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This report is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.

In Search of Duende Neil Powell

It was at the first, pre-autumn-term staff meeting that I realised beyond doubt that I'd wandered into a world left over from Evelyn Waugh. The school was in a stately home which called itself a castle - architecture by Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor, murals and ceilings by Pelligrini, gatehouse by Robert Adam - so the clues were plain enough; but it wasn't until I observed my new colleagues, gathered and seated around the edges of the Coote Room, that the sheer oddity of the place began to sink in. The meeting was chaired by the Second Master, who deferentially offered summaries and explanations to the elderly Headmaster on his right, as if translating into a foreign language; when he didn't want to notice a raised hand or intervention from the room, which was quite often, he puffed vigorously at his Sherlock Holmes pipe and vanished completely within its smoke-cloud. Among the matters to be decided was the apparently contentious appointment of a Head Prefect. In the more prosaic staff-room downstairs (never entered by the Headmaster), an inscrutable notice had appeared, in the Second Master's distinctive green ink: `The Headmaster wishes it to be known that he favours Heyhoe.' I hadn't a clue what that meant, even having established that this charmingly-named person was a member of the upper sixth; and, when I did find out, I couldn't understand why the Headmaster didn't simply appoint the Head Prefect he wanted. But no, the business was batted about, and someone or other ...


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