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Thompson’s Lost Plimsole

Part Nine: Presentation day

It was Gerald Whiz’s intention to present the Golden Plimsole, which he had won at the International Hopping Championships, to his former school for permanent display. Hearing this had sent the Headmaster at that time, Mr Cecil Davies, into an almighty funk.

Upon entering through the main doors of Hookemin Hall, one could not be impressed by the display of sporting trophies, literally, there were so few!  The boys of this school had managed, over the years, to maintain a long standing tradition of always coming fourth or fifth. What few trophies there were in these cabinets were tarnished and covered in the dust of the ages. Mr Davies spent the next few weeks scouring the locality for its antique shops, jumble sales, auction sales and newspaper small ads for as many sporting trophies, cups and shields as he could acquire. Along with a large number of framed photographs of groups of sporting schoolboys (from other schools),  Mr Davies quickly amassed a sizeable collection with which to fill the school display cabinets. The speedy conversion of these items to intimate that they had been won by former pupils of this school, would cost the Headmaster dearly.

The workshop of local forger Antoine Leroux was situated down a small alley to the rear of the Hallifield main Police station.  To anyone passing this small unassuming watch and clock repair shop, there was nothing to indicate that very high class forgeries, worth thousands of pounds, were emanating from these premises on a yearly basis. Antoine Leroux had spent the First World War creating forged documents for resistance operatives in France and Belgium and it was the forged paperwork and certificates previously created for Mr Davies, that had gained him a place as a Master at Hookemin Hall. After the First World War, when institutions were desperate to fill vacancies, less attention was paid to checking credentials. Mr Davies had spent the war as a prisoner in Germany. He was an English teacher in Berlin, but he certainly had not attended Eton, nor had he attended any of the main Universities in Oxford or Cambridge. It was pure happenstance that Antoine had found himself in Hallifield. After the war, Mr Davies had taken up a teaching post in France and had married a French girl who just happened to be a cousin of Antoine.

Several bottles of 1869 Chateau Lafite Rothschild would need to disappear from the cellars at Hookemin Hall in order to satisfy the expensive tastes of Monsieur Leroux, and Mr Davies could always put their disappearance down to the boys. How he was going to explain the sudden re-appearance of a few dozen sporting trophies and a large number of photographs of pupils that no one could recall ever having attended the school, would simply be another obstacle for him to overcome.

In the days prior to the expected arrival of the golden Plimsole, the school had gone into a frenzy of redecorating and cleaning. Floral arrangements and a large celebration cake had been ordered and the school dining hall made to look resplendent with the long tables bedecked in white linen. Apart from a few well chosen senior pupils and the school choir, all of the remaining boys would be spending presentation day two miles away on Hallifield common with Mr Murphy the games master. A beast of a man, an ex-army PT instructor, who was reputed to have killed a man in a local cinema for repeatedly coughing during the playing of the National Anthem. However, this incident may have just been an urban myth, but none of the boys were ever going to verbally challenge this story which allowed Mr Murphy to exude an air of menace which he played on to full effect and his own amusement.  

The newly refurbished trophy cabinet now looked stunning with its full display of cups and shields, all standing proudly in front of the framed sporting photographs, but slightly obscuring any printed names making them difficult to read, which of course was the object of the exercise. Monsieur Leroux had done a magnificent job with the trophies, the original school names had been ground out and replaced with that of Hookemin Hall. Dates had been altered, initials changed, and surnames extended or double-barreled. However, in pride of place in the very center of the main cabinet stood a beautiful plinth on which the Golden Plimsole was to sit. The timber used for the new plinth had been rescued from the fire that had recently devastated the old disused chapel which had formerly stood in the hall grounds. Many staff and pupils had reported strange sightings at the site of the old chapel, ghostly apparitions in the form of hooded monks, a motionless Wolfhound with red eyes, a small boy pointing an accusing finger and a mysterious grey lady. It has, however, to be admitted that most of these sightings were made by Mr Travis the science master and usually after sampling the first distillations of his Laboratory-made potato vodka. Partially blind, Mr Travis was an absolute liability in the science lab, but backdoor sales of Vodka and other assorted spirits to the landlord of the Mutton Dagger (later renamed as the Four Corners), had helped to keep the school financially solvent.   

In an attempt to keep young Thompson within earshot, within eyesight and within an arm’s length, just in case the boy got up to any of his usual shenanigans, Mr Davies had placed him at the main doors in order to greet the arriving visitors.  Hallifield Brass, under the baton of Walton Clegg were also formed up in front of the main doors to blow a fanfare for Gerald Whiz and his new bride, Ethel. Walton Clegg was a cadaverous figure of a man, looking more like an assortment of bones held together with parchment. He gave the impression that if he were to become too vigorous with the baton, something might snap. His face cheeks were sunken in to such a point that it forced his false teeth to protrude and rattle as he spoke.

With the majority of guests now assembled, excitement rose as in the distance could be seen the horse and carriage bringing the guests of honour down the long driveway to the hall. Accompanying Gerald and Ethel were former Lord Lieutenant, Sir David Pitchfork, Lady Pitchfork and their Rottweiler, Satan. Driving the carriage was Major (Retired) Clarence Fortescue, former cavalry officer. The band struck up with a selection of tunes from the popular musical Chu Chin Chow and finished with a flourish as the carriage drew to a halt at the steps to the main door. Gerald was the first to step down from the carriage holding on to the Golden Plimsole. Passing the Plimsole to Ethel, he hoisted her from her roost, but before her feet had touched the floor, someone sounded the charge on a bugle! Brought out of retirement after several years out to grass and in order to draw the carriage on this auspicious occasion, Lightning, former renowned cavalry charger, took this as the signal to rear up and gallop hell for leather in the direction of the band with Sir David and Lady Pitchfork clinging on for dear life. Walton Clegg, bandmaster, narrowly missed being trampled to death in his attempt to avoid the stampede. He did, however, cough his false teeth under the wheels of the carriage as the brass ensemble parted in a multiple of directions, leaving a lone bugler standing and laughing as the horse and carriage made its way towards the hall lake.

The Headmaster turned and grabbed at the collar of the instigator of this debacle, “Thompson! you little b…” Mr Davies refrained from swearing but dragged Thompson towards Gerald Whiz who was now holding the Prize Plimsole. He snatched the Plimsole from Gerald’s hand, bent Thompson over and applied the sole of the Plimsole several times to the boy’s posterior.

For the first time ever, Thompson let out a pained howl as the rubber sole made contact. “Ow, that hurts!” As Mr Davies raised his Plimsole filled hand for a fourth time, there was an audible intake of breath from the assembled Masters and Head boys. Mr Davies let go of Thompson and stared for a moment at the Golden Plimsole. A tear rolled down his cheek as he slowly raised the Plimsole to the heavens.  In that moment the clouds parted, and a single beam of sunlight illuminated the Golden Plimsole causing the assembled congregation to shield their eyes from its brilliance. “At last”, he cried. “No more bulk buying of canes, no more golf lessons”. Mr Davies handed the Plimsole back to Gerald  who was surprised at the strength of the hug given to him by Mr Davies. The moment was broken by the sodden and weed bedecked reappearance of Sir David and Lady Pitchfork. “Where is the swine that caused this?” The Headmaster, without speaking, pointed in the direction of the fleeing Thompson. Sir David, red faced and seething, whistled and called to his dog, “Satan… Fetch!”

To be continued:


Published by crispinunderfelt

All round good egg. Humanist and red wine drinker.

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