We are a class of 13 nine year old boys in 2A, the first year academic stream of the Royal Masonic Junior School. Recently we have lost our fathers but now we are safely in the hands of the school’s masters. Perhaps we should be counting our blessings but far from home and family, we are not feeling very blessed.
It is Scripture with the Rev. Brian Stowe, Bachelor of Divinity (you have worked it out already? Not original but “Bisto” it was).
“Bisto” enters the room and we all stand. We sit and prepare ourselves for a tedious 40 minutes till the bell sounds release. A few weeks in, we now know that virtually all lessons are tedious at best and that Scripture is perhaps the most opaque and tedious of them all, enlivened only by the odd bit of colourful Old Testament language found in words like “eunuch”, always guaranteed to raise a ripple of slyly amused glances around the class.
We are about to learn, however, that the tedium is not invariable and even the Reverend is not above enlivening a lesson with, perhaps (I can only guess), some kind of practical demonstration of the application of Scripture and how God Moves in a Mysterious Way.
He walks over to the radiator, perched upon which is an old map tube in which he keeps his beater, a sawn-off hockey stick. This he withdraws and with due reverence (excuse the pun) taps a couple of times on his hand. The point of the exercise is not clear. Perhaps he has had a bad day and this little routine offers comfort (well you think of a better reason then).
In a moment of what can only be called complete insanity, the boy in the desk next to me, Hamilton – a pudgy boy with glasses (picture him if you will) – calls out “You wouldn’t use that Sir!”.
The Reverend’s stare is hard, and long enough to bring pin-drop silence to the room. Someone has just made his day. Twelve pairs of eyes focus on the Hapless Hamilton, who starts to retreat into his wooden desk.
“Wouldn’t I, Hamilton?”
“I was only joking Sir. I didn’t mean it. Sorry Sir..!” A note of desperation; he has sensed what is coming.
“Come here, Hamilton!”
“Sir, I’m sorry Sir. I’m really sorry”. He is starting to blub.
The reverend is not moved and drags him to the front, where he is bent over. The first strike draws a mighty yell but three further strokes follow, applied with equal vigour, expertise and a measure of deliberation, to the reddening backside of the young sinner.
Hamilton, now a blubbering wreck returns to his desk and weeps quietly for the rest of the lesson. The rest of us spend the proceeding 30 minutes processing this new turn of events in awestruck silence.
Another day. Another lesson.
Never trust a dog collar.