Further Extracts From The Diary of Dr JA Earnshawe (The Statement)
During my time as a teacher of biology in Cadaverly Community College, England, I received frequent communications from an ex-colleague of mine, Roger Cummings, who had taken up a position as a teacher of physical sciences in a well know International
School in Bangkok. During the week in which our school was undergoing a rigorous examination by Her Majesties Inspectorate, Cummings had written to tell me about a vacation he was having in Phuket (please note: it is pronounced poo-ket not fuck-it).
Cummings’ communiqués, coupled with the unpleasant classroom incident described below, was probably the main catalyst which led me to eventually abandon my career in England and join him in his new adventure.
It was a few years later, when I already had some experience of teaching in Thailand under my not inconsiderable belt and had married a beautiful young Thai wife, Nok, that the kind Mr Stickman drew my attention to a writing competition run by Mom Tri’s Boathouse in Phuket. This was the very location in which Cummings had stayed during our inspection, as well as the place Nok and I had spent the first night of our honeymoon. Although my marriage was not consummated, partly because The Boathouse sank during our stay, I still retain fond memories of my visit.
To return to the writing competition; the prizes to be awarded were for vacations in The Boathouse and I was naturally keen to enter and try and win a few days break for Nok and I in the recently salvaged and refloated hotel. Cummings advised me that in order to do well, the content of my story should have as much emotional impact as possible, and suggested: ‘An essay on child abuse is just about as impacting as it is possible to get.’
Taking up Cummings’ advice, I submitted the police statement I was obliged to make after the disastrous lesson to which I have already alluded. (Some people have wrongly concluded that the investigation my statement relates to, more than anything else, led to the subsequent closure of the school – but I really doubt the truth of this view; my lesson was actually commended by the visiting school inspectorate).
When the competition winners were announced I found that I had taken second prize and won three days in the boathouse. I was more than pleased with this; since all I actually did was send in a copy of the statement I made to the police. Cummings facetiously pointed out that the winner’s story had much more impact than mine since he had written about sexual abuse, while I had only physically abused my children.
At times that man’s sense of humour stretches the bounds of my patience to the limit.
Statement to Police of John Arthur Earnshawe, Bsc PhD, 5th November 2004.
This statement was made voluntarily, in the presence of witnesses, and was duplicated in triplicate by Mr Pratt of the Reprographics Department. I am prepared to state on oath, in the presence of God and Her Majesty the Queen, that this is a true account of the circumstances leading up to the incident.
Some facts have no direct bearing on the incident, but as our Head Mr Bustle said, nothing must be hidden. I want to state that, as well as the amputation (the incident), there has been three attempted suicides, two pregnancies, and one case of possession by the devil this term. I do not blame myself for these incidents – nor does Mr Bustle – but after discussion, we believe that the concealment of so many coincidences might be difficult.
I was not responsible for either pregnancy, although I may have been an inadvertent contributor. The reason being was that the contraception topic of my pastoral care programme was unable to be delivered because I found that in the teaching-aid kit relating to the topic, the sheaths had been damaged by over inflation and the coil stolen (I believe for use as ballast for a paper aeroplane). Only the Dutch cap was found to be serviceable. Naturally, I had no alternative but to abandon the topic, and instead, did a bit extra on the menstrual cycle.
As for the suicides, they were very badly executed, and all three attempts were made by the same boy. The poisons he used on the first two occasions (charcoal and sulphur), were, as I explained to him later, substances requiring a rather high lethal dose; and as to his final solution, (wrist slashing) I told him is efficient only when the cuts are made down, not across, the wrist. (On a positive note, the charcoal did give some temporary relief to his flatulence problem).
The motive he gave to his social workers – that he was bored – is really too ridiculous to be answered. It is common knowledge that ‘boring’ can never be an indictment on a teacher – it’s a qualification. As far as I know, no other pupils have tried to take their own lives due to the dullness of my delivery. Besides, I don’t accept that my lessons are boring, and this is supported by the Inspectors report in which the lesson they observed was one in which: ‘pupils were transfixed by its content.’ (My italics).
Lessons in Cadaverly Community College are regularly monitored. As Mr Bustle explained to the pupils in assembly; ‘We have been placed under a category called Special Measures.’ Although their faces bristled with pride on hearing this, the reality is more dubious; unless there is dramatic improvement the school will be closed. I always seem to be able to provide the drama, but never the improvement.
If I could put my finger upon one factor that has led to our demise I would say it was the departure of Cummings. Regular missives recounting his new life in Bangkok have unsettled many colleagues. Only last week he wrote: ‘I am on my way to Mom Tri’s Boathouse Hotel in Phuket with some honey,’ (the honey presumably a present for Tri’s Mom).
I harbour no desire to seek a new beginning myself, but if it wasn’t for Cummings’ departure, I wouldn’t have been saddled with this physical science group in which the following incident occurred.
‘Today,’ I said, ‘because it is Guy Fawkes Night, I am going to make a little bang using rocket fuel.’
‘Brown Ale sir?’
Pupils these days can’t concentrate on a topic for long and are always going off on a tangent. Incidentally, it is said that Guy Fawkes was the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions. For this he was hung, drawn and quartered; quite rightly in my opinion. Moral principle must never be allowed to interfere with good government.
‘Shut up Benny – it is real rocket fuel,’ I said, ‘- we are going to unite one part oxygen with two parts hydrogen, then ignite the mixture inside the bottle that I asked you to bring in.’
The boy with one eye named Benny handed me a bottle – I don’t mean he had one eye called Benny, and the other eye had a different name – I mean the name of the boy was Benny and he had the misfortune to have one eye. I was in no way responsible for this affliction. In a demonstration of gun powder last Guy Fawkes I did make a little flash or two. But, as Mr Bustle reassured me, there was no evidence linking my demonstration with Benny’s own after-school fumbling with explosives.
As I was saying, the boy with one eye called Benny is, euphemistically speaking ‘good with his hands,’ (not ‘good with colours’ of course – for example, he wouldn’t be able to tell if champagne curtains went with beige carpets, to my knowledge he wasn’t gay). I mention this because ‘good with his hands’ is a kind way we teachers have of describing someone as thick as two short planks.
‘Now, you will remember that according to Newton’s third law, action and reaction are always equal and opposite.’
I was about to charge the container with the gases when a girl walked in and said she was chlo.
‘What do you mean?’ I said. ‘Are you ill?’
Staff frequently send in pupils who are unwell. Mr Bustle asked me to handle first-aid, since, as he perceptively observed, most accidents seemed to occur in my area of the school.
She said she was Chlo McDermot and was back at school after absence.
‘You mean your name is Chlo, short for Chloë, with a dieresis?’ I asked.
‘No sir, I wasn’t off because of that.’
‘Of course not,’ I explained, ‘A dieresis is the sign placed over the second of two adjacent vowels to indicate separate pronunciation. I should hardly think it’s the cause of many absences.’
Everyone laughed at my comment, which allow I admit it myself, was rather witty.
Chloë didn’t answer and handed me a rather scruffy note from her mother.
‘Sorry Chloe [sic] was absent yesterday. She was a poker dice [sic] all morning – under the power of Satan. After her dinner the vicar came over to exercise [sic] her and she feels much better. Please keep an eye on her in case she gets pozessed [sic] again.’
This is one incident in which I really am absolutely blameless. Last week, I did explain the myth of Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, as the night the dead walk. But I didn’t think anyone would be as silly to hang around graveyards in the hope of seeing their deceased granny. The fact that this girl appears to have taken my information literally in no way implicates me in her possession.
I returned to my demonstration.
‘What did I say was the ratio of gases needed for complete combustion?’
‘Come on!’ I said, ‘this is not rocket science.’
‘Yes it is sir!’
‘Shut up Benny.’ I said firmly. ‘Of course it is rocket science literally, but I was speaking metaphorically.’ This shut him up; too many syllables for Benny to cope with.
Anyway, Benny piped up again:
‘Metaphorically? Isn’t he the Italian that signed for Middlesbrough?’
‘Shut up Benny,’ I said now beginning to lose my patience, ‘just open the bottle while I light it.’
He opened it. I lit it.
However, the bottle did not move, but exploded with an enormous bang. Instead, the boy was thrown across the room, only in the opposite direction to that I had anticipated. Not that I expected the boy to be projected of course, I mean the boy was propelled in the opposite direction to that I expected the ‘rocket’ to fly.
Benny was thrown backwards and crashed into the fire extinguisher. It came off the wall and severed his finger. I discovered later that the fool had brought in the wrong bottle. I distinctly told him that it must be a bottle designed to hold carbonated drinks. In fact, he brought in a mineral water bottle and the bottom had blown out. I believe he has learned his lesson on that particular score.
Benny’s finger had not quite detached but remained hanging by skin and he ran around like a headless chicken. The watching pupils were screaming as they were sprayed with blood. To limit any further trauma to his peers, and to meet his own first-aid needs I had no alternative but to rugby tackle him. It was just as I had managed to wrestle Benny to the ground that the inspectors entered to observe my lesson.
Fortunately, only Benny had any permanent hearing damage, and the ear drum that was perforated, being on the same side as both his glass eye and the amputated digit, provided a nice symmetry in his afflictions. He is none the worse for it – if anything even more alert in my lessons – although, it must be pointed out that Benny is no longer so good with his hands.
Mrs Cox, the librarian, has loaned me a book: ‘Successful Living in Thailand’. Not that I’m going to do any such thing of course. I just wanted to see what the fuss was about. Not that I’m worried about the incident – anyone can see I’m perfectly blameless – and anyway, I’m not one to dwell.
As Plato said; ‘Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.’
Dr John Arthur Earnshawe BSC PhD
Signed and witnessed on this day of our Lord, the 5th November 2004 Anno Domini.
God help me.
THE END (it really is this time)
J A Earnshawe BSc PhD
Let's hope that Earnshawe can be convinced to come out of retirement at some time in the future.