An English In Kentucky


















Monday March 31st  2014  Tim Candler


     "You understand punching a superior officer is a court martial offense, punishable by firing squad." Which was certainly a lengthy statement from The Headmaster, and possibly alluded to something The Headmaster might himself have instigated during General Wavell's retreat from Benghazi. And what with the eggs, and the blood and brains of some 'damned fine chaps,' and 'SPURS' on the Butcher's Lane Bridge, it seemed only sensible for Chaka to take a backward step or two. Yet, possibly as a result of genetic anomalies due to ancestors that had given Chaka freckles and red blotchiness and greenish eyes and suggestion of red in his hair, and what his maternal line called "elegant wrists," all of which had clearly tinged him with a series of flaws, Chaka produced a sentence that may not have been arrived at through good posture. "I won't require a blindfold, sir." And, it was also possible that Chaka had been reading a number of gung-ho stories about a class of brave men doing their bit for the tribe, who even in the last resort would never have dreamed of offering an apology or reveal vital secrets about the position of the front line, or the location of the code book, or that the useless goalkeeper, Switherington-Smyth, had swapped Tunbridge Wells for an Island in the Aegean and a couple of roller-skating rinks in Houston and a  Florida Orange grove. Then with their hands tied behind their backs, such Lions would accept the cigarette, but refuse the blindfold, because it was very important to piss off the enemy at every single opportunity, and in moments of distress cigarettes were a scarce commodity. These were steely eyed men with a penchant for a rosy cheeked, high heel wearing girls, they were the kind  of men who won the Victoria Cross, volunteered for suicide missions, rescued kittens from burning buildings to impress maidens, and maybe also have had an extraordinary ability with a bow and arrow, even if they did look a little peculiar in tights, some kind of green tunic and a beaked hat with a feather in it.

     And I guess too that one of the great advantages of actually being a steely eyed man who refuses the blindfold, is that he has no opportunity for hindsight. He's dead, gone and forgotten unless something like Hollywood gets a hold of his corpse and parades it around as someone like John Wayne, or William Holden, for all to see. And safe to say that even when you are something like eleven, and it's 1960 something, a Louis sixteenth style fainting couch strikes you as an odd bit of furniture to be bent over while a Headmaster administers six of the best with a slipper. And at the same time being a subject of the headmaster's slipper on the very first day of the winter season, pretty much guaranteed that the hero of Charring Cross and Ore would achieve the status of God when he eventually returned to his tribe's bathing and sleeping quarters, just so long as he appeared to have shed no tear for himself. But, and here it's probably best to consider it in terms of genetic anomaly, there are some who fail to respond well to corporal punishment. A dust up, a down and out brawl between equals is one thing, and the entirely perverted will even pay to see it. They'll jeer and yell as though engaged in some kind of mutual wet dream.  And it might well be there are those who after the cane or the slipper can shake hands, say "jolly good," and be on about their day to day. But there was a frustration in Chaka, an anger that maybe stemmed from the indignity of his submission to The Headmaster, a big man with thick wrists, and with a mustache that made for interesting viewing if ever there was soup for lunch at the school master's dining table. We had napkins and napkin rings of course. We had the Church Service on Sunday, a couple of hymns, a psalm or two.  Poppy Day and a minute of silence for the Unknown Solider.  And there was toilet across the hall from the Headmaster's study where a tribesman could comb his hair in preparation for meal times, or check for tears before rejoining the clan at their tooth brushing station.



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