It happened to me once that, unbelievable as it may sound, I had to cross swords with an Englishman.
I had come to school to discuss my son’s private Latin studies with the Director of Studies, my object being to secure a certain number of free periods for this purpose. I did not anticipate any problems, since my daughter had already had time off for English studies, a subject she was behind in. The situation was slightly different in so far as my son was not behind in any subject, but, in our view, required support in the forward direction. There was no need for him to take German lessons. In the time thus saved he could broaden his knowledge in a subject not offered by the school, but taught by my husband at home.
The Director of Studies did not see my point at all. He defended the academic nature of the design subjects offered by the school. He was certain that we had no choice but to accept this or else look for a school with a different syllabus, and thus forced me to throw in the names of Oxford and Cambridge where I felt sure Latin would be an asset. He seemed to be at his wits’ end and took refuge with the Headmaster who, he said, was the only person to decide in such matters.
A few days later we received through our son a handwritten note on a scruffy bit of paper – one way of taking revenge?- from the Head of Modern Languages who informed us that our son could have the free periods required. I made up my mind never to see this Director of Studies again, remembered his very blue eyes, though.
I saw him again some eight months later when we entered the English Block to see our daughter’s teachers on a parents evening. My husband nudged me, pointing out my friend at the far end. As I looked up, I felt struck by a blue flash which quickly disappeared, because he bowed his head to greet us from a distance in the most perfect way. I accepted his greeting and could not help smiling. From this instant I felt sure we would have no more problems. As we passed him, we exchanged a few words like old friends, and I thought it a good idea to mention that later this year we would have to see him again about our son’s Latin lessons. I also expressed our satisfaction that things had worked well so far thanks to his help in providing time for private studies. He urged us to see him as soon as necessary, and I shall count on his cooperation when we put forward our request to exempt our son from sociology lessons for the benefit of Latin.