Albert Winter had had a bad day. He hadn’t meant to call Lucy Dredgewater, Juicy Eggsnorter, but it had seemed funny at the time. It wasn’t funny when he realised how upset Lucy was, or when he had had to explain to Mrs Havers why he had continued to say it when Lucy had repeatedly asked him to stop. The words had just sounded so deliciously amusing to him. It wasn’t personal. Mrs Havers had then stared at him intently, asking him sternly if he’d like to be called Albert Autumn – he didn’t understand how that was funny at all.
Later during Art, Albert had innocently leant across to wet his paintbrush when he knocked a plastic cup of murky water flying over Gerald Flintoff’s masterpiece of Stickman on a bicycle in the zoo. He personally thought the picture looked more abstract with a layer of dirty water on top, but Gerald had started flicking paint at him in anger so that Albert ended up looking like a polka dot child.
At this point, Mrs Havers had had to have a serious talk with Albert about his behaviour. It was apparently ‘very disappointing’. Albert often thought that teachers couldn’t be very happy people, as they seemed to be very disappointed on a daily basis. He would never have raised this with Mrs Havers though. Nobody answered back to Mrs Havers. A teacher who emanated an aura of unyielding discipline, she was tall and pencil thin with dark brown hair that was always pulled back and up into the shape of a bun that perched on the top of her head. So tightly was her hair forced back that it gave the impression of her skin being stretched too thinly across her face, her cheekbones seeming to protrude through from underneath. She wore brown-rimmed glasses that were always pushed down to the tip of her thin nose, so that she could look at you more closely when she was ‘very disappointed.’ At which point, children of all ages stood rooted to the spot, conflicted with an overwhelming desire to look away, while being utterly hypnotized by her sinister dark eyes.