Hiraeth

by Huw Jones

Chapter 13

Janet was surprised to see Huw when she answered the door as it wasn't quite 4pm, the time that school was due to end. However, Haddie and Betsan were delighted to see him and flung their arms around him.

"What brings you here so early?" Janet asked.

"It's been a very dramatic afternoon and if you don't mind, I'd rather wait until Gwyn gets home and tell you both the story together," he responded.

"Of course," said Janet with a smile. "I'll make a cup of tea and I've made some Welsh cakes this afternoon. I'm sure I won't have to persuade you to give them a try!"

For the next twenty minutes, Huw and the twins played together and made short work of the plate of Welsh cakes Janet had provided. The twins jumped up as they heard the front door open and Gwyn walked into the living room. He kissed Janet and the girls and turned towards Huw.

"What on earth's being going on this afternoon Huw? First, I look out of my window and see an ambulance arrive and see you standing by the ambulance door and a lad who looked a lot like Gareth Williams being loaded on board. Then I see you walking off to the bike sheds with 10 minutes left of the school day."

"Oh Gwyn, it's been a nightmare." He sat down with Janet and Gwyn and told them the whole story leaving nothing out. "Gwyn, I don't want to go back there if that's their attitude towards bullying. The Head will have it in for me now as he sees me as critical of his running of the school."

"Huw, first of all, you have done everything right and everything you have said is absolutely correct. I've had run-ins with colleagues about the culture of bullying in school. Nobody is prepared to do anything about it because the Head won't support them and he's a bully himself." Gwyn paused for a few seconds. "I think I need to make some phone calls starting with Jim Lambert."

For over an hour, Gwyn was making phone calls and finally he came back in the room where Huw and the girls were playing together. "Okay, you three, it's time to eat." He turned towards Huw, "I'll explain over dinner what's going to happen."

The four of them joined Janet in the large kitchen where there was a table laid out for dinner. Huw usually loved Janet's cooking but was not feeling at all hungry after the events of the day. "Janet, I'm really sorry but I'm not very hungry. Could I have a portion the same size as the girls please," he requested.

Janet smiled with understanding, "You can always come back for some more," she said kindly.

Gwyn began to tell them what had transpired from his phone calls. "I've spoken to a number of people about what's gone on today and what is going to happen tomorrow. I contacted Gareth Williams' parents, he has a broken nose, severe bruising of his abdomen, possibly a couple of broken ribs and some serious bruising to his testicles. They're still investigating if there's been any other internal damage. They've given him something to make him sleep so his parents have come home to get a meal before they go back to the hospital. Apparently they've had a call from the Head who has asked them not to go to the police and said he had handled it within the school."

"What do you mean, 'he had handled it within the school'?" interrupted Huw.

"They have been suspended for two weeks."

"What?" shouted Huw, "Four of them beat up a boy so badly that he has to be admitted to hospital and they are just suspended for two weeks? That is ridiculous."

"The Evans's think that too and so do several of my colleagues and, most importantly, Dave Brown the Chairman of the Governors. He's meeting with the Head tomorrow afternoon. There will be blood on the carpet," responded Gwyn.

"I'm glad that the issue is being tackled," said Huw gloomily, "but I have probably burned my boats. The Head is furious at me for telling him he's allowing bullying and the boys will hate me because I've been seen to have told on the four scumbags that attacked Gareth."

Gwyn walked over to him and put his arm on his shoulder. "You're wrong, Huw. Dave Brown and several of my colleagues are determined that there is going to be a culture change at Bath Road School and there's no prospect of you becoming a victim as well. You can be sure that I will be watching very closely."

Huw felt reassured but still was worried about what would happen the next day. His appetite had returned somewhat with the positive news and so he enjoyed Janet's cooking as usual. He and Gwyn did the washing-up and as usual, he read bedtime stories to Haddie and Betsan -- one for each of them, one story for both wouldn't do. At 8:30, he wished them good night and travelled home on his bike. Not surprisingly, he slept badly that night.


The next morning he cycled to school with trepidation. The events of the previous day had shaken him badly and he worried about what the attitudes of the other pupils would be towards him. There was an unwritten code in school that you never told tales. He was already far from being popular, so he worried about how they would react to his cooperation with the teachers.

He locked his bike in the cycle racks and his footsteps dragged on the way to the school playground. He had timed things to spend as little time as possible outside the school before the morning assembly. He wanted to avoid interaction with other people as much possible. At least he was not going to see Adrian and the other boys as their suspension would presumably already have started. He had dreaded seeing stares and whispers from other pupils as they sneered at the tell-tale traitor but to his surprise, he didn't notice anything different from normal from other pupils -- he was as invisible as ever. He realised that the incident had taken place at the end of the day and news probably hadn't got around on the grapevine yet.

The bell sounded at 8:50 and the pupils went, as usual, into the assembly Hall. All the teachers were seated on the platform and Huw could see at a glance that there was a huge amount of tension. The Headmaster, Dr Grey walked up to the lectern on the stage and the hubbub of conversation ceased. "We will sing hymn 342 from Songs of Praise, 'Praise My Soul the King of Heaven,'" he announced. The short morning service followed: a hymn, a short prayer read from a book and then the Lord's Prayer. At the conclusion, Dr Grey followed the normal pattern of making any school announcements.

"Some you will have heard of a serious incident that took place yesterday at the school. Four boys attacked a smaller boy and causing some injuries which resulted in him being admitted to hospital. The four boys concerned have been disciplined by being suspended from school for two weeks.

"This incident crossed a line between the usual horseplay and rough-and-tumble of normal school life and what is unacceptable. Should any similar incident occur in the future, I will take an even more severe line. Dismiss." He turned and walked away from the lectern.

Several of the teachers were looking with consternation at one another and there was a buzz of anxious conversation. Suddenly a voice rang out with fury from the hall floor, "That's complete shit!"

The room immediately went quiet and Dr Grey whirled around. "Who was that?" he demanded.

Huw now had nothing to lose and he no longer cared what happened. "Are you saying that two weeks suspension is an adequate punishment for four people kicking and punching a defenceless, smaller boy so badly that he has broken ribs and a broken nose, internal injuries and is now in hospital," he shouted, "Are you saying that older pupils pushing younger pupils' heads down lavatories, tripping up younger pupils in corridors, knocking the books out of their hands is horseplay or normal rough-and-tumble? What sort of a school is this?"

"That is enough, Jones! Go to my office, immediately!" said Dr Grey furiously.

He walked out of the hall defiantly to wait at the Headmaster's office. He knew that his time was finished at the school but at least he had been able to make his views known to everyone. A few moments later Dr Grey arrived at his office and said curtly to Huw to follow him inside.

"In all my years of teaching I have never been addressed as insolently as I was this morning. I am going to give you six strokes of the cane and you will be suspended for a month," he said with anger.

Huw gasped with shock. "Four boys who put another boy in hospital are suspended for two weeks and my challenge has merited both a caning and month's suspension. That is just more bullying. I refuse to be caned by you," he said defiantly.

Dr Grey turned purple with anger, "In that case you are hereby expelled from the school! Wait in reception. I will arrange for your guardian to collect you."

Huw turned round and walked straight out of the office to sit in reception to await Valerie's arrival. It was almost an hour later before she arrived looking extremely worried.

"What has been going on, Huw," she asked anxiously.

"Please can we talk about this at home, Valerie. Go in and see the Head, hear his side of the story. I'll ride home on my bike and meet you there."

Huw was just about to leave when Gwyn entered the reception area and walked over to them.

"Hello Valerie," said Gwyn shaking her hand, "I'm glad to catch you. I've just been in with the Head and I've heard what he has told Huw. That's a completely unacceptable punishment and a number of us are not prepared for this to continue any longer. I would suggest that you go straight home. Don't bother to go and see the Head. Huw will fill you in on his side of the story and then I propose to come over to you after school when I'm sure I will confirm everything he says.

"I'm going to meet with the Chair of the Governors at lunchtime and I'm determined to see that he deals with this issue and stops the bullying at school."

Valerie was somewhat dazed by all this drama. She nodded weakly and they went out through the front door. Valerie drove away in her car while Huw walked around to the bike racks to collect his cycle. Fifteen minutes later they were sitting down in Valerie's living room discussing the events of the day over a cup of tea. She was aware of the events of the previous night but was horrified at both the lenient punishment meted out to the culprits and the events that morning. She decided that before making any decisions on what to do, she would wait for Gwyn's arrival after school. They agreed that she would go back to work but would be back home by 4pm in time to meet Gwyn.

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