Shrewsbury School

A Week in the Life of a Housemaster: Giles Bell, School House

Wednesday 25 January 2012

GJFB with boys outside School House

Monday 16th January 
GJFB at Stokesay receptionHurray, it is Week A, which means I only teach 5 lessons on a Monday and not 7.  The inmates of School House might notice that stress levels get slightly higher on the Sunday night before Week B when time is at a premium.  Still this Monday I am very chirpy.  Young Reggie is deposited at nursery with the usual bribe of a marshmallow to help sweeten the bitter pill that is a morning at one of the loveliest nurseries in the world, where the cuddles with the beautiful toddler tamers are prolific, affectionate and I get slightly jealous.  The reason I am chirpy is that I have completed my fifth form Mock GCSE marking despite organising a play rehearsal on Sunday night and I have plenty to talk about in my double lessons.  A quick bite for lunch; once again the culinary geniuses at KH have foiled my plans to shed pounds after the festive period and then straight into a Housemasters’ meeting where matters of high level security are discussed and I could not possibly divulge any of our secrets for fear of immediate execution! All I can say that one of the topics of conversation was whether Christmas Dinner should continue in its present form. The general consensus was that it should and I was able to report that Father Christmas certainly enjoyed himself.  Then it is back to the House to extricate the non-sporty for various nefarious activities and time to quickly walk the blind dog (Ted) and my two ankle biters.  A lesson on Miracles finishes the afternoon, the miracle being no-one goes to sleep despite it being Period 7 and just after 6.00 pm.  A leisurely walk back to the House means my poor wife has accomplished most of the bath time chores and I appear as ‘Fun Dad’ for stories and romping! “No you can’t have another story Reggie because it is time for Dix”, where I urge my troops to greater heights of brilliance and lead them into top schools. Then it is a play rehearsal at 8.30pm, we are wrestling with the Diary of Adrian Mole. The cast and I enjoyed watching a clip of the 80s TV show on YouTube to put us in the mood and we all decide we are not going to attempt the Leicestershire accent.  Then it is time to send everyone to bed and eventually I too wend my weary way away from my final game of Solitaire to the Land of Nod.

Tuesday 17th January
An early start as both Reggie and Edie seem to think the day should begin just before 6.00am.  The advantage of this is that I am able to finish my Fourth Form marking courtesy of my saintly wife dressing the infants.  Edie, my 14 month old daughter, is very keen to wake up all the boys and is particularly chatty this morning which is always good as it means I have to say less when I walk into the bedrooms.  We stop and admire a picture of cows grazing in a meadow and I detect her first efforts to formulate a ‘moo’.  Have I remembered to remind all those on AD to go? No.  Luckily they all remember anyway.  It is into lessons; going through papers is always tedious as the poor fourth formers find out.  Then my efficient and wondrous secretary Jane comes in to ensure that the Swiss Clock otherwise known as School House is as well-oiled and as efficient as ever.  In the afternoon I sauntered past the Fives leagues to see School House valiantly and courageously challenging the might of Ingrams.  I return to the classroom again for a late session of going through past papers and attempting to keep people awake, and once again it is back to bath time and story reading.  The disappointment of the evening was that the big FA cup game, Wrexham v. Brighton, was cancelled due to a frozen pitch.  I had managed to obtain a ticket despite the massive draw of the mighty Seagulls but unfortunately I know I will not be able to go tomorrow night as Mrs Bell is out, there is a play rehearsal booked and I am not sure I can build myself up again for an evening of such excitement.

Wednesday 18th January
It is ‘Whittle’ Wednesday in School House. My fantastic deputy Housemistress marches round waking the boys up on my behalf and I get a lie in until 7.00am.  Wednesday is a good morning, there is little in the way of teaching to be done and there is time to take Reggie to and from nursery.  Upon his return he admires the new painting I have purchased. It is a large ‘Purser’ called ‘Monsoon’ and looks fantastic on our dining room wall.  Mrs Bell questioned the sense of the purchase as she considers the size of the house we will be moving into in the future unlikely to have walls big enough to do it justice. But she does confess to liking it.  Reggie too is impressed and is keen for his artwork to be hung alongside the new master.  You can now see an A4 brown splodge on our wall which of course is entitled ‘Muddy Puddle’.  I think Reggie would cite Peppa Pig as a major influence.  The afternoon is spent dealing with minor irritants, dishing out money and permission to venture into Shropshire’s capital city.  The Brighton/Wrexham kick off is a 7.15 one which conflicts with Dix.  I am more concise than usual and get to see the majority of the first half on ESPN, the excellent Wrexham goal which sends shivers down my spine. Adrian Mole continues apace, pace being the operative word and I am back in front of the TV for extra time, Brighton having managed to equalise against the run of play. My co-director, James Humpish comes to discuss the play’s progress but it soon becomes clear he will get no sense from his Housemaster until after the penalty shoot-out. The elation of the 5-4 victory to the South coast supremoes means that James gives up and accepts the inevitable postponement of the meeting until another day as it is time for the bedtime march round and the attempt to prevent tired eyes from staying open to watch films they have already seen about 50 times already.

Edie helps with the early morning roundsThursday 19th January
Another early start and an attempt to kick tired boys out of bed and down to breakfast. It is sixth form chapel and one or two of the ungodly are hoping not to go as they have AS retakes, the things people will do to get out of chapel!  This week the chaplain has rented out his talk spot to Dr Elliot who is trying to convince us that Christianity and happiness can be linked. A couple more miraculous lessons with my delightful lower sixth set who provide me with great entertainment courteousy of their presentations on miracles, and then it is lunch. The evening highlight is the presentation to prospective parents in the Ashton Theatre. I arrive late having found myself besieged by boys who have been saving up their problems for an inconvenient moment. I trudge wearily down the avenue of trees feeling very much yesterday’s man as I know few will be attracted to a House where the present incumbent has already completed nearly thirteen years for the sands of time are fast moving. I cheer up when a glass of wine is thrust my way by a helpful sixth former (in the Ashton theatre I hasten to add!). I am surprised by several old university faces and nearly remember their names – not bad as we have not seen each other for over twenty years! Mr Case and the Headmaster are on fine form and despite the lack of sleep and glass of wine I find myself awake throughout the talks, I am almost convinced to put my son down for the school until I remember he is already here! Then it is back to the House and time to pop round irritating the inhabitants, (after my glass of wine I believe myself to be on good form - a belief not universally shared).

Friday 20th January
I wish my kids would sleep in until 6:30am. Edie and I wake everyone up again, her mooing continues to improve! Nothing very exciting happens in the morning aside from taking Reggie to nursery. Jane my secretary is in to sort everything out and keep accounts happy!  I hear that we may have a new boy starting with us on Sunday. He likes cricket so he must be civilised. Friday evening and at Dix I mention that ‘Fraping’ (altering facebook accounts that do not belong to you) people is illegal. I feel that my gravitas is having the desired effect until my deputy head of House reminds us all that I ‘fraped’ him last term and laughter ensues! (I only wrote in ‘I love my Housemaster’). Wondrous Whittle is back on duty and I go the Lion and Pheasant to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Scallops! Fantastic!

Saturday 21st January
A sting in the tail of the week - I teach four lessons. I then go for a walk in the wind and watch hockey, football and rugby. There are School House representatives on every pitch and I wait until they notice I was there! (I even watched the Ist XV Ricardo!). Despite the fact that there are three XVs playing it is only the one broken finger for matron to visit casualty with! The footballers are learning about the gulf in class between professional and amateur football as they leak in a few goals to Shrewsbury Town’s under 17s and the hockey lads are having a successful afternoon against Ellesmere.

Then it is back for a cup of tea and a check on the results. An away victory for Brighton and Shrewsbury town beat the division leaders. On top of that my Telegraph Fantasy league team are back up to 70th as Dempsey scores three! I entertain an American lady and her son for tea. Jack is a most impressive young man I hope he comes to Shrewsbury. I escort them back to the excellent Hambrook House B and B and then it is time to go and celebrate at a 40th birthday party and once again leave all the work to Miss Whittle. Before I go I have to admonish some sixth formers for their lack of judgement. They have been caught watching Liverpool play Bolton…..enough said!!!

I am back to check that no one had as good a time as I did and I am relieved to find that is the case!

Sunday 22nd January
The day of rest!!! Granny has had the nippers for a sleep over but I could not enjoy the lie in as my body clock kicks in and I wake up at 7am. It is chapel out so it is time to cook croissant for 80 boys from 9:30 until 10:30am. The fire alarm decides to play up and we have to call in Ron to sort it out, always a popular Sunday phone call!

After we have cleared up the Hall it is nearly time for lunch! Haggis and the traditional Scottish fare! Robbie Burns would have been proud! Eldest son Joe returns from Ingrams for a moment of family life. Reggie is having a ‘toddler tantrum day’ I don’t know where he gets it from! Then it is over to the music school to watch numerous School House songsters take part in the Junior School Singing competition. It is won by a School House chorister! I cannot see the intermediates as I have to meet up with my latest recruit to school House. He arrives at 4:30pm and we have a cup of tea and sort out the few questions the family have. They leave around 6pm and give me a home-made curry which was a very welcome present. Then it is bath time for the ‘tinker bells’ and story time followed by a play rehearsal. It seems to be going well and we make good progress. Dix is lacking in inspiration but everyone is there. Then it is bed time and a lengthy wander round. At 11:30 I notice no one has done lock ups so I do it myself as it ultimately saves time. Then I have a quick think about what to teach in my horror Monday of 7 lessons. It is lucky I did so much preparation over the holidays! That takes me until quite late! Still time for a quick solitaire fix and thence to bed!

GJFB with Will Hunter

back to top