‘Yes… er…’ Mr Quintius’s other concern at this time of year was how quickly he’d manage to get the names of the new recruits into his head. Two hundred years of teaching had left him with an awful lot of pupil names rattling round his ageing skull, and the new names could disappear from his memory quicker than ice cream in the sun. Sun, wasn’t that it?
‘Sun isn’t it?’ Quintius asked.
‘Sky, sir. Tiberius Sky.’
‘Ah yes. Sky.’
Quintius held back from saying something along the lines of, ‘it was close enough’ because he knew how sensitive these younglings could be, separated for the first time from the clutches of their parents. ‘What is it… er… Sun? I mean Sky?’
‘Our room’s a bit rickety sir.’
‘Our bedroom. Mine and Normal’s.’
Tiberius pointed a thick finger at Normal. Normal waved at Quintius as if he’d just appeared out of thin air.
‘Oh, you’re in the same dorm are you?’
‘It’s hardly a dormitory, sir,’ said Tiberius. ‘Just here. Number 23b. It’s quite small.’
‘But it’s only for the two of you.’
‘If they put any more of us in there the walls would collapse. They’re all rockety raggedy.’
‘Raggedy, sir. My gran says that, sir, when I’m not dressed very tidily.’
Quintius sighed. This new boy wasn’t dressed all that tidily even now. The other smaller one was smarter. Perhaps in a couple of ways.
‘I’m sure your rooms will survive all you can possibly throw at them,’ he said. ‘It’s seen thousands of new recruits rattle around in it.’
A gale of laughter broke the silence that followed Mr Quintius’s last remark. Two girls came down the corridor. They stopped laughing suddenly when they saw the sandy haired teacher and the two boys. They slipped past quietly, not easy in that narrow corridor, then the moment they turned the corner they laughed again.