By R.J. Stove
The typical upper-class Englishman is as near to a Perpetual Schoolboy as can be imagined. At Harrow, they go in for the following expression of lacrimae rerum:
Forty years on, when afar and asunder
Parted are those who are singing today,
When you look back and forgetfully wonder
What you were like in your work and your play,
Then it may be there will often come o’er you
Glimpses of notes, like the catch of a song;
Visions of boyhood shall float them before you,
Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along.
(Refrain): Follow up! Follow up! Follow up! Follow up!
Follow up, till the field ring again and again
With the tramp of the 22 men!
(The reference “22” denotes two cricket teams, it being almost impossible for an upper-class Englishman to differentiate reality from cricket, as it is totally impossible for numerous Americans of every class to differentiate reality from Hollywood.)
In even the most Anglophile of Australian boarding schools, such singalongs are probably unknown. Nonetheless, the particular pathos that clings to the end of a school year knows neither economic boundaries nor geographical limits. A modified version of it can afflict even that lowliest of educational phyla, the Melbourne school crossing guard. Which is where I came in.
As I write, the Southern Hemisphere is now experiencing early summer. (It would be a useful exercise to ascertain just how many policy wonks at the State Department, how many presidential candidates, have discerned this simple truth.) This means that the Australian school year finishes in December, and the great chunk of down-time which Americans and Europeans associate with the middle of the calendar year is in Australia inextricably tied with Christmas. (Australians have no Thanksgiving, the concept of gratitude being basically so alien to the national ethos as to resist all attempts—however otherwise successful—at Coca-Colonization.)
Sports teachers get six weeks of paid recreational leave, mathematics teachers get six weeks of paid recreational leave, science teachers get six weeks of paid recreational leave, history teachers get six weeks of paid recreational leave, so what does the mere school crossing guard get? If he is lucky, he will get a Yuletide bottle of wine and an invitation to the school barbecue.
He is paid solely for the hours that he works, so when there is no work, there is no pay. Not altogether surprisingly, this increases in his eyes the general end-of-year pathos.
That the school administrators have expressly informed him of their desire to have him return in 2017 does not noticeably ameliorate his financial unease. He hopes that enough office-cleaning employment or some other remuneration in the service industries will tide him over until the little tykes trudge back, protesting, to their classrooms on January 31.
What, then, have five months as a school crossing guard taught me about life, the universe, and everything? In my answer to this question I can do no better than quote Neville Chamberlain’s Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, who, in a supreme expression of what Alistair Cooke
Via:: American Conservative
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