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The Great Blackboard Rubber Mystery

William Stovell

UNDER the influence of a few jars of Spitfire, administered by an attentive and inquisitive son, I was persuaded to recount the tale of how we nearly brought the school to its knees ... We were, not to put too fine a point on it, at that stage when the borderline between the adolescent and the animal becomes a little blurred. The collective evil known as 3B was foisted upon Poor Old Beale. Seemingly a decent Christian man, Mr Beale did not deserve that particular hair shirt. (D'yer follow me?)

The first sparks of this particular conflagration formed on the discovery of a mysterious "Black 'Ole" in our classroom. Low down on the back wall was some sort of inspection cover that could, if you knew the trick, be opened to reveal a dark dusty void. This discovery, falling on the tinder of rebellion and fanned by the winds of our surging hormones and the necessity to make our mark, gave birth to a jape that soon raged out of control. It was suddenly the most important mission in the world to denude the school of blackboard rubbers! Surprisingly well co-ordinated, the campaign began.

Points were awarded to the perpetrators according to the status of the master involved, his imagined psychotic state of mind, classroom dangers, (chalk dust silicosis from Masher Pett's room) and the style with which the crime was committed.

Within a day, the first half dozen erasers were dispatched to the `ole. A week later, stock cupboards began to echo eerily as despairing staff searched in vain for replacements. Sniffer Nicholls eyed us warily as he pointedly locked his prized specimen in his briefcase. Keith Herbert's booming voice bemoaning his loss rang through the corridors. Colin Silk betrayed a mild irritation. Harry Hoggins grinned fiercely as he clutched his valued trophy to his bosom. All the while, under huge pressure, we were the epitome of outraged innocence. "What, me Sir ?"

Harry Pett became careless, and as a consequence, rubberless after his battered old warrior was given respite in the 'ole. He was reduced to wiping his board with the trailing edge of his gown. Despairing masters caused untold sinus damage in form 3B by the smothered sniggers at the plaintive bleats of "Have you got a rubber?" Some staff became desperate - some angry. Sniffer remained smug and said little.

Dark forces were at work, however, and better trained minds mulled the problem over. Convinced of our invincibility we became less vigilant. As Harry Hoggins' liberated rubber was borne in majesty to the `ole, the shock hit us. WE'D BEEN ROBBED. Someone had cleaned us out. The biters had been bit.

A smirking 'Bronco' Roberts, a notorious first-form master, claimed the honour and we were totally crest-fallen. We imagined wild celebrations in the Common Room, followed by swift and merciless justice in the Head's study. Only the knitting crones at the foot of the scaffold and the rumble of the tumbrels were missing. But, strangely, no retribution came, even though we had virtually brought the school to a grinding halt.

I have a firm belief that they were running a book in the staffroom on who would hold the last remaining rubber. Sniffer held out to the end - not the sharpest mind on the staff, perhaps, but he was well versed in school-boy pranks and deception.