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T’is late at night and the rowdy, brisk, hustle and bustle of London street life has dimmed to a barely audible hum. The streets are pitch dark and mostly empty; save for Inspector Girdy, pristine in his midnight blue uniform, fashioned from garbardine and replete with several well polished brass buttons. He is patroling Berkeley Square in as leisurely a manner as possible taking in every polished and gleaming cul-de-sac and lamp post. He would be about as likely to meet a thief, here on these streets, as he would be to meet an Irish nun, drunk and dancing a jig. And so, humming a cheery tune and waving a lantern before him, he waddles gently on his way. T’is late at night and the streets gleam and are damp with gently downpouring rain as two slender figures slip out of the tradesmen’s entrance to Lord Grid-Iron’s estate, and hurry off into the night.

“I know t’is better to give than to receive Emily, but I can’t help thinking that this game pie would be better off placed back in the pantry”

“Now Maggie, think of them little ones with their bellies all nice and full, and their cheeks all flushed with joy as they wash that pie down with some beer. Won’t that warm thy heart Maggie?”

They hurried on through Clothilde Avenue where sparkling white lace curtains parted, to reveal candles glimmering on the window sills and Oleander Square where gleaming cobble stones lay bathed in the glow of rows of street lamps. Faster they walked as the downpour grew heavier, glossing the slimy cobblestones which lay half disintegrated beneath their boot-clad feet, and causing the soot encrusted bricks to gleam darkly in the amber half-light radiated by lanterns hung from doss-house doors. Faster and faster, past the darkened doorways in which little children huddled over their tiny slates, on which were inscribed the tenets of St. Gove. Past the sallow faced, haggard looking door men perusing copies of Milton’s Paradise Lost, in-between ejecting surly customers soused on tax-free beer.

Down Young Gilly’s pass they travelled, pulling their bonnets still lower over their brows and averting their faces from lascivious sights, which might other wise have accosted them, as they travelled past one dimly lit side street after another. “Homer’s Odyssey” whispered Maggie as they walked into St Giles Square “What?” replied Emily her mind intent upon what lay ahead, “The last alley we passed where the prosser were beating up a customer, it were Homer’s Odyssey she had in her hand” Emily frowned,”Maggie Settleworth, you would do better to focus thine eyes on the words of St. Gove inscribed upon thy heart, to err is human, but to achieve is divine! We’re almost home child, hitch up thy skirts”

Carefully they picked their way amongst the various heaps of wet clothing piled up at the front door, making their way down the steps that led into the basement that had once been Maggie’s home. As quietly as possible Maggie pulled the makeshift door to, signalling to Emily not to say a word, behind the ragged door lay the family hearth wreathed in smoke from the guttering fire, which had barely heated the room. Quickly Maggie turned to the window restuffing the fragmented glass with the damp rag that had fallen onto the floor. Reaching into her pocket, she removed the lump of coal she had stolen from Lord Grid-Iron’s coal shed. Quietly uttering a pray of penitence to St. Gove she tossed the lump of coal onto the fire, stirring it back to life.

“Your ma’s not here” Emily commented as she unwrapped the vast woolen shawl she’d packed into the bottom of her basket and covered the little boy asleep on the hearth with it, he stirred briefly, opening one sticky glue-rimed eye, “Maggie” said he, “Is that you?”

“It’s me” she murmured gently tousling his hair “sleep” she said “sleep” and for a little while she lay down beside him, wrapping her cape tightly around her whilst she stirred the fire back to life. Gradually the room warmed and as Maggie fell asleep Emily laid a clean napkin on the ricketty wooden table in a corner of the room, on it she placed the game pie wrapped in a linen hanky, and the two bottles of beer which she had also purloined from the larder. Emily stepped delicately over the damp & grimy floor boards towards the huddled form tossing restlessly on the dank floor in the far corner of the room. Digging deep into the pockets of her gown she pulled out a bottle of Dr Purkleberry’s Laudunum, much as she loathed it she could little doubt it’s medicinal properties, having administered it so frequently at St Bachanalia’s asylum. She administered it now and at once observed its quietening effect on the restless form of Maggie’s mother. Nudging Maggie awake she got to her feet, her last act before leaving the room was to move the baby’s cot a little further away from the fire, one family member with tuberculosis was more than sufficient she reasoned. ” Maggie” she asked as they made their way back to the Grid-Iron residence, “Who is thy family’s landlord?” Maggie bit her lip, “Lord Tobias Grid-Iron” she murmured.
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Academies, Academy status, Hypocritical Cant

The Musical Scuttle

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T’was on a midnight dreary whilst I pondered weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of St. Govean lore,that all at once I heard a tapping as of someone gently rapping, whilst I lay there nearly napping, rapping at my chamber door.
“Who is it?”
“T’is I, Sir Nicholas, come to warm thy sheets”
“Enter”
Little Emily LeFevre shuffled meekly through the door, both tiny hands clasping the bed pan. Staggering towards the bed she managed somehow to slip it between the sheets. I couldn’t help but to reflect upon her prodigious fortitude. Rescued from a Lint Tweaking apprenticeship at St. Bacchanalia’s cotton mill, she was adapting to her new position as a scullery maid marvellous well.
“Is cook still awake?”
“Yes sir”
“Have her send something up. I shan’t be falling asleep just yet”
“Yes sir”
She made a deep curtsey, turned and left the room. Sighing deeply and reaching for my dressing gown I pondered the events that had led up to this distressing night. Who would have thought it? Our famed academy teetering on the brink of ruin, and all for a pair of moleskin britches. Slipping my feet into a pair of velvet slippers and taking care to wrap a thick woollen shawl around my shoulders before knocking back the remains of my brandy, I left my bed chamber and climbed the staircase leading to the Faculty of Leatherwork and Tailoring.
“St.Gove, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Warrior-King ‘gainst the enemies of promise I come to thee for aid…”
The higher I climbed the heavier my foreboding. Master Farquar had been there all night, Master Parnham by his side (the devil take him!) but I myself could see no way through this disgrace.Higher and higher I climbed, as the rain beat hard against the leaden window casements and the thunder boomed overhead, I clutched the shawl tightly around my neck and hurried on the creed of St. Gove upon my lips.
“Headmaster”
“Master Farquar”
“Headmaster”
“Master Parnham” his eyes slid sideways, he lifted a tiny pallid hand to hide a half-smile. I loathed the man and would gladly have opened a casement window and booted him head first out of it, were it not for the impending visit of the exam board, the reputation of the academy lay in the hands of this plebeian ingrate.
“It won’t work sir”
“Won’t?” in an effort to ease the throbbing in my head, I massaged my temples,
“We’ve tried and tried but it’s no use sir, the britches won’t come right, no matter how much we stretch ’em”
My eyes fell upon a heap of mangled silken leathery garments.Oh dear Gove! My throbbing temples! “But they’ve been studying leather work for at least a year! They should be able to stitch in their sleep! It’s hardly rocket science!”
Master Parnham coughed politely,
“Beggin’ your pardon sir but there is another way, remember 1847? Hemphill Skinner was Master of Leatherwork then, very fond of his opium pipe was Master Skinner”
I shook my head, my headache was easing somewhat,
“We’re an academy now Parnham. A cut above all the rest, spurning the onslaught of ignorance. Why last year we were rated as an Industrial School of outstanding reputation.”
“The written work’s no good ‘edmaster, not since they banned the phonics. If they fail the moleskin britches evaluation there’s no telling what might happen. There’s scarcely a garment to be made but what l makes, leave it to us sir.”
Tugging his forelock Master Parnham limped towards the back office leaving me alone with young Master Farquar who hopped nervously from foot to foot looking sheepish all the while, as well he might. For were it not for his own shortcomings, his students might have been considerably more able.
Lightning crackled overhead and out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a tiny boot-clad foot and then a flash of white rather like the tail end of a night-shirt, just outside the window casement, but in this weather? No, it couldn’t be. Surely not?
“Master Farquar” I inquired, massaging my throbbing temples as I did so.
“Where’s Boodoo?”
A look of unease stole across his face and that is when it happened..

Academy status, Hypocritical Cant

Quoth The Raven Nevermore (Part 1)

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T’was late in the evening when I found myself comfortably ensconced before the fireplace, my pipe in one hand and the testimonies of St.Gove in the other. Puffing occasionally on my pipe and glancing at the pages of the good book (Gove be praised), it seemed to me that I was struck by two things. Firstly, the wondrous enlightening effect these testimonials were having upon my previously darkened thinking and secondly, the distracting wailing sounds being emitted by a cat or some such (a child? At this time of night? Surely not!) outside my living room window. Leaving my seat and opening my window I peered out into the darkness,there was nothing there,whatever had been making that infernal racket had gone. Sighing with relief I quickly turned back to my book,page twenty of Gove’s testimonials, on which were written these immortal words,
“One can only move from goodness, to greatness, by trusting the good and the great”
I was reflecting upon this when I heard it again, a high pitched caterwauling, this time from outside my front door. Clasping the testimonials of Gove against my chest (for spiritual protection), I crept towards the door and opened it. To my horror a strangely clad female lay across my threshold half-conscious,
“Fifty pence for a turkey twizzler” she kept murmuring over and over as I helped her to her feet and walked her into my humble abode. Quickly looking around I shut the front door (one must consider one’s neighbours) and ushered this creature of the night towards the fireplace, whereupon she collapsed upon the floor twisting her hands this way and that and wailing all the while.
“We can’t afford the smoked salmon ratatouille or the tarte aux poivre, turkey twizzlers, I made enough for two turkey twizzlers. That will carry him through the school day surely?”
The poor deluded woman whom I took to be a parent (though she was not dressed like the maternal sort), plunged a pale, limp, hand into her bosom and pulled out two sorry looking coins.Tears welled up in my eyes, the sorry fruits of a nights work amidst the fleshpots of sin no doubt, one could only wonder at the poor quality of this fallen woman’s decision making, at the impact this had, had on her finances, I turned toward the testimonials of Gove which lay upon the mantelpiece and my eyes fell on the following words,
“Think you that without central intervention, in the matter of school lunches, people will become wicked and evil and do the wrong thing? Of course not!”
Praise be to Gove! For these profound words made me think back to the days of state funded spam fritters, cornflake tarts and sausage in batter with chips, plum pudding and custard had always been my favourite. The revelation of St.Gove had brought Eton-standard education to all along with the certain knowledge that the provision of sausage in batter was wrong, our children deserved better.
“Turkey twizzlers at least he can afford two turkey twizzlers that should get him through the day”
Sighing heavily, I pulled the woman to her feet and seated her in my armchair (I pulled up a stool), turning to the first page of Gove’s testimonials I cleared my throat,
“My dear have you ever considered embracing the creed of Gove?”
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Academy status, Hypocritical Cant

A Midnight Feast

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T’was a freezing cold day outside St Paul’s Cathedral, though the dark and gloomy interior burned with all the fervour and passion that only the presence of St Gove could engender. Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows alighting on the shabby clothing of the supplicants and bathing their upturned faces in an ethereal glow.
“Oh Gove!” the congregation murmured,
“Oh Gove” Reverend Unctuous replied,
“Oh Gove!” they groaned turning 90 degrees and tugging their forelocks,
“Sweet Gove” Reverend Unctuous intoned, opening his copy of the Gove Testament, special Wendy Deng Edition, as approved & sponsored by the ‘CarpetRight’ Tsar Lord Harris. The tatty well thumbed pages were potent evidence of his total devotion to the Govean path to improvement as the congregation well knew.

“From bite-sized learning and superficial knowledge deliver us St.Gove”

“Oh deliver us, deliver us” throwing up their biro stained palms and swaying first to the left and then to the right the congregation tugged their forelocks anxiously. For they sensed rather than saw that there was one amongst them who was not chanting from the same ceremonial testament. Madame Guacamoley, once of Sibyl Vane Academy, glared at Reverend Unctuous, her lips rearing back from her teeth.

“A bridge too far is never far enough! Grant us clarity St.Gove, deliver us from the common sense of the age. Aid us in reshaping the academic bell-curve, grant us the succour of your goodness & greatness,the vigour & rigour of your moral purpose!”

Shuffling as one to the centre aisle, the congregants clasped their ink stained hands to their bosoms singing

“We do not expect children to know their place, but we know our place St. Gove! We know our place!”
Reverend Unctuous smiled at all those anxious faces, all those tear-stained cheeks. But there was one amongst them who filled his heart with grim foreboding, aberrant that she was. With her raven locks piled sumptuously upon her head and that infamous scarlet gown, she was the antithesis of suppressed creativity,Reverend Unctuous pitied her.

“Bow to the king of nip, tuck, retreat? Never! This is wrong so very wrong! Listen to yourselves!”

Hitching up the skirts of her scarlet gown Madame Guacamoley sprinted down the aisle snatching a copy of the blessed testament out of the hands of a sleepy novitiate. The congregation gasped with horror, as one they lurched forward, but before they could stop her she raised the book high above her head her bosom heaving, throwing it to the ground, she jumped up and down on it vigorously. Some members of the congregation screamed, others fainted, the rest rushed forward as one grabbing hold of her and hustling her aggressively out through the church doors. Her hair unloosed (Reverend Unctuous noted that it hung most appealingly on her shoulders), and gown torn, Madame Guacamoley remained unrepentant, “It’s wrong I tell you! So wrong! Academic brilliance is a marathon not a sprint! Our children deserve better!”

Reverend Unctuous cleared his throat and prayed fervently, “Cleanse us St. Gove, she was among us, but alas not of us”
From the rear of the cathedral a lone sob arose.
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Hackgate, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Sunday Under Three Heads

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“Wake him up! Somebody wake him up!”
Donny Doyle his pant’s legs swishing just above his ankles,went sauntering down the aisle to sir’s desk, he flicked his plastic ruler against sir’s forehead,then he skipped back to his desk and sat down. Mrs Fetter glared at him,but Donnie met her stare unflinchingly. Everyone new that sir suffered from chronic narcolepsy, he hadn’t taken a lucid lesson in years.
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Donny’s mum, uncles, cousins and brother had all passed through sir’s classes, becoming autodidacts of the first order. Why Uncle Denny owed his car mechanic’s business to sir, and Aunt Maggie would never have qualified as a maid at the age of twelve had sir been awake.
Donny was different to the rest of his family in that he wanted to join the Rouge Bull Posse and be smashing it up in the neighbourhood innit. Instead of which he found himself forced to sit through fifty minutes of snoring three times a week alongside every other form of bullshit this school had to offer.
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“Donny Doyle outside my office please, this minute! I asked you to wake him up! Not assault him! Shameless child!”
“But e was asleep miss!”
“Nonsense Donny! Mr Tuffy was merely taking five minutes to reflect upon the plenary”
Mrs Fetter continued to glare at him as he slid off his chair and shuffled out of the classroom. She made the sign of the DfE,running her fingers over the pearls around her neck and muttering the creed of St Gove under her breath as she did so,
“Blessed be St Gove, who leadeth us towards aspirational ethos by way of stringent performance evaluation, relentless observation and moral rigour. Scatter thy blessings upon thy flock I pray,deliver us from the spectre of required improvements and lead us in the way outstanding”
Behind her, his head in his hands sir groaned,
“Mr Tuffy-Milton! Rouse yourself!”, Boo Doo’s parents are in my office”
“Boo Doo who?”
The students sniggered, everyone knew Boo Doo.
“Mr Tuffy!”
“Yes alright, ok, I’m coming”
He clambered to his feet
” What time is it?
“It’s 10.30, your students are half an hour late to Spanish!”
Boo Doo’s parents had been seated for well over an hour when Mrs Fetter finally re-entered her office accompanied by Mr Tuffy. Just glancing at Mrs LeFevre’s expressionless face made her want to cry out for aid & succour before the throne of Gove, but she suppressed the urge, unclenching her pearls she took a seat.
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“Good morning Mr and Mrs LeFevre” Mrs Fetter extended her hand but then as Mrs LeFevre hissed whilst Mr Lefevre rolled his eyes she quickly withdrew it. Coughing ostentatiously, Mr Tuffy strove to conceal a smirk.
” I think we all know why we are here” Mrs Tuffy began,
“No we don’t! We really don’t! I should be taking in washing, Emily’s just finished her night shift at the cotton mill, I should be cooking her breakfast!”
Mr Tuffy stifled a snore, the urge to fall asleep was really quite overwhelming.Mrs Fetter smiled thinly,
“Quite. And once this issue is sorted you may proceed with your day, I only have one question to pose, why is Boo Doo still here?”
Mrs LeFevre raised a quizzical eyebrow,
” Pardon me?”
“Why is Boo Doo still here? I was under the impression that you had made alternative educational arrangements for him to apprentice with a professional chimney sweep”
Mrs LeFevre narrowed the eye beneath the monocle,
“This school is an academy is it not?”
“Yes”
“Aspiring to educate the great uneducated under-class are you not?”
” Well…yes”
“Aspiring to provide them with an Etonian infused education?”
” Well…”
“Then Boo Doo stays!” Mrs LeFevre proclaimed triumphantly,
” For I am a parent governor, I too have read the works of the great Gove, and according to him the customer is always right, and WE ARE CUSTOMERS!! ”
“Yes but-”
Mrs Fetter’s objection was cut short by the loud snores of Mr Tuffy, who had curled himself up on his chair and fallen asleep. Mr and Mrs LeFevre exchanged glances,
” Still ere is he?” Mr LeFevre said,
“He taught me English or rather I taught me-self, we’d heard as how you’d promoted him, made him an assistant head or some such, Boo Doo STAYS”
As the LeFevres swept out of the office Mrs Fetter clutched the edge of her desk, visions of Tuffy clambering out of windows and across window ledges swept through her mind, dear sweet Gove…
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Academy status, ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

The Curious Case of Boodoo Lefevre

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