And so it was that Arthur Farqhar found himself obliged to seek refuge in the smoker’s cupboard, the final bastion of all things to do with staying sane. And t’was there in that dank, dark, and exceedingly gloomy place that he thought he heard the sounds of someone quietly sobbing,
“Hello?” he whispered “Are you ok?”
A sniffle, a whimper, a rapid shuffling of feet,a sudden burst of light as the door to the smoker’s cupboard swung open and then closed, and all was silent again. Arthur Farquar sighed,he leaned against the wall puffing on a cigar and listening to the trickling of water through a nearby crack. He contemplated the teachings of Gove.This he found exceedingly wearisome for, in truth, had he enjoyed the affluent familial connections of his peers, his calling should have been dentistry.
Tossing the remains of his cigar on the damp floor, he slipped cautiously out of the store cupboard,heading down the corridor towards his classroom which was situated at the end of the Department of Religious Education’s corridor, “Tell old Pharaoh… Let my people go… Let my people go”
Strains of the baleful negro spiritual floated towards him on the cold, dank, air causing his spirits to plummet and turning his thoughts back to the glorious career that might have been his. Each darkened classroom interior he passed seemed a hive of activity, with teachers handcuffed to their desks (handcuffs to be unlocked punctually at 9pm) and hard at work, marking books and adjusting student achievement levels.
“Tell old Pharoah let my people go…” it was with great relief that he entered his classroom shutting the door behind him.
“Mr Farquar! A pleasure!”
Arthur shuddered, but alas and a’lack things had come to a pretty pass with his career and he had found himself obliged to seek the services of a Union Rep (dear God! the very term made him shudder!).
“Mr Farquar!” the Union Rep extended a surprisingly warm hand which Arthur, steeling his courage, shook,”Art thou ready sir?”
“For the greatest endeavour ever undertook in the history of the trade union movement as it pertains to this school, namely the recovery of thy dignity and self-esteem”
“I am sir” he lied, for in truth he had hoped to make his escape by climbing out of the classroom window, using a rope ladder he had confiscated from Boodoo Lefevre earlier in the day.
“Then shall we proceed?”
Cigars, the Headmaster’s office was full of them and a decanter of Port,two chintz sofas and floor length velveteen curtains,the office was positively palatial.
“Smells like a knocking shop” the Union Rep muttered under his breath,
“Have you marked your assignments, reset the student’s targets, completed an inventory of all the Maths books, Latin books,French books and made sure the Woodwork room is secure?”
“And have you completed the fourth and fifth year school reports?”
The Headmaster smiled thinly, his bony face was inscrutable, his teeth were pristine and Arthur noted how each seemed to end in a tiny sharp point.
“Then pray, gentlemen be seated”
Looking around him nervously Arthur sat down slowly and carefully on the edge of a sofa; the Union Rep on the other hand strode round the Headmaster’s desk, seated himself in his armchair and threw his legs up on the table.
“Well well Dumpy Durham!” He exclaimed thou hast done well for thyself! Others it seems have done less well, particularly in this school, but thou I see art in rude health!”
The Headmaster flinched, the Union Rep beamed,”Little Farquar here has a few concerns as I’m sure thou art aware,there’s the fact that he’s been saddled with excessive marking for starters, then there’s the matter of your drop-in lesson evaluations”
The Headmaster waved his hand impatiently seating himself on the edge of the chaise longue,
“Master Farquar I too would be panic stricken if I were in your shoes” he said, pointedly ignoring the Union Rep “You’re rated as requiring improvement in all five of the subjects areas in which you teach”
The Union Rep opened a box of cigars lit one and stuffed six in his pocket, Arthur’s jaw dropped to the floor, “Wilt thou never learn Dumpy? Thou canst not think I’ll abide thee shafting thy NQT! Who incidentally thou employed to teach thy apprentices leather work!”
“As an NQT he will from time to time be required to extend his teaching skills”demurred the Headmaster knocking back a glass of Claret. The Union Rep’s eyes lit up at the sight, reaching across the desk he snatched up the decanter, and proceeded to empty the contents into his hip flask, Arthur continued to gape open-mouthed at the Headmaster who was behaving for all the world as if the Union Rep were not in the room, leaning back in the Headmaster’s chair the Union Rep uttered only one word in Arthur’s defence but its effect was electric,
The Headmaster twitched,
“What of him?”
The Union Rep chuckled,”The lad is excelling wondrously in young Farquar’s leather work classes. One can only conjecture at the potency of his distress, were his favourite leather work teacher to leave the school”
The Headmaster shuddered, the burning down of the Maths Department may have passed into historic lore but there was no doubting who the ringleader had been, none at all. Rubbing his cravat nervously he glanced at the Union Rep “He wouldn’t!” the Union Rep smiled grimly,
“He’s union now, he’ll bloody well do as he’s told, I see young Farquar is no longer cuffed to his desk, unlike the others who are avoiding me like the plague,for the time being” he rubbed his hands together gleefully,
“Now” he said fastening his handkerchief about his neck in readiness for his fourth meal of the day,”Whilst we discuss the abolition of handcuffs and the restructuring of the school day so that it ends punctually at 3pm, how about ordering us some dinner?”
Arthur Farquar stared at the nicotine stained grin of the Union Rep, “So” he thought,
“This is how we negotiate”
Kicking off his shoes Arthur lit up a cigar and made himself more comfortable on the sofa.