by Tom Sharpe

Chapter 1

‘God, what a day,’ said Wilt as he and Peter Braintree sat in the garden of the Duck and Dragon with their beers and watched a lone oarsman scull down the river. It was summer and the evening sun glinted on the water. ‘After that bloody Entitlement meeting I had to tell Johnson and Miss Flour they’ve been made redundant because of the financial cuts, and then after that I was told that the Computer Department is going to do next year’s timetable and I don’t have to bother, the Vice-Principal sends a memo to say there’s a glitch in the programme or something and I’ve had to do it myself.’

‘You’d think the one thing a computer would be good at was sorting classes and putting them in the right rooms. All it requires is logic,’ said Braintree, Head of English.

‘Logic, my foot. Try using logic with Mrs Robbins who won’t teach in Room 156 because Laurence Seaforth is next door in 155 and she can’t make herself heard for the din his drama class makes. And Seaforth won’t move because he’s used 155 for ten solid years and the acoustics are just right for declaiming ‘To be or not to be’ or Henry V’s speech at Agincourt in multi-decibels. Try getting a computer to take that into account.’

‘It’s the human factor. I’ve had the same sort of trouble with Jackson and Ian Wesley. They’re supposed to grade the same exam papers and if Jackson marks a paper high, Wesley invariably says it’s lousy. Human factor every time.’

‘Inhuman factor in my case,’ said Wilt. ‘I’ve been dragooned into taking Ms Lashskirt’s class in Gender Assertiveness because the Sociology Department refuse to have her and she has been off sick for a month. You want to try coping with fifteen mature women who are determined to assert their assertiveness and don’t need to learn how to. I come out of that class a broken man. Last week I was fool enough to say women were more successful on committees than men because they never stop talking. I might just as well have stuck a stick into a hornet’s nest. And when I get home Eva gives me hell. Why does everyone feel the need to be so bloody aggressive these days? Look at that.’

A motor launch had come round the bend in the river and swamped the lone oarsman’s boat. He pulled in to the bank to bale it out.

‘There’s a speed limit on the river and that bastard was exceeding it,’ said Braintree.

‘There’s a time limit in our house and I’m exceeding it,’ said Wilt. ‘Tonight we’ve got people coming as well. All the same if I’m going to be late I may as well have another pint to soften the blow.’

He got up and went into the pub.

‘Who’s coming tonight?’ Braintree asked when Wilt came back with two pints.

‘The usual. Mavis and Patrick Mottram and Elsa Ramsden with yet another acolyte who writes and recites poetry, I expect. Not that I’m going to be around. I get enough hell during the day.’

Braintree nodded.

‘I had La Lashskirt and Ronnie Lann at me the other day in the Staff Room about raising student consciousness multi-sexually. I told them the students I have are far more multi-sexually conscious than I am or ever was and besides I object to this emphasis on sexuality for eleven-year-olds. Lashskirt wants to run a course on oral sex and clitoral stimulation for Nursery Nurses. I said to hell with that.’

‘I can’t see that going down with Mrs Routledge. She’ll blow her top.’

‘Blown it already. With the Principal no less at the Recruitment Meeting,’ said

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