of the Times Educational Supplement – jobs section.
He applied to the Immanuel College. It was a Jewish day school in London. He missed the deadline but his letter must have struck home. He stated he was a Gentile but they invited him for interview anyway.
Their mission statement was not as farty sounding as most. They had a clear purpose.
A trip to London was a major railway expedition. This gave him space for thinking on the journey down. Should he be in this line of work at all?
LUNCH WITH THE HOUSE
At lunch Sean sat with the lower sixth he liked.
He joked to Burley Wookey and Baggins about Jenna Jameson ”Isn’t she in lower sixth”
”You blatantly know who she is” they said reeling with laughter.
He dared not tell them he used to be on her website lest this be seen as incitement to access porn. The school had its morals all fucked up. Ruining a lesson was totally acceptable. Looking at nudity was a heinous offence.
GEORGE BAKER BAKER was rude to him. ”So bog brush hair is it true you were bullied out of Harrow?” that shut him up.
Magnus was diffident as ever. He had nothing to say for himself or to think for himself.
There was a fissure in the year group between those who were amenable to Sean and those who were not.
Murphy was still holding Sean’s feet to the fire with regard to paperwork.
Miss Cavanagh came in and observed Sean again. Later they went over it. This good two shoes did nothing but berate him. He strove not to smirk at her syntactical errors. Finally he could take it no longer. He gave her a look of disdain that even one as dim as her could not fail to spot. She never watched his lessons again. It had the desired effect.
Murphy then say Sean in his obvious.
”I am forced to accuse you of the gravest crime a teacher can commit” said Murphy.
Sean shuddered – he was not being false accused of….?
”Maladministration” spat Murphy. Sean had never seen him so livid. His face writhed.
Sean saw Nigella in the library. She was very pregnant. Her nursling would not be long now.
THE IMMANUEL COLLEGE.
There he met a Mrs Gray – the head of history. In the interview she said, ”We are a Jewish school but you do not have to be Jewish to teach here. I am not Jewish for example.”
She was a decent looking woman but for a fucked up nose.
END OF TERM
What a term it had been? Sour bird of youth – he thought.
Sean was very happy to get on the train to the City of Words. He had been on the internet scouring for flights. He spent so long finding a cheap flight to Eastern Europe. A land he had never been to. Poland. No return flight – sort that out later. He was bored of being on the website.
Sean was applying for jobs. The future need not be so Stygian.
He would be away from the mincing monks and their cassocks. He disliked men in joupes. The floating cassocks were so camp that it gave Sean the willies. Fr David in his soutane and shovel hat surfeited even Sean’s taste for anachronistic eccentricity.
He was feeling less Yorkshire bitter. He knew he had many foes at the school. They noticed his discomfiture and felt their schadenfreude.
On the final morning he waited for the coach. He was even happier than the pupils to be getting out of Dodge. He happened to see O DONOVAN pass with his hideous wife and her revolting monobrow. Fr David walked by in lay clothes. In his case he sport a silk shirt in a colour that can only be described as crushed cardinal together with skin tight black trousers and Cuban heels. Fr Francis was coming in the other direction. This man looked like dopey from the seven dwarves only he was an ordinary height. He had no visible lips and tiny, watery eyes. His odour would have made a goat retch.
WATSON insisted on sitting beside him. The boy watched Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Sean had not seen it before and enjoyed it heartily. WATSON was thick but cordial.
On the train he sat near Poldy von Weiding – one the more agreeable sixth formers from another house. The school was full of what some opprobriously termed Euro trash. Sean reminded himself there were some likable pupils and collegial colleagues. Other pupils emotionally wounded him and their arrogance only caused these to suppurate. One of the few things that kept him going was discussing his enemies in mordant terms with his pals.
The conceit of these pupils arose from some of them having original virtue. They were born rich.
Sean reached London feeling goatish. How he longed to meet a nymph with a gamlin eye. He had lately struck up an online acquaintance with a large breasted American named Jenn. He had been flabbergasted that a woman in the United States should want to meet him. Then she told him she would visit London in late March anyway.
Perhaps next term would be more convivial than the last. He did not take his work seriously and why should he? He was leaving but might be wise to get that PGCE.
Sean met her in the bar of the Cumberland Hotel. He immediately saw why her photos only showed her from her decolletage up. She was a pretty and plump American. They sat in the open plan foyer and chatted endlessly. She was an urbane, dim witted but genial hairdresser. She had a hairdresser’s intellect. Soon her felt his loins were astir.
Jenn made plenty of money. How could an airhead be so well off when he was so educated and so poor. He was embarrassed to be a teacher.
Later Sean bonked her. His head was aswim with endorphins