Mutants from a school near you

4th September 1998 at 01:00
I WAS shocked at the degree to which the former pupil had mutated. Since taking up his farming job only two years ago, he seemed permanently bent over, arms habitually akimbo, and his head appeared to have moved down his torso. It was as if the boy was in a perpetual stoop, the better for looking down at animals.

His voice had changed, slowing and becoming more resonant at the frequencies associated with mooing and baaing. At least he had not progressed to wearing a blue bib and brace, a brown checked shirt and a cloth cap.

If my younger brother is to be believed, I have mutated into a physicist, as he always claimed that baldness would be the result of my chosen specialisation. Ironically, he beat me to it. Perhaps it was his polisman's hat that did it.

The most frightening transformation I ever came across was a primary teacher called Mrs Glenmuir. I only saw the end result and am making the perhaps invalid assumption that she was a fairly standard-looking little girl 60 years before I came across her.

Though she taught me quite a lot, I only ever remember her rasping "Hrooon!" in a voice destroyed by years of speaking unnaturally loudly and inhaling staffroom smoke. This came from an ever-down-turned mouth.

Most remarkable, as with the young farmer, was her posture. Impossibly unstable, doubled over with her chin jutting forwards, she would occasionally storm out of the class to get the headmaster, her back end following a full three seconds after her head shot out the door. She must have been articulated, like a bendy bus. I have the awful suspicion she stayed on at school for a year too long. This would undoubtedly have resulted in the total separation of her upper and lower halves, a fate I would not wish on anybody.

No doubt I have altered, too. I probably have a thicker skin and a less fragile ego than when I started. Most remarkable is my hearing. While I can, on occasions, be selectively deaf, at other times I can eavesdrop on a group of third-year girls at the other side of a room discussing (quite maturely) whether Romeo was gay or not. All of this I manage over a background of a full class unpacking their books and removing jackets.

As happens with the characters in old horror films who become werewolves or vampires and end up pleading for their own destruction, I make the following request: should I ever transform into the sort of person who sits in a staffroom muttering "Scum! Scum!", reach for the silver bullets.

Gregor Steele's primary teacher almost succeeded in quelling in him any desire to think laterally - but that's another story.

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