…the faculty of the intellect by which a person, through the application of logic, works out conclusions from the evidence the world provides; also the motive, cause or justification for doing something   

“Nothing’s sacred anymore,” Henry pronounced, but nobody was listening to the general conversation any longer. Everyone in the staffroom was either occupied with a book or piece of paper or involved in a more intimate conversation.

For a moment Henry felt a frisson of satisfaction, what with saying something which, he thought, had the bright sheen of intelligence – but it was, upon a moment’s reflection, a distinctly unsatisfying experience – especially as he was the only participant in a no longer general conversation – a-no-longer-conversation.

He had listened to the whole of the general conversation which prompted this comment, he had digested the intricacies of a fairly thorough exploration of the decline in standards amongst the youth-of-today, especially as this topic related to schooling and education and the institutionalised passing on of knowledge and skills to this youth-of-today, he even held back when an absolute stranger to one and all chipped in some facetious comment about the youth-of-today not knowing their asses from their elbows; Henry had sat there, nodding to confirm his participation, even if it was of a passive nature, and waiting to offer a comment which would nicely round off and sum up this mature and intelligent conversation between fellow educators, fellow graduates, even a few from Oxbridge like himself, and he had not been afforded what he considered to be his due.

Henry mulled over the following three words as though sucking at a loose tooth – Thwarted once again.

Henry could do little else but stand up and walk out of the staffroom and into the profusion of screaming and laughing girls which filled the assembly hall.

It’s like being in a foreign country, Henry thought,

How it was like being in a foreign country, where exactly this thought came from – must remain a mystery; Henry’s burgeoning thoughts provide no kind of elucidation, no justification, no origination for this thought.

All this, he looked about him with a dramatic sneer of disgust, was a foreign country to him.

If the truth (as far as Henry was concerned) had to be told – all this was somehow beneath him. If asked to elaborate on this perception of his, this feeling that he was in some way above all of this, Henry would have prevaricated, he would have shrugged his shoulders, though he might have pointed out the fat girl eating yoghurt with her fingers, or commented on the trail of muesli across the parquet floor, or draw his interrogator’s attention to the Summer sun’s glare streaming through the letters of the word “balls” rubbed out of the window’s dust, but he most likely would have had to resort to shaking his head, he certainly wouldn’t have been able to come up with a rational explanation, or be able to even begin to explain how he was, in any sense of the word “above”, above all of this.

If asked to explain how he was below all of this, in some way, in any way, Henry would have been unstoppable – if ever he acknowledged a feeling of inferiority lurking in his subconscious. But nobody questioned Henry on his relative position to “all of this” at that point.

Walking amongst these hordes of babbling idiots who would soon be nicely turned out as ever-so-clever-young-ladies, Henry dwelt on many things. Perhaps the word “dwelt”, the verb “to dwell”, might be the wrong choice of words for the processes which went on in Henry’s head from one moment to the next. To dwell on something implies a calm reflection on matters of some, but not immediate and great, importance, something in which you may have an idle interest. So Henry didn’t really dwell – he was more of a gusher. If a comparison could be made between the movement of Henry’s thoughts and the movement of water, Henry was more of a white-water-rapids variety of thinker, more so than a slow-and-softly-meandering-through-a-lush-valley variety of thinker.

Therefore, to follow his thoughts, in a blow-by-blow fashion would be both laborious and unhelpful. What the reader loses out on in terms of insight into the manner in which Henry reaches any “conclusion”, the reader will gain in terms of a warm glow that comes from the belief that all is ordered and rational in the world.

Henry slammed shut his classroom door.

“You’re early,” a girl had the temerity to state.

“You’re late,” Henry flatly replied. “You’re all late. Now take your babbling and giggling outside and give a poor man some peace.”

Henry was always pleading for peace, which would be most easily arrived at in another occupation. “And don’t but-sir me.”

And, of course, there’s no come back from that.

Sitting back in his chair, looking out over the clean desks and empty chairs of a quiet classroom, Henry may have had a moment of inspiration, but maybe it was simply a passing idle thought which occasioned the brief smile which passed across his face. With his feet up on the desk and six-and-a-half minutes until the bell, Henry could let the white-water-rapids gush and steam, so that by the time the bell did ring, he would be awash with all kinds of conflicting ideas which could tear him apart once more in front of thirty bemused young ladies expecting to be taught something about the wondrous world of literature.

Thankfully, his gushing thoughts were disturbed by a timid knock from a timid girl with a timid smile.

Henry liked timid girls. He smiled to signal that she might proceed, in whatever might be her immediate intentions, as far as he was concerned.

“Sir…” She seemed, for some reason, at a loss.

“Yes Alison,” Henry said, avoiding the sarcastic tone he normally fell into, attempting to sound both caring and sincere, but the strain showed on his face, so confusing the child.

“Sir… can we…”

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” Henry cut in. “Whatever you are about to ask will prove to be quite an inconvenience to me and so therefore must be kicked into the long grass.”

The child retreated, confused and defeated, mumbling something about something, and probably never to utter another audible word again for the rest of her timid little life.

The stupidity of children was now the starting point of Henry’s torrential ruminations. The gushing mountain stream threw up a random string of thoughts on this general topic: how the naiveté and stupidity of children was akin to the gullibility of people in centuries past, how stupidity in any form was unbelievably tedious, how tedium was the price us humans pay for consciousness, that scientists should study both tedium and stupidity in far more depth, that devising hobbies to overcome this tedium was a betrayal of the human condition, that the inherent tedium of the human condition would make a good topic for the assembly he had to deliver next month, whether collecting stamps was a good analogy for the pointlessness of human existence, wasn’t it true that stamps could be used as common currency, what was uncommon currency and did it exist, what was the puzzle of the monkey-puzzle tree outside his classroom, that his next lesson should be entitled “My Hobby”, that to sink to their level was the greatest indignity he had to suffer, a daily indignity, a slap across the face, but at least it tackled that old problem – the inexorable tedium.

The bell rang for the next class. Thwarted once again.


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