Orthodoxy

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Headmaster's study. Stephen is behind a desk. Quite a public-schooly sort of study, but not overdone. Not actually window seats and old English Gothic windows, but quite cosy nonetheless. Enter Hugh dressed as a schoolboy. Grey uniform, darkish tie. Dull appearance.

Stephen Ah, Bamford, come in, come in.

Hugh Thank you, sir.

Stephen So, Bamford. First day at St Gray's, eh?

Hugh Yes, sir.

Stephen Getting on alright?

Hugh (Shy) Not too bad thank you, sir.

Stephen Not too bad thank you, sir. Not too bad thank you, sir. Good, good. Good, good, good. You'll find it strange at first I dare say.

Hugh It's a bit hard to find my feet, sir, yes.

Stephen Really, well we'll have to do something about that. Some sort of name-tape sewn into them may help. But the first few days are always a little bewildering.

Hugh Yes sir.

Stephen Mind you Bamford, if you were to believe everything you read on the television you'd think new boys spent their days being roasted in front of fires and having dessert fruits pushed up their ... their ... there couldn't be less truth in that, could there, Bamford?

Hugh No, sir.

Stephen No, sir. Quite right. Schools like ours have survived because they've moved into the modern age, Bamford. Progress, Bamford.

Hugh Sir.

Stephen Progress isn't a dirty word, you know. Arse is a dirty word, and so, to some extent, is labia. Learn that, Bamford, learn and obey.

Hugh Yes, sir. I will.

Stephen But progress is the towel that rubs us dry. Each soft cotton flick of progress can penetrate the darkest, dampest corners of our mired and filthy selves, and polish us clean.

Hugh I didn't know that, sir.

Stephen Well Bamford, now you do, now you do. Good. Oh good. First class. Fine. Splendid. Sp-len-did. Excellent. Eccelente.

Hugh Um, was there anything else?

Stephen Hm? Yes, yes indeed there was anything else. There's a rumour going around the Lower Fourth that you have an uncle who is a Member of Parliament.

Hugh Yes, sir.

Stephen A Labour Member of Parliament, Bamford.

Hugh Sir.

Stephen Now, on the whole, boys are a pretty healthy, tolerant and forgiving lot, Bamford. But they can be cruel. You can answer this next question with perfect frankness, it won't transgress that schoolboy code we masters know and respect so well. Have you been teased at all about this unfortunate relationship?

Hugh Well sir, not teased exactly ... more, well, beaten up.

Stephen I see. I'm sorry you saw fit to sneak on your schoolmates, Bamford. That disappoints me. I shall overlook it this time.

Hugh Thank you, sir.

Stephen You're a new bug after all. Do you know why they have been ballyragging you?

Hugh I must say, I'm a bit puzzled by it, to be frank, sir.

Stephen Well, you see, in my history and general study lessons I sometimes speak about Socialism and I expect that's made something of an impression on your classmates. Their political zeal may have got the better of them.

Hugh Oh.

Stephen You see, I tell the boys, Bamford, and this may come as quite a shock to you, that while socialism is all very well in practice it doesn't work in theory.

Hugh I didn't know that, sir.

Stephen Yes. Quite a thought isn't it?

Hugh And that's why they punch me in the face a lot, is it sir?

Stephen Well Bamford, they know that the real evil of socialism lies in it's treatment of people as units. It discounts the individual, Bamford. It's the grey, dull uniformity of it all.

Hugh Yes, sir.

Stephen And the - have you got your top button undone, Bamford?

Hugh Oh, yes, sir.

Stephen (As if reciting a catechism) "The top button to be done up only on Crimson Days or on the Thursday preceding exeats, otherwise the middle button unless you have a note from matron to say you have a veruka in which case the bottom button may be done up, but only if the left sock is rolled halfway down between patella and Achilles tendon on a line previously drawn by Mr de Vere."

Hugh Sorry, sir, I forgot.

Stephen Alright. Don't let it happen again. Where was I?

Hugh Grey dull uniformity of it all, sir.

Stephen Yes. Yes, exactly. Regimented lines of soulless automata, putting state before self, sacrificing everything for "the good of the state" - it's a nightmare. That's the drawback of socialism, it discounts the - the what, boy?

Hugh The person, sir?

Stephen No, the individual! Get it right. The individual is paramount in any political system - your hair is two thirds of an inch over the collar, see Mr Buttaris for a licking - individualism is all. Alright, Bamford. That's all. We shall all make a mighty effort to overlook your uncle for the moment.

Hugh Thank you sir.

Stephen Good. And cheer up, eh? I know you'll do your best, what?

Hugh I'll try, sir.

Stephen That's right, boy. For the good of the school, eh? For the good of the dear old school. After all, we can point with pride at our history as the finest comprehensive in Durham, can't have you letting the side down. Off you go.

Hugh Thank you, sir.

Stephen (Getting cane out of drawer) And send Scargill minor in, would you?

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