Most of the life and feelings in that Hall are in the minds of the people.
Take the minds away and you have lifeless statues. And yet there is no acknowledgement
of the inner worlds. The fiction is that each boy’s mind is a tape-recorder
obediently remembering each and every word from the lips of Mr. Warren (inevitably “Bunny”)
or perhaps the Deputy Head Mr. P.E. Philips (“Pep”). The assumption
is that if a boy fails to act on any spoken rule then it must be as a result
of wilful defiance and a good caning is the natural corrective. The idea
that his mind may have been elsewhere is not even considered. And that is
one of the mysteries that Time sees repeatedly - in this very hall there
are boys who will themselves in time become teachers and will then forget
that boys have rich inner lives and that only a fraction of their attention
is available to listen to teachers. In that way they will have learned one
of the unspoken lessons of their youth, just as Mr. Warren, who, as a schoolboy
in short trousers and innocent face and his daydreams and rich inner world,
learned from his teachers not to remember what it is to be a boy.
Time calls an end to the ritual. The boys file away to separate rooms. “No
A room must not be entered until a master (very rarely a mistress)
steps or marches down the stairs from the smoke-filled Staff Room and makes
his way to his kingdom. For each man has his own land, his own territory,
where he reigns. Along the wall outside the room the younger boys push and
shove for position. It is not that they are so desperate for education that
they long to start. It is not as if they will gain a better seat if they
get in first. And yet there is that instinctive desire to establish a pecking
order that makes them as boys, and later as men, strive for quite empty honours
just to show that they are better than the rest. Time sees them striving
to be better able to carry or kick a leather ball to the end of a field.
Or to move small pieces of wood on a board more effectively. Or to run faster.
Or to make more money. Or to have a bigger car. Or to have a bigger office
desk. Or to have the grandest funeral.