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Thompson’s Lost Plimsole

Part 51

6.30 am. There had been a heavy frost overnight, leaving the grass and vegetation surrounding the school looking like a crystal covered fairyland. Each blade of grass, an icy pointer bedecked with jewel encrusted cobwebs.        With nothing to obstruct it, a chilly breeze blew across the school playing fields and wound itself around the front of the school. The silence of this early morning scene was shattered by the shrill voice of Mr Wormwood and the knocking of hundreds of bare knees. The new Headmaster barked his orders for the day from the open window of his office, each order or instruction echoed by David, his half-witted brother-in-law. Dressed in a large coat, thick scarf, woollen hat, and furry mittens, David stood on the stone stairs leading to the front doors, whilst the assembled boys were dressed in their PE equipment which consisted of flimsy shirts, baggy shorts, knee-length socks and plimsoles.

“On my whistle, three times around the lake”, shouted Mr Wormwood, “and the last five boys in will not be receiving their breakfast!” A long shrill blast sent the boys running in the direction of the lake. Three times round would probably add up to at least two miles, and this was not a school known for its sporting prowess. However, the thought of eggs and bacon and lashings of hot buttered toast was enough to spur on the hardiest of the boys.  The first few boys to complete this early morning run quickly made their way to the showers only to find the water cold. An even bigger shock awaited them as they filed into the dining hall for breakfast. In place of the usual eggs, bacon, sausages, toast and jam, was a single large pot of salted porridge. Like a scene from Oliver Twist, Mrs Wormwood stood by the porridge pot as her ham-fisted brother ladled out the tawny coloured goo. Mr Wormwood had positioned himself centrally on the stage in order to deliver his sermon on the sins of gluttony to a silent audience. Unlike the young protagonist in the Dickens novel, none of the boys ventured forth to ask for more!

Lunch was not much better, as the only option from what was previously a varied menu was now a thin stew consisting mainly of cabbage, carrots and potatoes. The absence of anything resembling an identifiable meat product was flagged up by a loudly shouted “hooray!” from somewhere near the back of the hall. One boy from the several hundred eating in silence had dared to proclaim his delight at finding a lump of something on his plate that wasn’t vegetable based.  Red faced and angry, the Headmaster leapt from his seat, cane in hand. “Who was that?”. The younger boys trembled as Mr Wormwood made his way towards the back of the hall followed closely by David. “Who spoke, who shouted out?”. The Headmaster was visibly frothing at the mouth like a rabid dog. The gap in his front teeth allowed for the foaming spittle to shower over anyone within a few feet of him. A small boy seated next to Thompson started to cry. Mr Wormwood turned to face the child. “Was it you, boy, well, speak up, was it you that shouted out?”. Thompson looked at the boy next to him, paused for a moment and then stood up. “It was me, I shouted out”. The Headmaster was trembling with rage. “I specifically forbade anyone to speak during mealtimes, explain yourself, boy”. Thompson looked down again at the young boy next to him. Thompson hated bullying and bullies, he had a reputation in the school for standing up to bullies and especially those who bullied the younger or weaker boys. “Well Sir, I thought that I had found a piece of meat in this slop that has been laughingly labelled as stew”. A number of the boys started to cheer and quite a few members of staff were finding it difficult to suppress their laughter. “Silence!”. Mr Wormwood had now been joined by his wife. “How dare you complain about this meal” he shrieked. “This food was produced under the expert supervision of my wife”. “Well then, Sir”, replied Thompson, “Maybe Mrs Wormwood should take a few cookery lessons from Mrs Wilde”. Mrs Wormwood and her brother grabbed hold of Thompson and dragged him to the front of the hall. He was forced to bend over the table as the Headmaster administered several strokes of the cane. Thompson stood up after the beating and stared non-plussed straight into the eyes of the Headmaster. Mr Wormwood was still raging, but he found Thompson’s demeanour unnerving.   “Go to your room and stay there until I give you permission to leave, go on, get out”. As Thompson made his way to the door, from somewhere in the room a slow hand clap could be heard. One by one the boys joined in until the noise was deafening. As Thompson opened the door to leave there was an almighty cheer, “Thompson, Thompson, Thompson!” The young man turned and looked towards the Wormwoods and then closed the door behind him. As he walked away from the hall, he could hear the shrill voice of the Headmaster trying in vain to restore order.

Around 10pm that evening and well after lights out, there was a soft rap on Thompson’s door. On opening his door, Thompson was faced with a small cohort of Junior boys fronted by the boy who had cried out at lunch. The boy proffered a tin box to Thompson, who, on opening the box, found it to contain a piece of fruit cake, half a bar of chocolate and a jam sandwich wrapped in brown paper. “You missed supper”, said the small boy. “We had a whip round, it’s not much, but the cake was baked by Wilfred’s mother and she’s a jolly good cook and that’s all that’s left of it, otherwise you could have had a bigger slice”. Thompson put the tin down and thanked the boys. As the young boys turned to walk away, one of then turned back. “I’m sorry Thompson, it should have been me who took the thrashing”. A tear was rolling down the boy’s face. “Don’t worry about it, it didn’t hurt anyway”, Thompson put his hand out expecting the other boy to shake it. However, the small boy moved in and hugged him. “I’m sorry, Thompson, I truly am”. Thompson watched as the young boys crept off silently into the darkness, closed his door and climbed back into bed. He had been moved by the show of admiration for his actions at lunch and now this show of affection from these other boys. A few minutes later there was another rap on his door. He opened the door but there was no one present, although, whoever it was that had knocked, had left a small basket outside his room. Lifting back the covering cloth, Thompson found a whole freshly baked sponge cake, some potted meat sandwiches, an apple and a bottle of ginger beer. Also in the basket was a piece of note paper on which was simply written two words, ‘thank you’.

The scent on the note and on the cloth covering the treats were familiar to him. It was the perfume that Mrs McQueen wore.  Thompson now knew that he had friends and allies in the school. As he lay back in his bed, he smiled to himself. “Every dog has his day”, he thought, as a plan started to form in his mind.

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Published by crispinunderfelt

All round good egg. Humanist and red wine drinker.

10 thoughts on “Thompson’s Lost Plimsole

      1. Sounds like Billy bunter would have been happy to have been at that school keep up the good work just the right length story short attention span smiffy

        Like

      1. Oh, he’s quite welcome. Thanks for taking the time to respond and let me know what’s going on. I really am interested.

        Like

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