Mr Brown hurried into the classroom and slapped his ruler on the desk for silence. One girl either did not hear or disregarded the command for she carried on gossiping; Mr Brown levelled his ruler at her and fired.
‘Nicola, you are not allowed to speak to the others in class without my express permission. Now tell me what year did Scotland achieve home rule?’
Nicola hesitated and said, ‘was it 1235, sir?’
‘No, it was not. It was 2014.’
‘Jonathan, if you want to speak you must first raise your hand. Yes, Jonathan?’
‘But sir, you wrote in my jotter that Scotland achieved effectively achieved home rule in 2020.’
‘Well, there’s your problem. You weren’t listening properly, Jonathan, because I didn’t say that. What I did say, and had you been listening you’d have written it down as such, was that Scotland achieved effective home rule in 2020. You’re mistaking the adverb for the adjective. Yes, Derek?’
‘Sir, the substitute teacher told us Scotland achieved, like, basically home rule in 2017?’
‘There you are again. I can’t speak for Mr Mundell, of course, but I imagine that what he did say was that Scotland achieved basic home rule in 2017. Yes, Fiona?’
‘What was the Vow of 2014, sir?’
Mr Brown scratched his chin. ‘The Vow? Do you mean the avowal of 2014? A vow and an avowal are two quite different things. A vow is a solemn promise, whereas an avowal is more like saying, “Thank you for your letter. We are now aware of the issue and are following your case with interest. We hope to get back to you within ten to three-hundred-and-nine years.”’
‘But Mr Brown!’
‘Michael, what did I just say? Your hand! Now be quick, we haven’t even got to the second question yet.’
Something caught his eye and he slammed his ruler on the desk a second time. He levelled it at a boy sitting in the far right corner.
‘Nigel,’ he said, ‘can you please stop doing that deplorable arm gesture, or I shall have to give you detention.’