Trimble sighed and nodded and the two walked out to stroll in the fresh air. It was called ‘morning playground patrol’. “He almost has apoplexy when he sees a kid wearing trainers at school.”
It was her turn to nod as they walked on. They did their accustomed tour of the outside patrol, timing it to walk back a few minutes before the bell rang.
“Oh Lord,” she said, “he’s cornered Harry Grant. He’s got trainers on.”
The 14-year-old stood, hands in pockets, a look of perfect indifference, a look he’d mastered after many a run-in with Mr Blessed.
“…trainers, Grant, trainers are not school shoes. They are nasty, sweaty, unwholesome footwear, fit only to be worn during physical education or a form of sports and not fit to be worn around the school all day…!” He paused for effect, but Harry rolled his eyes.
He took breath, ready for the next verbal assault. “I have a jolly good mind to call your mother. What do you have to say about that?”
The boy shrugged as Davis and Trimble looked on with a smile. “You can if you want, sir, but she’s up north on a business trip. Won’t answer her phone. You can call the au pair if you like. His name’s Carlos. Don’t speak no English, though.” He lied. Carlos spoke perfect English.
Red-faced, Blessed harrumphed like an exasperated horse, drew breath and launched into full flow. “You have been chastised for wearing that filthy footwear countless times. You have been told to get your shoes ready the night before.” The teacher clenched his fists. “I am exasperated beyond belief at your inability to follow simple rules and organise your school uniform in better order, boy. I have reprimanded you time and time again, so tell me, WHERE… ARE… YOUR… TRAINERS?’
Harry looked up and smiled. “On my feet, sir.” With that, the bell rang, and the boy turned and walked towards his classroom.
Davis and Trimble turned sharply and walked away. The teachers’ common room was a strange place that day. The mention of ‘shoes’ caused the incumbents to cough or sneeze loudly and the deputy head to walk out, holding her stomach.
Many years later, Harry remembered that, strangely, the number of times he was hauled up for misdemeanours lessened drastically for a few weeks and more than one teacher quietly asked, “Where are your trainers, Grant?” before walking away with a smile.