The Linnet's Wings Blackbird Dock - Page 59

excessive care with me, the long, fussy inspections if I so much as grazed my knee, the school report post mortems, with detailed questions concerning what teachers saw as weak or ‘not so good’ areas, the fact that none of the more stringent punishments which seemed to have been visited on some of my schoolmates had ever applied to me at any time. I was it for them; I was all there was ever going to be. To let them down or disappoint them in any way just seemed cruel, shameful, something which probably wouldn’t allow me to live with myself. And that phrase, of course, the question of whether a not a young guy can live with himself, split the whole recent experience open again like an exposed wound. I looked at my watch. Almost exactly one week to the hour when the decision on the George Terrace boys’ night out was taken. I put my head back against the wall of the house, looking with a kind of relief at the familiarity before me; the neatly trimmed and mowed lawn forming most of the centre of the garden (Dad) and the flower beds running down the side of the lawn to my left and across the back fence (Mum), which Peter Hanley and his little pals used to bang footballs against, occasionally irritating my folks to protest, nice as they generally found the Hanleys to be. Peter was at university too now; I wondered sometimes how he was getting on. He never seemed to come home, not at the times I did anyway. Play for time, Mark. Rather than a week ago, go back to three years ago, my last school year, and an experience which might help you get a better grip on a week ago. Ninety-odd senior boys gathered in the school’s Lecture Theatre, for an event billed as part of the school’s ‘pastoral programme’ , while at the same time, ‘contributing to helping us through the A-level period’. Widespread curiosity in advance, particularly about why boys only, including various speculations about who had been up to what and when. Like most large groups of boys, we contained a number of wilder and sillier spirits, and a few, mercifully few in our case, who could be believed capable of just about anything. In the event, by the time we were all in the lecture theatre used for these more limited assemblies, a certain natural curiosity was just about overcoming the world-weary cynicism we A-levellers normally affected. We found ourselves looking down on two people sitting at the table below. On our left, Mr. Daniel Masson, Head of Sixth Form, a tall, authoritative-looking man known for his unflappability and easy control. Masson had been at the school for over twenty years, and he was universally known as D.C. Long ago, years before any of us had started at the school, someone had christened him ‘Daddy Cool’; wi \K]X[YBܝ[Y ˈ[Xˈ[ۙH[]\[Y[X\X\ۈ][][[ۙKHY&]YYۙBHHXKXYH^Y\ۙH[وH^\]H\ZY[[[HZ\ܙX[[Y[X][\[ H\[ۙY܈ܝ\[\Z\\[][YHYH]X\[\›]HܝY\8$\\۸&]\\8$H\[H [[^H\Y[\[][ X\[ܙH[[HZY܈YHو\XX\˂ۈ\Y\HX[و]Z]H[\\YX\X[H\Y][Hؙ\YHZ] ][HY[ܙ^HZ\ۈ[HXHXX[YYY[H[ܛZYXH]H[YH[YKH\X[\[]\[ ˋ][YH\]][X\[H]ZY] X\\[Z[KHY\B؝[\HHX[H]XYX]8$^ [Z[]\K\\܈HY \[[X[X[[X\B ˸&\[[܈H]X\][[YX\ˈH\۸&][]H܋܈HZ[[܈]وB[\\[\[HYY\Y\H\[XY\[Y8$H\[]\˂&]8&]H[HۙH]XY܋[[]YO&H\\YH^H^YKۙHو^H\YY\]H[YK\YHYKH^H\۸&][\[ۘ[[XH\ZH]\X][H[YK܈\ۙ\x&Yۛۈ[KYH]HYX\H[Hܚ[YYY[H][KH^Y۝\\[[H[\\\ˈH][\H[BH\Y[[]\\X[HوHYY\Y\\ܘ[Y\\[][[[YK]\[[ ˈۈ\H\ۛۈHX[\Y][Y\[\[HYH[H[\[H\Z\Y]ۜ[۝[[\H] ]]\\\X] ][YYH\YHHH\[&]N