Friday, 18 November 2016

Rhonda’s unexpected trip to Epsilon Bootis or Panic at Rickmansworth Young Ladies College.

Rhonda’s unexpected trip to Epsilon Bootis.
Panic at Rickmansworth Young Ladies College.

Rickmansworth Young Ladies College is a very expensive boarding school for genteel young ladies, from well to do privileged families whose allegiance is to England, the flag, the English way of life, its traditions, customs, history, the King and the empire…......... well when we used to have an empire that is.

A place of learning for  the daughters of Captains of industry, representatives of the Judiciary and influential Political figures, a number who had managed to escape the courts. Patience my very best friend's father had been bankrupted twice and on another occasion found not guilty of fraud. He had reserved a half dozen QC’s and informed the press that he would defend the slanderous, malicious, trumped up charges vigorously but if he were found guilty he would throw his reputation on the line and plead leniency, even plea bargain and show grovelling remorse hoping for a reduced sentence. 

He is now a well-known politician, high in government whose position is something to do with the Treasury.

Rhonda was my third best friend until she un-friended me from Facebook just because I criticised the colour of her lipstick which her mother forbid her to wear anyway and it was Rhonda who unfriended Phaedra because it was Phaedra that accused Rhonda of being a loose tart. It was getting out of hand. By the way Tamzin is now my second best friend.  Patience my very best friend never joined in these spats, Phaedra put it down to breeding.

So this event one could say was timely. It was the day the science teacher Mr Crisis accidentally took Rhonda off to Epsilon Bootis. I suppose you are going to ask where Epsilon Bootis is. That’s precisely the question Miss Pringle asked when we broke the news that one of her students was missing. 

Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

Mr Crisis our Science teacher was a most strange looking man; he had a large oval head, long skinny arms and large oval eyes. Rhonda my third best friend said perhaps he is an Alien. I asked why an Alien would be teaching science at our school. Rhonda suggested maybe he is seeking asylum.

Mr. Crisis had been warned repeatedly not to hypnotize the girls, which was a pity as it was always the highlight in the science class watching stuck up Madeline Carter-Brown behaving like a chicken. Incidentally it was Madeline who was caught skinny dipping in the canal at Chorleywood by Pastor Dickie and his wife,  Madeline's  mother would have had a fit.

I suppose at this point I should make mention of the gardener, Cripps. Rumours would spread like the bubonic plague at RLC. One of the older girls speculated he was Miss Sefton’s illegitimate son, sired by the village lock keeper. Another rumour was that Cripps was a German spy who got left behind when Germany lost interest in last war.

The rumours got wilder as each intake of new girls entered the school.

What the girls did not take into account was if Cripps was Miss Sefton’s illegitimate son she must have been eight when she had him. But the speculation of this event was far more exciting than fact.

My mother’s words again reverberated in my ears “children can be so cruel”

One evening in the dormitory Rhonda told me that on a trip to the seaside when Millicent Martin made it to France on an inner tube she had seen Cripps signalling with his torch to a German warship off the coast.

I reminded her that Germany had surrendered and the war was over long ago. Rhonda pondered this conflicting anomaly for a moment then suggested maybe the warship people had not been informed of this. She had a point of course, but being of a late hour I was not about to get drawn into a conversation about the matter, because I was well aware of Rhonda’s fixations on silly fantasies and that she would not let the matter drop.

We broke the news to Miss Pringle.

This is the conversation I had with Miss Pringle ad verbatim or as best as I can recall.

“Miss. Miss. its Rhonda she’s gone.’

“What do you mean she’s gone?”

“Well she’s not here, Miss”

“I can see she is not here, where has she gone”?

Miss. Pringle was getting inpatient, and I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to break the news that the parents of one of her fee paying students would not be tending any more cheques.

“Well Bridgette I will ask you once again...., WHERE-IS-RHONDA?”

There was a moment’s silence.

“I think she has gone to Epsilon Bootis Miss”

This conversation was going to hit a dead end very shortly.

Miss. Pringle regained her composure, paused, leant forward and in a quiet, measured voice repeated the question.

“Now then Bridgette, for heaven’s sake where-is-Epsilon Bootis, is it the flower shop in the town?”

This was the dead end I was referring to a little earlier.

“No Miss, it’s a star system about 210 light years from earth. We discovered that Mr. Crisis comes from a planet that circles the star Epsilon Bootis”  he has returned home accidentally taking Rhonda with him,  I gushingly replied.

I would have also liked to have added his home Planet circled Epsilon Bootis which  was the second brightest star in the constellation Bootis with a visual magnitude of 2.35. But I felt the information I had already given her was going to keep Miss. Pringle’s attention focused for quite a while, without adding any further irrelevant information

It was all too much; Miss Pringle decided to seek a higher authority.

“Bridgette come with me, you can try and explain this to the headmistress”

I repeated to Miss Sefton what I thought had happened, again with a little embellishment about a bright flash of light, the smell of cordite and a whooshing sound.

“So what on earth was Mr. Crisis doing in charge of my science class?” asked Miss Sefton.

I tried to explain briefly “Well he got left behind after being on a sabbatical, Miss”

I didn’t quite understand why it was I that was being quizzed; it wasn’t MY fault that Mr. Crisis accidentally took Rhonda off to Epsilon Bootis, it was just his carelessness. I asked myself, was I the patsy here?

“Well. I am now forced to call in the police” said Miss Sefton crossly.

I could also foresee problems ahead for the local police as regards how they intended apprehending Mr. Crisis as their hands were already full finding the culprit who tied helium party balloons around the neck of a swan on the village pond, a news story that the Rickmansworth Bugle managed to carry on its front page with pictures for over a month now. Know-all Madeline Carter–Brown said they would probably call in the Yard.

It goes without saying, Mrs. Little; Rhonda’s mother was beside herself with worry. I did my best to console her by putting my arm around her trembling, quivering  shoulders and gently reminding her that Mr. Crisis was by nature a kindly, gentle, considerate, careful and responsible person; well apart from Rhonda’s disappearance that is and had a lovely and carefree disposition, but it didn’t seem to help very much.

At each religious lesson Pastor Dickie would remind us to keep Rhonda’s safe return foremost in our prayers. There was some reluctance by the girls to start a collection after the last debacle of Millicent Martin’s unscheduled 3 day trip on an inner tube to France, besides Rhonda’s parents were not actually on the bread line as her father was an Industrialist so how 2 pounds fifty pee or thereabouts in small change was going to lessen Mr. and Mrs. Little's grief was beyond me.

However there is a happy ending  to this story. A few days later there stood Rhonda in her crumpled school uniform, glasses askew, looking slightly flushed, one sock at half mast with her arm outstretched confronted her parents,“On behalf of Mr. Crisis, please accept this small gift and a letter of apology for any inconvenience he may have caused”