10 Forsythia Grove
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT
June 1 1997
My Dear Ralph
Thank you for your exciting communique! I do hope that your symptoms have cleared up now? And, yes, you are quite right about my Christian name being a near-perfect anagram. The perfect form would be derived from ‘Evangelive.’ And also, yes. I did intend it so.
I have been searching, as you know, for some additional activity to occupy some of my spare time. (I have yet to hear from the P.M. with regard to my taking up the Chair on the country’s Intelligence and Security Committee. Maybe he has decided upon someone else!) So, the other day, I attended at Far Away School for Girls, just outside the city of Carpool. This establishment accommodates girls, aged 10-17, who have been ‘statemented’ and excluded from mainstream schooling, owing to difficulties with their emotions and behaviour.
Having secured an interview with the headteacher, one Mr P Grampian, I motored over there – through dripping laurel lanes – to see what we could make of one another. It is certainly a deserted spot pet and the whole demesne seemed to be occupying the Land that Time Forgot. Once inside, my main impression was that the old building was in need of one or two licks of paint and some work done on its upkeep. Mr Grampian was apparently jovial and welcoming, but I did feel a frisson of concern when his handshake turned into a grip which could mince the strongest of bones. But after a few brief words, he luckily turned me over to Miss Skylark who was bonnily turned out in an egg-shell-blue lambs’ wool jumper. And after a short, but pleasant, exchange in her office (papers strewn everywhere) we set off on a jaunt round the school buildings. I myself am not used to viewing furniture which is actually screwed to the linoleum but, given that the girls can come from quite distressed backgrounds – murdered and abusive parents and so on and so forth – it did sound as if it could be necessary at times. But it bothered me a little dear, that the common room sofas seemed to be unkempt and a little dirty. And when we viewed a bedroom with two beds in it (only a single child occupant) and saw no wardrobe at all, it did seem odd. The girl in question had piled all her clothes on to one bed even though, in theory, she could have stowed them beneath the divans or in one of the two chests of drawers in the room. I asked Miss Skylark about this. I said, surely, the children could have items of clothing that they needed to hang up? Well ‘hang’ appeared to be the operative word here, because Miss Skylark said that the rail in a wardrobe could act as a ligature point . . . I feel, myself, that the actively suicidal child might be a comparative rarity and, in any event, one could probably make a fairly decent ‘stab’ at identifying one at risk in this way? It is surely of equal importance to enable children to feel that they have the same bedroom facilities as their ostensibly more normal peers in a standard school?
I did eventually wring out of Miss Skylark that the school itself had been statemented by OffHead and was heading for ‘special measures.’ This sounds a little ominous doesn’t it pet? What do ‘special measures’ mean exactly? Certainly, I myself might be considering replacing Mr P Grampian with a headteacher whose manual grip was considerably less ‘manly.’ My own feeling was that this individual might be compensating for some feelings of personal insecurity if he felt it necessary to attempt the crushing of a lady’s hand in this manner. In fact, by the time we had concluded our rounds, I was feeling that the Carpool Civic Authority needed to be investing far more of its time and money in Far Away School for Girls. And that, because children’s parents might well be less able than usual to express concerns and dissatisfaction with the regime on offer, that perhaps the girls would benefit from being partnered with surrogate parents who could represent their best interests.
It was with feelings of unease that I departed for home in the Banger 0.9L. I think perhaps that I will not be volunteering my time at this venue because, sooner or later, I might feel impelled to try to assist a child in some way or other. Leadership in these establishments is critical in my opinion. And what would I do if the person-in-charge I had to turn to, was Mr P Grampian and his muscular paw?
Otherwise dear, I am feeling rather wrung out myself, for half of one of my front teeth seems to have summarily dropped off. And smiling – that most winning of personal behaviours – seems to be off my own personal menu for the moment.
I hope you, yourself, are experiencing a measure of sunny uplift somewhere today nephew?