Casualties of the economic shipwreck are washing up at the entrance of Lowbottom in increasing numbers. If they arrived in boats we might begin to panic and spirit them off to a detention centre. A number of Lowbottom students would say there is no difference.

Since we seem to be swimming about in aquatic metaphor, it is possible to discern that the tide that took away some of our best and brightest to the local private schools has turned.

And here they are again, some of them, looking dazed to be back in a place which is not state of the art (courtesy of those gasp-making fees and Howard’s lovely lolly) but something that more resembles a World War I field hospital.

Like Liberty, we naturally welcome the newly poor, tempest-tossed on our teeming shore. (There are those sea images again.) If only we had the physical room to accommodate them. It is not uncommon in these times for teachers to walk into a class which has swollen overnight like mould on a Petri dish. And you are?

Which eventually necessitates the installation of yet another portable classroom, lines of which already retreat from vision like an ever-repeating Mandelbrot set. Soon we will need a ration pack to get from one end of the school to the other. Already the four quarters of the campus are referred to colloquially as Arabia Deserta, Inner and Outer Mongolia, and Devil’s Island.

Of course it is an ill wind that blows no good and certain students have been quick to recognise an opportunity presenting itself. Like sellers of dirty postcards, these entrepreneurs materialise from the shadows offering desperate parents (for a very modest fee all things considered) a copy of the criteria a student must meet which obliges the school to take them on even if it means hanging from the rafters.

Friend Tarquin has been unusually active in this area.

If such enterprise were to be channelled into the study of Hitler’s 24 Points, say, what miracles of scholarship might we not expect?

Meanwhile, the children of the economically damned wander dazed between rooms as self-conscious in their Lowbottom uniform as new prisoners donning the broad arrow. Come hither, you muddled asses yearning to breathe free. We lift our lamp beside the graffiti-ed door.

Peter Fray

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