Many years ago when I was a young lad, school was an endless hokey kokey of jocularity, of misadventures and a seemingly endless opportunity for mirth and pre- pubescent ideas of anarchy and rebellion. Hardly a week went by when I wasn't standing outside the headmasters hallowed door awaiting retribution and six brisk flicks of his cane. Ah the cane, an almost mythical object, rarely seen and only brought out in the most dire of circumstances - his Excalibur you might say. Scotty as we used to refer to him, kept his cane discretely stashed away behind a sort of trophy cabinet that housed one or two "cups" that looked like Roman relics with the addition of a few mummified flys; such was my schools sporting achievements.
My main fear in these times was that old Scotty would leave us waiting too long, indeed this would have been a more apt punishment: to stand, waiting, waiting..With no end in sight, for eternity - well for at least fifteen minutes. Soon when a more liberal feeling pervaded the staff room, public humiliation was the weapon of choice. Bloody liberals.
While we waited we'd coach each other in the protocol of the condemned; the do's and don't's, the why's and why not's, the ayes to the left and the no's to the right which basically consisted of not laughing or farting - the latter was an absolute. It was absolutely absolute, it was as inviolable as burning the school down, smoking or cheating on cross country - however the latter two were often combined. " Whatever you do don't laugh or fart.." Ha ha, to be young again, to be without fear, without responsibility, the certainty that we're going to live forever, that my body won't tire or break down, that I won't become an alcoholic or a Big Issue seller,or live under a holly bush and so on and so forth..
We're ushered into his inner sanctum; it's just as I remember : the fly cabinet is still defamed by the sporting bibelot; there's a smell of stale cigarettes, the window overlooks the sport field where under- enthused kids in games kit run hither and thon, catching things, kicking things or throwing things - or perhaps they're all retarded.
He lines us up before the desk, pauses for long moments, the clock ticks. I can feel that I'm going to lose it, I'm going to burst like a loon, a mad boy and fall on the floor and become the first boy to ever die of laughter in Scotty's office. They'll place a little blue plaque reverentially on the spot where I die and all the future miscreants who step over Scotty's threshold will stand solemnly and respectively...and then piss themselves with laughter!
But no, I have it under control - I'll just concentrate on icebergs or deep space. Just look straight ahead and concentrate. But the bastard is taking so long, he hasn't even opened his mouth. I think he's daring us to laugh, to succumb to the pressure, he's enjoying this. The moments pass like centuries.
And then the bastard goes and says: " I smell the gibbon!"