Pigtails might fly

IT WAS not easy to get to the conference of prep school heads at Keele University last week, what with the 22 tons of cows' blood spilt on the M6. The ISIS team took six hours getting there from London.

But there were star performances laid on once you got there and none starrier than Pat Langham, headmistress of Wakefield Girls' High School, speaking (very loosely) on the theme of "Partnership". Mrs Langham, wide of smile, long of limb and fast of car, is politically incorrect to a heart-warming degree: she insists, for instance, on being "chairman" of the north eastern group of schools belonging to the Girls' Schools' Association.

One day, said Mrs Langham, she had gone to visit her junior school, clean forgetting that everyone was meant to be wearing fancy dress that day. Never mind, she thought, I know who I'll pretend to be. So she marched into a class, fixed her eye on a lovely little girl with blonde pig-tails, and bellowed: "I'm going to pick you up by your pigtails and swing you round and round and send you crashing through the window!" (Miss Trunchbull from Roald Dahl's Matilda, you will recall).

The little girl stood there trembling and her eyes brimmed with tears. "She only started school yesterday," explained her form teacher to Mrs Langham.

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