|The bell rings, and it's school midnight.
Here's Mr Pettifer, pompous and plump
and Mr Jason, lean and looming
and Miss Fairford, with hairs on her chin.
They keep their canes in a cupboard in the corner
not just for use, they say, but as a warning.
First, second and third headteachers,
they made our school and they made the rules.
At school midnight, when the bell rings
they step out together, plump Mr Pettifer
arm in arm with stern Mr Jason
and Miss Fairford, who sees everything.
1890 to 1897: that was Mr Pettifer's time.
1897 to 1910: that was Miss Fairford's time.
1910 until he'd been there for ever
(or at least as long as anyone could remember)
long-lived and lean and looming:
The bell rings, and here they come
down the corridors, into the classrooms
with a sweep of skirts and a rattle of watch-chains,
running their fingers over the shelves for dust
scanning our handwriting, opening books,
checking the registers, noting the absences..
The bell rings, and it's school midnight.
Miss Fairford is standing by the piano
waiting sternly for absolute quiet.
Mr Pettifer puts his hands together
while Mr Jason strides down the aisle
between ghostly rows of whispering children
who laugh when he shows them the cane.