Flour power turns a prank into a mega-incident

28th March 1997 at 00:00
The phone rang. "Gentleman to see you." My secretary is always brief. "Appointment?" On the last evening of term I am also brief.


"Problems?" "You could say that."

"On my way."

I shot down the stairs to the open-plan reception office. Having toured the local bus stops to shepherd homewards nearly 2000 boisterous teenagers, inebriated by the prospect of a fortnight's freedom, I had caught some of their light-headedness and was looking forward to becoming a human again.

As I entered the office, I came face to face with what at first I thought was a snowman, a prop from last term's school play. Suddenly it turned and lurched towards me. I realised that it was a small, stout person, absolutely covered in flour, from his trilby to his white brogues.

"This is Mr Bee. Mr Bee, this is the head." Mrs Gat raced back to her word processor and started typing furiously. The other two secretaries in the large office were also typing rapidly. All three were straight-faced, but there was an air of barely suppressed hilarity.

"ARE YOU THE PILLOCK IN CHARGE OF THE SAVAGES WHO HAVE JUST DONE THIS TO ME?" Mr Bee had an astonishingly loud voice. He bore forward, peering through white horn-rimmed glasses with lightly frosted panes. Barging into me, he deposited about a kilo of flour on my suit. Slowly and deliberately, he added about a dozen handprints before brandishing a white fist under my nose.

"I've good mind to punch you on the nose. Call this a school. More like a fucking zoo!" "Mr Bee. You are distressed. Victim of a nasty incident. Come to my office and . . ."

"I'm going to sit here and here and here," bellowed Mr Bee, bouncing from one armchair to the next.

"See how you like your poxy school covered in floor."

He left his white bottom imprint wherever he sat. A white fog filled the office. For the first time I understood the meaning of the words "self-raising flour". One of the secretaries had a coughing fit.

"Funny! Funny is it? She thinks it's a great joke. I suppose you are going to have a good giggle about this lot. Look at the state of my fucking violin. I'm due to give a lesson to a cultured nun in half an hour."

He proceeded to empty his violin case onto the carpet. His violin was also full of flour, so he tapped it out into my aquarium, killing most of the therapeutic fish in the process.

"I'm going to give it a play. If it's broken, you will have a bill you won't forget in a hurry Mr Headmaster. That'll wipe the smile from your gormless face."

The sight of a violin player in close proximity has always made me mildly hysterical. Mr Bee was not a bad player. Mirth was unconfined amongst the crowd of staff who had mysteriously gathered. I managed a glower in their direction which turned them into a group of grunting, coughing wrecks. Suddenly a string pinged.

"That's it. I'm off to my photographers. A picture of this lot will be sent with a formal letter of complaint straight to the Queen. You and your animals, Mr Headmaster, will be well and truely sorted out by Her Majesty."

He stormed out of the door. I followed him down the long corridor offering written apologies, dry cleaning bills and violin repairs. He ignored all offers, stamped out of the front door and headed into Brighton to be photographed before the evidence blew away.

The photograph was a remarkable likeness. Mr Bee resembled one of those living sculptures, popular at the Tate Gallery in London. His violin, brandished like the FA Cup, came out well, with the broken string plain for Her Majesty to see.

The letter from the Royal Equerry was polite but firm and enclosed a copy of Mr Bee's 10-page letter. I had already dealt with exploratory, but menacingly urgent calls from the chief education officer and the local MP.

By now we had the facts. In the centre of Brighton, at a bus stop, Mr Bee had sworn at a rowdy, maverick group, who had previously been in detention. They were forearmed with bags of flour and, having missed their connection, they gave bossy Mr Bee the works. A large red-headed girl had offered to put a cherry on his head so he could travel on the bus as a cream bun.

The culprits were punished for over-reacting. Letters of abject apology went to both the Queen and Mr Bee. Mrs Muldoon, the mother of the cream-bun wit, turned out to be a fervent republican. She went stratospheric when her daughter concluded her letter to Her Majesty with loyal greetings.

Happily, Mrs Muldoon's letter to the Pope, seeking his prompt intervention, has not been answered. So far.

Ian Feely is former head of a Roman Catholic school in Brighton, East Sussex

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