This week the talk has been all of climate change.

As we enter the staffroom one by one looking like refugees from the vast steppes (the furthest wing of portable classrooms is not called Outer Siberia for nothing) we show ourselves to be at the mercy of the elements. Just when winter coats were being stowed for the duration and small experiments undertaken in brawny display and décolletage, Zephirus blows chill from the southern oceans.

We are so used to the big dry that we hardly know what precipitation is. Everyone is thrown, not least the old bastard responsible for regulating the heating system throughout the school. On the first cold day an Antarctic draught circulates through the rooms. This would have been welcome in, say, December or February (a time, by the way, when the air conditioning is inclined to break down).

Breath rises from the mouths of the kids to form a clammy miasma above about 2 metres.

“Sir, can we p-p-please have the heating on?” they plead. Your answer is made indistinct by the ski mask you have donned until the thaw.

So you decide to seek out said Old Bastard to see what can be done. This takes you into an area of the school from which all are excluded. Not that they would wish to enter it anyway.

The first warning is the carcases of dead creatures festooning the spiky bushes near the janitor’s lair. These are rats, usually, which make a home beneath the classrooms. You would not be at all surprised, though, to see the tanned hide of a Year 9 hanging there. As you penetrate the Old Bastard’s defences you expect to hear the telltale twang of duelling banjos.

“Mr Clacton?”

A creature emerges from the crepuscular shed crammed full of ancient tools and bits and bobs of things for which only he can see the use.

“If thee’ve come about t’heating, there be nowt I can do.”

“Can we at least shut down the system?”

“Shut down t’system!? It be running these 50 year and good for t’another or my be not name Jebediah.”

“Hypothermia …” you begin.

“There be none of your language here,” the old bastard says and casts a significant glance at the rats. “T’Lord has sent us rain for which thee should be grateful.”

Yes, you think, but which Lord? Inside the shed, you are certain you hear the season’s first blowies setting up a menacing hum. You run.

Read the full Lowbottom High diaries here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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