In late November instructions came out for reports. Mr Loveday sent voluminous and very complex instructions. These could be done ”sitting by the poolside in the Caribbean” said Loveday. No they could not since they had to be done before the end of term.
Sean read the instructions and made a start. It was incredibly tricky. Import record. Merge the template. It had to be the right one. Sean wrote lots of reports only to find out he had done it on a read only version of the document. None of it had been saved. He was furious. He had come in on Sunday to do it and get ahead of the game. More haste less speed. Absorb the instructions. He had to re do many of them. Then Murphy made him redo many again for being too this or too that. He used the word ‘progress’ a lot. So he was bored of that word and decided to vary it with headway. Murphy said he was not allowed to use headway. Why not?
Sean strove to be positive. However, sometimes he had to make some criticisms of certain pupils. He wanted to say that some made insufficient effort which was a huge understatement. ”That should have been sorted out already” said Murphy. Well it had not been. Problems were to be hidden from the parents and not faced up to. That was the schools attitude. Some pupils were extremely rude and very disruptive. No, Sean was not allowed to say that. ”Parents will not like it”. It was all about telling parents what they wanted to read. What about honesty? Did parents not deserve to know the truth? Problems could never be tackled if they were not faced up to.
Sean wrote that one boy was ‘tantalisingly’ close to the next grade. Murphy told him to delete that word. These had to be as bland as possible.
Sean predicted everyone in 5th form a C. Murphy asked if he was confident about this. Sean chose to stick with his prediction.
Writing these reports was maddening. Then he had to print them out. The teachers were fighting over the printers. Printing things – isn’t that what the secretaries are for? No, they are far too busy buffing their nails. They reports all had to be signed. Why? It could not be in red ink.
Reports caused much time to be lost and caused an immense amount of grief.
Alexandra Bishop later told Sean his reports were terrible. Sean pointed out that this was because he had had to do them three times. He was not in the mood for writing decent reports when Murphy censored much of what he said. He felt like saying to Murphy – if I am so bad at writing these then you write then. I teach them you do not.
Sean longed to dispraise those who deserved it. But this was impermissible. When it was acceptable to praise endeavour and accomplishment why should the opposite not be reported? He felt he was shirking his duty not to tell the parents. If issues were not addressed they would never be resolved. A school is a conspiracy against the parents. They were so often kept in the dark. Time was a report had been privileged correspondence. Now Sean might as well not even see what was sent out in his name.
Sometimes the boys were not too bad at knuckling down to their work in the evening. Those who were recalcitrant had to be cowed by a raised voice and threat of detention. Sean would read a bit of Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer and A Crown of Thorns by John Cardinal Heenan. In the former he learnt the word ancestress. Heenan – the name stuck in Sean’s mind since this prelate had penned the Religious Instruction textbook used by Sean’s father as a schoolboy. Sean was hyperthymeasic which is why he recalled such minutiae. Conversely he could not recall vital tasks.
Keenan was a 4th form boy with a mass of poodle hair. He was pertinacious and obstinate. Sean found it very galling to deal with this toe rag. Keenan was stubbornly determined to do the wrong thing at the wrong time. Keenan was the most preposterous emobdiment of public school arrogance. This brace toothed dimwit was stuck up with nothing to be stuck up about. Sean was stung by the constant sneering from this cunt. Sean could tolerate disdain from his elders and betters but when he received this treatment from his underling he found it galling.
Sean would patrol and speak to some of the more amiable boys.
AFter prep they all gathered in the common room. United in public prayer they assumed a different attitude. The rise and fall of their voices in unison was balm to Sean after a day of grief. The soothing cadences would be uttered by bowed heads and contrite hearts. How could people sincerely believe in the need for goodness, obedience, compassion, humility and the whole shebang and then go out to behave in the opposite manner minutes later? With stunning swiftness some of them forgot their promises to be kind and were instantly ghastly. Sean sensed that some of them really were guided by their faith and they lived good even exemplary lives because of it. For others it was a badge of status. They looked scornfully at those who happened to be raised in other denominations.
The pulpit got ample air time. Even then some of the pupils were disbelievers and others were indifferent. Sean could not help but wonder if this interfered with the school’s educational mission. What happened to teach the debate? There was no counterblast against Catholicism.
Sometimes Sean was required to hear mass. He never went to worship but when his job obliged him. Occasionally the splendour of worship and the august and uplifting melodies moved him. It was as though the fire of faith was reignited – almost. There was no doubting the impassioned devotion of many of the pupils. So often Sean was disillusioned by the banal hypocrisy and immorality of the faithful. Yet when he saw the trust in the eyes of the congregation his respect for the Church was briefly revivified. It was hard to be a cynic all the time.
A major football match was on. Jamie was banned from watching since he was so behind on his work. Sean told him to leave. Under protest the boy got up and walked towards the door. Sean did not hear the door open. He strongly suspected that Jamie had not departed. At the end of the match Sean walked to the door. A figure was crouched on the floor behind a chair and shuffled away. Sean chuckled and said ”nice one Jamie. You have found where you belong.”
Jamie was stupid in much more than the academic sense. He was obstinate and idle. It was a recipe for disaster. He could trace his ancestry back a few centuries so he boasted and he imagined that this afforded him some kudos. It would be an outrage not to give such a chap a highly paid job. Sean could not help but feel sardonic. He thought that this fool was as much a victim of the system as anyone else.
Miss Cavanagh came to watch his lessons sometimes. It was galling that they insisted on always saying observe lessons. Sean was all for varying words and not being so tediouslt samey all the time.But why not occasionally use the word watch for observe? It was part of the self-important jargon that masked the vacuity of modern pedagogical theory. He had little time for sub Marxist babble but it was imposed on him. He knew better than to slaughter the sacred bovines. He paid lip service to all that Miss Cavanagh told him. Sean was an accomplished liar and fancied himself as an actor. He found the drivel he was told so revolting that he struggled to conceal his revulsion.
Sean was building a psycho profile of Miss Cavanagh. She was a control freak like her idol Murphy. Her classroom was frighteningly tidy. Rigidity and regularity defined her actions. Independence of thought was Hebrew to her. She perceived it as her bounden duty to indoctrinate her pupils with some politically correct shibboleths. if a right winger or libertarian tried to do the equivalent he or she would be hounded out of teaching.
Miss Cavanagh’s sexuality was tightly controlled. Her lare globes held no allure for Sean. He had witnessed enough rebarbative behaviour but this female to but him off for life. There was in inherent vulnerability to her. Orderliness was the core of her self esteem. Should this orderliness be shattered then she would go to pieces. The dominance of people such as her was a death knell for innovation and free enquiry.
Sean had to watch her lessons. See how it is done. These were insipid Primary school lessons .
Miss Cavanagh was rotund but not bad looking. Occasionally he found himself sitting opposite this female at luncheon. She would never speak to him outside a work situation. Surely she was mute of malice and not through an act of God.
Trying to get 5th form to do their coursework on time was a nightmare. They were given plenty of time. They were given time in lessons.
Pinfold never did his of course.
Towards Christmas Sean was collecting coursework and saw how much missing. ”I am sacked” he said to himself aloud. So many things had gone wrong.
A practical step might have been to look for a job. Could he really tough it out here for another 20 months? That was a bleak prospect indeed.
DOWN THE PUB
Abel was drinking heavily. Unstable Abel said of his wife ”she is a drip”
”Now that is unfair” Sean chided him. His tone lacked a certain conviction. Abel was exaggerating but there was some validity to what he said. Sean questioned his friend’s suitability as a deputy housemaster. This man had issues to grapple with. Abel was far from discreet and seemed to be betraying his wife’s trust. He was denouncing her in a semi public manner. This could easily be overheard. Brown was known to come to the pub sometimes. It was almost like discrete surveillance on the staff. As Sean came in and saw Brown he acknowledge him with due deference. Sean always conspicuously respectful towards the higher ups. Sean also wondered if Abel’s plummy tones were affected.
A gabble of farmers propped up one end of the bar. These flatulent old coffin dodgers were the type to have more hair in their ears then on their pates. They were plainly thrilled about something. The place was jammed with these codgers.
Sean surmised that Abel’s domestic life was a melee.
”I am under strict instructions to get bladdered” Abel quipped. Abel seemed prone to mood swings. Sean tried to evaluate his pal’s personality. Sean had read his grandfather’s psychiatry books. For someone with no scientific background he knew a fair amount about the subject.
Sean worried that Abel would get pissed on duty as the Griffin had done. Instant dismissal would follow. Ethelwulf the housemaster was hardly a martinet but surely there was a limit to what he could tolerate.
”Nigella is so boring. She told me to cut down on drinking” said Abel – he was barely controlling his anger. A recent especially emotional domestic scrap was written on his face. This swipe against Nigella was not the first one he had made to a colleague that day.
”Might not be a bad idea. I should too” said Sean.
”What you turned Protestant too?”
”Certainly not. I am not religious. Protestantism has nothing to do with it. Most of them drink. There is a temperance movement in the Catholic Church too.”
Abel harrumphed with indignation. His ire was gone as soon as it arrived. ”How the lessons going?” said Abel changing tack
”I get so angry over some slights” he said. ”Some classes are unpredictable. Good sometimes and woeful the next.”
”Ah I see. Absolute little motherfuckers half of them” said Abel. ”Wish I could do a Dunblane on the little cunts. I remember the day that massacre happened we were doing a drama lesson. Then someone acted it out and shouted in a Scotch accent – ah ya wee bastards and did the dud ud dud ud dud ud dud noise. ” Abel plainly wore the halo of intoxication.
”Mate have you ever spent some time in hospital?” it was a shot in the dark.
”Yes about five years ago. I was off my rocker. Had to be sectioned” alcohol had made him speak to freely.
It was an astounding result. Sean’s question could have been taken to allude to physical health. He was getting the measure of his pal. He liked how Abel was drily cynical.A
Abel was perhaps uneasy with the turn of conversation. ”Got to go home mate” he gabbled. It was common knowledge that Abel drank more than was good for him.
Abel staggered off home. Sean looked out the window. He saw he was so drunk he was walking like a horse doing dressage. There was a cigarette packet on the street. Abel lifted his foot a metre to step over it. He could not gauge distance and depth. Abel then took a slash on someone’s lawn.
Sean had had 8 pints. That was his ceiling. He could drink that much and be tipsy but still in control. Beyond 8 and he was beginning to lose control. This mist of alcohol helped him. It deadened the pain. He had so much grief and stress from dealing with beastly pupils and cantankerous colleagues.
Abel was so free spirited. Sean had seen him on display mode and he was stiff and bland. Abel spoke to Sean in a schoolmasterly tone sometimes. He wondered if Abel’s problems were insoluble.
Sean wondered whether Abel would be happy. Among a coterie of effete, snobbish, sneering, ale soaked young fogeys he would feel content. He was not as reactionary as he pretended.
Sean then struck up a conversation with a young woman. She was courteous at first. When he tried to get flirtatious she was having none of it. She gave him the brush off with aplomb. She had plainly had ample practice.
Sean went to bed alone again of course. He cast his mind back to his gap year in Latin America. He had been taught much by the hard bitten hookers of Rio de Janeiro. It had been a real education. In a year he had picked up Spanish, Portuguese and herpes.
He could offer himself to an older woman. Would she take the bait? The kind who is used to attention from men 20 years older not 10 years younger. Sean knew an approach had to be well timed to be successful. He could exert influence by the right sort of flattery and studied body language. He had read up on subconscious mating rituals. That was how to reel in a female. He would need to know she was single. Not a cold approach. He had a few opening gambits to use. He never shared his favourite opening.
Sean was glad he would not have to hear mass. There was no undertow of pressure to do so.
Nigella was not so keen on Abel’s faith. Sean understood all her reservations. Catholicism is not such an alluring proposition for a woman of child bearing age.
Sean pondered his own future. Was he in the right line of work? Aged 12 he decided to be a journalist. Aged 22 he changed his mind. Perhaps it was a calamitous decision. Would he be better off as a scribe? Not financially. Journalism was perhaps the only thing worse paid than teaching. It was a trade and not a profession. Yet he would at least be among intelligent adults doing something that enthused him. He would be creating and recording every day. He would not have to endure insolence from his inferiors all the time. He found himself counting down the minutes to the end of the lesson. He dreaded opening the door to some classes.
Sean dreamt of orgies. How he itched for vulgarity with a woman of easy virtue. How was he wasting his youth alone?
One Saturday many parents came along to speak to teachers. Sean was in Big Study ready to speak to those who showed up. He often burnished his shoes bright. Once he started shining shoes he got into it and bizarrely enjoyed the heck out of it. Walking down the muddy and unpaved lane each day his shoes necessarily picked up some mire. He stood there in black leather laceups that had acquired a coating of mud – now dry.
Hugo Codd was standing a few metres away. He looked down at Sean’s shoes. Codd then looked up and made eye contact he gurned his face into a scowl of disapproval and spat out a ‘tuh’ noise. Sean gave it back to him – the very same facial expression and ‘tuh’ before flipping him the finger and mouthing ‘fuck off’. Codd’s face turned white at the ripsote. He looked away and sat at his desk – got on speaking to parents.
Sean instantly wondered whether he had overstepped the mark. If a parent had seen his vulgar gesture this would not enhance his chances of getting a PGCE. In fact nary a word was said about his clash with Codd. He was glad he had faced down the squid eyed Codd. Sean could have made himself potent enemy.
Codd was self important, nasty and humourless. He was also a creeping Jesus – always emphasising his religiosity. This man had been register – what did that say about the school?
Sean met Dr Connolly. Sean was delighted to be able to give the father joyrous tidings about his son. Usually a pupil was only satisfactory. The school could not tolerate this and neither could parents. Sean was obliged to lie and overrate pupils. For once Sean was able to say entirely positive things about a pupil and this did not require any embellishment. Sean described Benedict as ”’exceptionally able”. The father swelled with pride and breathed out through his nose sharply. Sean saw the endorphines rushing to the doctor’s frontal lobe as a smile engulfed his face.
YOUNG TEACHERS’ GROUP
It so happened that Codd then came to Y T G to give the young teachers the benefits of his wisdom. Sean did not anticipate any pearls.
”I am the non monastic face of the school. I am excellent at my job – from dealing with a ruckus in the house to teaching a lesson.”
Sean tried not to howl at the man’s self-congratulation.
”Of course it was difficult when my father was here. That was during the war. The boys had a lot more responsibility. They would scold the masters. ‘Sir you are late’ they would say if a lay master was late. Because these senior boys were going to be in the army in a few months and they learned to take responsibility. So we can rely on them a lot more to do the policing.” It was delivered in a heartfelt manner.
This was so much faecal matter sluiced out as a policy and Codd knew it. The law had changed and pupils were no longer permitted to exercise much authority over each other. This ghastly man had nothing to say. He never lost an opportunity to remind people that his father had attended the school. It was a very sore point with Codd that he had not. He had had to make do with a Catholic independent school in London which Codd considered to be way down the meadow. He compounded sense of inferiority this by going to a second rate university. Perhaps this was why Codd always dressed in a very county manner. He claimed to be high minded but was a flagrant social climber.
Codd headed out. Mrs Arrowsmwith then treated them to a left wing rant. ”We must promote ideas of social justice. That is what Catholicism is about. Complete equality of the sexes.”
What about women not being allowed to be priests? And no being a nun is not as good.
Mrs Arrowsmith continued to preach. ”We must inculcate into the students a culture of feminism. No more patriarchy. They must believe in women’s rights including the right to abortion.”
This in a Catholic school? Sean was staggered. The doublethink was incredible. How did the school tolerate this sort of thing? It flew in the face of the ethos.
”But there is more. No more white privilege. Our literary canon is racist. It is male, pale and stale.”
Could that be because until the 20th century 99% of books published in English were by white men all of whom are now dead? Rationality had no place in her screed.
Some of others nodded half agreeing. The others were browbeaten and did not dissent.
”When I hear Nazi opinions uttered by the students I know my husband is spinning in his grave.”
Her husband had been a lecture at the local poly in one of the most abstruse and useless branches of Philosophy. He had been engaged in wordgames. He messed around with an obscure field of epistimology. He never used an English word where a Greek one could be looked up in the dictionary. Anything he could put paradigm on the end of was considered to be clever by him. Inevitably he was a Marxist who reviled the government that paid him. He was one of those men who had gone to university when communism was en vogue and he had become a commie. He never grew up.
Mrs Arrowsmith;s much vaunted compassion for the poor did not extend to teaching them. Or having her children attend a bog standard comprehensive. Or giving them a brass farthing. She had a holiday house in Tuscany thank you very much. This woman’s jejune left wing prejudices seemed to be school policy. She was not shy about imposing her beliefs. No right winger would ram his or her views down another’s throat.
SMART LOWER SIXTH
Sean taught them with panache. His heart was in it. He knew they were bright and making an effort – mostly. It was worth his while. There was little yapping. They lent him their ears.
One of the few blights was the unhygienic blighter named Galian. This malodorous and emetic Spaniard was a disgrace to a country that is otherwise pathological about personal appearance and grooming. Galian compounded his filthiness by excavating his nose. His digit was so far up septum that Sean feared the boy might pull out his brains. The Spanish may be called effete but never unclean.
Miss Crutwell was a sublime pupil.
Benedict CONNOLLY was the star of the class. Benedict was unassuming, laconic, industrious and courteous. He was tall and slender. His mid brown hair was closely cropped and his face was always serious. He was low on emotion. Benedict may not have had hordes of friends but he was his own man. He did not crave popularity. He was too clever and too wise to care for the opinions of others. Sean happened to see Benedict going to church when he did not need to. He had heard that Benedict was a staunch Catholic and confessed regularly. His religiosity had led him to endeavour and morality. His glory was pristine.
Later Sean spoke to Abel about Benedict. ”His father is a doctor” said Abel ”He was a paediatrician in Harley Street. They say he was pulling down half a million pounds a year. He gave it all up to work in an AIDS hospice for children in Zimbabwe. Paid an absolute pittance from what I hear. The boy is here on a full scholarship. They are a very religious family. Dr Connolly is doing heroic work. I asked him why he gave up Harley Street to work in Zimbabwe. He said – on Harley Street I mostly treated children who were only slightly ill. They were the worried well. In Zimbabwe I save lives every single day and that is worth all the money in the world to me. ”
Sean was mightily impressed with Dr Connolly. His Catholic faith had actuated him to do good. That was what the religious denomination was supposed to be about – duty. He was serving his fellow man and making huge sacrifices into the bargain.
This made Sean reminisce about a friend of his father’s years ago. Dominic was a former monk who had qualified as a doctor. He too had thrown up a lucrative practice to go and serve as a medical missionary in an underdeveloped country.
THICK LOWER SIXTH
The Belgians were his only star of hope. The rest were ineducable. Loud, stuck up, disrespectful yahoos. They guffawed and chatted as Sean did his damndest to help these fools scrape an E grade. He found it very dispiriting. He was striving to help them and they were insulting him all the time. Why did he do this to himself? They chatted and hooted. Most of them did everything but listen and take their notes. That was his fault apparently. These brutes would never read without a gun to their heads. Why squander resources on people so utterly unappreciative of learning? Sean wanted the school leaving age down to 14. The academically subnormal such as these brutes ought to be down a coal pit. That way they might realise that perhaps school was not so horrific. Most of them were not suitable for tertiary education. It was an outrage that all of them would go one to be awarded degrees in risible subjects such as Business Studies. If anything needs to have the word ‘Studies’ appended to it then it is plainly not a study at all. Sean railed against the over expansion of higher education. When even the semi literate are awarded degrees it devalued the very notion of a degree. Those who had no aptitude or desire to learn were told that university was the only route to successful. Handing out degree certificates to his intellectually challenged pupils was like trying to enrich the country by printing more banknotes. Degrees were totally declasse.
Sean sometimes had to beard those who were disruptive. How could they squander their parents’ cash so nonchalantly. Was it not unfilial? He overlooked a lot of misconduct. If they would only keep their tattle quiet he could pretend not to notice but they yacketed loudly.
Horace Tussock continued to a lippy and obtuse cunt. He was pathetic in thinking himself hard despite his cosseted lifestyle. He reminded Sean of another boorish imbecile he had known in the Midlands. It turned out that the two were chums which came as no surprise. Sean felt it would be the greatest joy in the world to beat Tussock to a pulp. He was sorely tempted. However, good sense restrained him. He knew what the consequences would be if he delivered condign justice. This haemerrhoid of a boy was depraved.
Tussock boasted ”I am so hard I could break IN to prison and rape Mike Tyson.”
So many of them were repulsive, slavering, cackling, empty eyed creatures. It was all the more nauseating to remember that these tampons thought themselves to be the aristos. He had to remember they were being mucked around. They were being told that the school was giving them a huge advantage when it was not. Sean consoled himself with the thought that they were in for a rude awakening when they entered the world of work. It was painfully funny to here these morons saying how they would get handsomely remunerated jobs at the age of 22. He pined to see the look of disappointment on their faces as rejections piled up. Sean was at the quarter century and had already seen his ambitions turn to shit. He recalled a song of adolescent angst written by his mate entitled ”Shattered Dreams.” That was how he felt. His one consolation was to see some of the delinquents he sought to teach have their dreams shattered. To that end he taught them as badly as possible. Sean was extremely gifted at teaching them terribly.
Stoke wanted to join the army. Sean would pay good money to see him being beasted. Being a conformist, fleet footed and mindless the army would suit him down to the ground.
There was a luckless youth who managed to be both geeky and dim. He spoke in a hideous, flat, nasal Lancashire accent – when he spoke at all that is.
Sean grew ever more exacerbated with the mounds of senseless paperwork he had to complete. Middle management seemed chiefly concerned with looking after itself. These jobsworths had to come up with a rationale for their salaries. They did this by lording it over productive people and demanding those who actually taught have their time wasted with purposeless tasks. Sean did not apprehend any other reasons for endless directives being sent to him. He was daily provoked by this and found it increasingly difficult to bite his tongue. He was ever more tempted to vent his spleen against bureaucracy. These desk jockeys were idle, oafish, conformist, humourless, uncaring and cuntish. They suffered from a ludicrously inflated sense of their own importance. They were all very New Labour. Or should that be Nu Layba? Under Labour the generation of reams of forms to be filled in and the collection of googlebites of data was the new salvation. The manager was all. The practitioner was mere dross. He reflected lugubriously that this trend showed no sign of reversing. It was not ever so. Only 10 years previously teaching had been delightfully free of such encumbrances. Why did teachers have to spend all this time justifying what they were doing? These plans were of no use to anyone. The middle managers had long since lost sight of the fact that schools exist to educate pupils and not to complete forms. The management species sought to dignify itself by coming up with exceedingly ugly terminology as though these neologisims lent them some credibility.
”We work in a paperless environment without a pyramidal management structure which is so outdated.”
How could a pyramidal management structure be outdated? There is usually one person at the apex of the organisation. There can be a collective leadership but overall it is still a pyramid. One cannot have everyone equally in charge. This was part of the arrant drivel that middle management thought of as profundity.
”I am going to throw in a thought grenade. Blue skies thinking! Leverage synergy in the customer focused paradigm. Or shall we sunset that idea?”
Sean observed the point scoring. These wankers had a jargon bank. The more nonsense words they used the clever they thought that they seemed to be. No one was going to ruin her career by being valiant enough to tell these merkins that they were talking twaddle.
These aresholes had been raised to new dignity by being awarded fatuous titles. These were aptly opaque. Sean knew that any job title or any degree subject more than two words long was bogus. Between detestable pupils and tyrannical middle managers Sean was made to fully understand the expression: hell is other people.
Dealing with these twats was giving Sean grey hairs. Not literally.
The director of studies was usually a mathematical personality bypass with a thick beard, thick glasses and zero inter personal skills. An interest in particle Physics would be accompanied by ample food particles in his beard and an adinoidal voice. This specimen would suffer from horrendous acne even at the age of 50. He would resemble a walking zit just begging to be burst.
Sometimes they went well and Sean felt gratified. Occasionally a pupil would be hanging on his every word. He knew that he was have a positive effect on someone’s life. This girl
Sean walked along the plashy unpaved lane from the village to the school. He pashed the byres and the semi derelict farm buildings. A pebble dashed two up two down stood by the lane with a Yorkshire Flag fluttering from a mast in the front garden. The sky was leaden and so were Sean’s spirits. He strove to cheer himself up. His gaze travelled southwards across the dank vale. He looked over the folds and wolds of the rough valley. He saw the coarse bushes and tufts of deep green grass. The Fresians ruminated on the lush pasture and lowed soothingly. Perhaps life was not all bad. He picked his way with care across the muddy lane and sidestepped the many puddles and potholes. He managed to arrive at school without his shoes being overly dirty.
The parents who were visiting were in the church with those whom they had spawned. Many were people of integrity – those who tried to live as they prayed. More than a few were nauseating hypocrites.
Sean did a spot of work in his classroom. He went up to the refectory for luncheon. In the dining room he was there with the Australian gap year people and the language assistants. Cosmopolitanism appealed to him. He supped on Roast beef of Old England and Yorkshire pudding – one of the few fantastic things about the school.
Not an hour after a full luncheon he suddenly felt ravenous. He was all atremble. He craved a sugar hit. Why had his blood sugar hit a trough? He staggered out of his classroom and hurried along the stone floor of the History corridor. By Loveday’s office he turned left and down the stairs. In Big Passage he got to the snacks machine. He almost had delirium tremens. His fingers were shaking as he inserted the coins in. Soon he had a coke and a Mars bar in hand. He scoffed those and instantly felt better. Was this a case of adult onset diabetes? His grandfather and both his maternal uncles had suffered from this but they were obese and scarcely walked further than the car. Sean was no athlete but walked at least 4 miles a day.
Sean emailed his father with his symptoms. Was he diabetic. Pater counselled that he probably had hyperglaecemia instead.
Sometimes sudden tiredness would overtake him. Not drowsiness but exhaustion. He would sit on a bench – zonked. Just gathering his strength. Oddly, after 10 minutes he was fit to go.
Sean was given to psychoanalysing himself. He had dipped into Freud as an adolescent. He wondered if he had a displaced oedpial complex. Not pertaining to his mother but to his saintly grandmother who had died before he was born. He remembered a slender girl he had been smitten by at the age of 18. It struck him that she bore an uncanny resemblance to photos of his late grandmother.
More and more Sean recognised dyspraxia in himself. There was under sensitivity and over sensitivity. He was a clumsy child and a messy pup. He suffered poor hand eye co-ordination and was far from dextrous with manipulatives. His balls skills were very limited as were his fine motor skills generally. Sean’s gross motor skills were decent. He could not gauge distance. He was undersensitive to heat. He liked hot baths – almost scalding. He could walk on hot sand that would burn the skin off others. He used to wear his jumper at prep school in the summer when others wore only their shirt. On the other hand he was hypersensitive to words. He was wounded by insults and never forgot them. He was also intolerant to noise. These were catastrophic traits for a teacher.
When unbearded youths cheeked him he found it very irritating. Others would find it like water off a duck’s back. Sean hardened himself a little could ignore some of it but his capacity to forget it was not as great as it should be. He tried to inure himself to noise but he could not disregard a racket as well as most could.
One chilly evening Sean was walking home with Lisa. She put his arm in his as they strode through the chilly air. ”Do you want to come back for a chat?” asked Lisa.
”I think I had better not.”
”Why not?” she looked hurt.
He could not tell and untruth. ”It is too risky. I fancy you.”
”Mmm … maybe better avoid it then” she said. Did this mean the feeling was mutual. Was temptation irresistible? Here was someone he desired physically. She was also on the same wavelength as him – being doolally.
Sean knocked on Murphy’s door. He was feeling lugubrious since these meetings were uniformly doleful.
”Come in” said Murphy in an astonishingly chirpy tone. Had Sean’s ears deceived him?
Sean went in to see Murphy almost smiling. Then Sean knew the meaning of the Daniel O’Connell expression ”his smile was like moonlight on a coffin plate.” There was a gleam about the place. On the shelf behind Murphy to the left stood a row of shiny mustard pots.
”It is a section of my mustard pot collection” said Murphy proudly. ”I must admit it – they are my pride and joy. Collecting mustard pots. Oh yes. I catalogue them and I polish them lovingly every Sunday. They are in order of date of production. I never let one be out of place. Ah mustard pots! I go to mustard pot collection conventions in the holidays. I know we get a bit wild. It is not as catty as phone card collecting. I used to do that back in my lary days!” he indulged himself in a chuckle.
Then it was down to business. Heck. Not rocket science. Sean again felt a deep and incandescent detestation of his boss. Mustard pots. Could anything be more boring?
Sean had to effectively write his own textbooks. This was Murphy’s directive. What a total waste of time. His books were necessarily rough and unready.
Sean like teaching his upper sixth class. German unification was an enthralling topic. Sean had been to Germany a dozen times and commanded the language. Teaching this class he rediscovered his elan vital.
The German pupil in the class was bright and very engaged.
WILL SHEPHERD was grumpy but not disruptive. There were only nine of them there. Sean treated them as adults and they largely responded as adults. If only all the classes were like this. He set them essays which they actually wrote. It was fairly high level stuff and he found it stimulating. Sean believed he should go beyond the curriculum especially to stretch those with the greatest aptitude. He read them some of Heinrich Heine’s quatrains in translation. Some cultural background to the epoch could not go amiss.
Sean used Murphy’s notes. He threw in some facts and observations of his own because he was very memorious. He wished to explain more about the role of the Catholic Church in opposing German unification since it meant the dissolution of some ecclesiastical states.. He was wary of saying anything that smacked of impiety.
BENEDICT carried himself with a mature mien. He was self -assured rather than cocksure.
Some of these girls and boys were religious. What was more it actually led them to be better people. They were not the vermin who infested the thick lower sixth set.
Murphy observed the class and told Sean it was going all wrong. This only added to Sean’s deathless detestation of this male. Murphy’s critique of Sean was unrelenting. Everything he did was unsatisfactory.
SLOW LOWER SIXTH.
There was a lack of empathy between Sean and most of the class. Indeed their was enmity. The leading characters had taken against him. This set the tone for the rest. They became increasingly cocky. The one girl in the class was a little madam. She also did not prep. Her tutor was informed. The girl was spoken to and vowed to pull her socks up. Then nothing ever happened.
The pupils were forever gabbling in class. If Sean managed to get it down to a hubub he considered is a minor victory.
Why were they in school at all? They had reached capacity with learning. People had to be in school till 16 and they were all over 16. But school was now a holding pen. It bore little relation to education for most youngsters. It was a mean of keeping unemployment down. Most of them should be mopping floors.
Sean felt the most imperishable hostility towards Tussock. He personified all that was most revolting in a public school boy. He was ignorant and proud of it. He was boorish, bumptious, stuck up, cowardly, vile bullying and beneath disdain. Tussock was the most ignoble person Sean had ever known.
Unremitting disruption from some of the boys had Sean tearing his hair out. It was always his fault. This could not be sheer entertainment. He would prefer if the worst ones simply did not show. Sometimes he was lucky and they did not appear. That meant they were hiding in the loo. Were some of them that brain dead as to find cowering in a cubicle more stimulating than sitting in a classroom doing a subject they had chosen? He wished these fiends to the deuce! Sean knew the meaning of the expression: hell is other people.
A few were good enough to coast through. Only the pair of Belgians made a decent effort. How they others had acquired a slew of passes at GCSE was a mystery to Sean.
Jamie was in this lot. He was a boy so especially stupid that a new board game had had to be invented for him. Connect Two.
This set was short on grey matter. Plantagenet was likable. He was a public school boy from central casting. He was like the George character in Blackadder goes Forth. The boys did not natter in class overmuch.
SOme made a passable effort. Others frittered away their time. Only Pinfold was odious. Even his father could not love him. It was as though Pinfold wanted to be abhorred by all. He got his way. He was uppity to say the least. Not just in class but around the house he purposefully ground Sean’s gears. He would make snide remarks and pull faces. He was daring Sean to give him Saturday detention which he frequently did. It turned out that Pinfold was already on every detention there was. This boy showing up was worse than a footling waste of time. He was ruining the class for the others.
Pinfold was etiolated as he was confined to the house most of the time. It was obscure why his hard working mother continued it worthwhile paying for him to waste his time. The sweat of her brown should go on something valuable.
Teaching the course was enjoyable. The Arab -Israeli Conflict was a scintillating topic. It was completely new to this lot. The Suez Crisis came into it. They had to learn about French Algeria by way of background. His gormless pupils listened well and learnt a good deal.
A pallid Turkish boy joined the class. The unfortunate boy had a basset hound face. This was the least of his problems. It was part way through the term and he spoke hardly any English. The school would take anyone so long as the parents were solvent. This boy was unlucky to have the name Ufuk and was mercilessly teased. He had dense, dark facial hair as Turks sometimes do. It grow so wildly that he needed to shave every 12 hours . His demeanour showed him to be miserable as well he might be.
LETTER TO PARENTS
It was announced that the new girl’s house would open a year later than originally envisaged. The reason given was rennovation would taken longer than anticipated. Really? 18 months instead of 6? Come on. No builder gets it THAT badly wrong. There was not sufficient take up to warrant opening the house so soon. That was the ulterior reason. The school was a Christian organisation. The truth will set you free. Lying lips are a disgrace to the Lord and all that jazz. A religious body should be moral and tell the truth even when that is embarrassing. No it seemed the school’s motto should be; falsehood alone triumphs.
At home Sean had some porn DVDs to watch. He saw a lot of Rude Britannia.. He was eager to return to Soho and buy more. He planned which ones he wished to purchase. He had a soft spot for Vickie Powell. Was this approaching an addiction. He feared he may be an erotomaniac.
Sean reminisced about entering Barbara when she was dry. Agony was never sweeter.
BRAINY LOWER SIXTH
Sean had taught them the transition from the Weimar Republic to the Third Reich. He showed them his home video of a trip to the Nuremberg Rally Ground. He had stood on the podium from which Hitler preached racial hatred to his dupes.
The class was mostly ductile. They listened and took notes dutifully. There was no yammering unlike in the other Lower Sixth. He taught them with eclat. This was how a class should go. Misbehaviour was the exception and not the norm.
This was his largest class. They would have a powow in the corridor before they came in. Sean insisted it ended the minute they entered.
The scatter brained Alison was always late. The girl carried oddments with her but not her books.
Most of the class were decent. There was some firefighting against disruption.
Sean taught them about the Jazz Age. It was fun : the KKK, Prohibition, Gangsters and all that. There were a few documentaries to illustrate it. He had to explain the political system and the two parties.
The Italian -American Guido Maigro was hooked. Sean found him a very amiable pupil. There were some able pupils there but none was precociously brilliant. There were others who were more perceptive and articulate such as a lanky acress named Philippa.
KEEGAN made a point of being late and never bringing his stuff. He was bolshie and inattentive. He was also forever foostering.
SMART THIRD FORM
Sean liked this class. He had some brainy ones. He rejoiced to see how well the DENTIST’S DAUGHTER did.
There were not too many chinwags going on in the class.
Sean had to attend the church with his house. The priest preached a homily against pupils looking at indecent images. As they filed out one of the older female teachers said ”Jesus will be turning in his grave.” Turning in his grave. Had this ardent Catholic not heard of the Resurrection?
DOWN THE PUB
For once Nigella came too. The grandparents were babysitting. She was abstemious owing to her pregnancy.
Abel wore a 1920s gangster outfit – chalk stripe three piece suit complete with a brown fedora hat and spats. Sean liked Abel as a fellow maverick. But in some regards they were very different. Sean was sartorially indifferent. He liked to dress down. He wore a rugger jersey, blue chinos and trainers to the pub.
Sean walked down the sodden lane. He had luncheon with the usual suspects. Then he took a post prandial. He strolled towards the prep school. Sean headed out across the fields. He crossed the squelchy soil. Sean ventured into the open woodland on the end of the valley. There were holts and nooks. The soil became thin and stony. On the rim of the valley yellow fringed coarse bushes and bracken competed for space. He found it bracing to scurry up the braes. There was some consolation to living in the deepest countryside.
Sean had a huge number of ties. He wore a different one each day. He wore his way through the entire collection.