Time for another book recipe! This one’s on classic boarding school stories, so grab your boaters and pull your socks up. Let’s get started!
- One plucky gel for your protagonist
- A collection of grubby but well-intentioned misfits
- One unreasonably cruel teacher
- Silly nicknames
- Very worrying standards of pastoral care
- A teacher’s pet
- One ridiculously sprawling castle-school
- Hideous uniforms
- Lashings of ginger beer
- Some sort of pointless school competition
- It’s the start of a new school year! And who should arrive at our uber-fancy castle-school but our plucky protagonist.
- Ramble around the school for a bit so the readers can visualise.
- Time to make some friends! Introduce your protagonists to your grubby misfits. Get ready for japes!
- Ugh, lessons, I guess.
- Time to make some enemies! Here comes the teacher’s pet and nobody likes them. Here comes the mean teacher, too – they’re snooty at the protagonist and they’re just crushed.
- Sneak out of your dorm after hours for a midnight feast! It’ll be fine as long as you don’t –
- Get caught. Mean teacher strikes again!
- The pointless school competition is announced. Our protagonist could never possibly win it though, so let’s just leave this information here until step nineteen.
- Lessons, s’pose.
- Get in trouble again, because of hijinks.
- For convoluted reasons, the protagonist has to enter the pointless competition! It’ll be so embarrassing you guys, she’s totally 100% going to lose, definitely.
- Get into some more scrapes, mainly just for filler.
- OK, let’s actually have a little go at this competition thing. Hey! Turns out the protagonist is actually good at this! WHO KNEW.
- Have another run-in with the teacher’s pet. Be snide to each other.
- Oh boy, we sure have been working hard on this competition thing! It’d be a real shame if something were to –
- OH NO SOMEONE HAS SABOTAGED OUR THING MY GOODNESS HOW UNEXPECTED
- But oh look! Here’s the protagonist’s plucky misfit friends, here to save the day! They all pull together and help fix the thing – just in time for the competition!
- Stride back into the competition like a BOSS with your newly-fixed thing and get declared the winner. Watch the mean teacher and her minion seethe, then celebrate with a secret midnight feast.
- The school year is only twenty steps long so it’s time to go home for the holidays. Reminisce about what you learned about the meaning of friendship, but with sweets.
THE END. Serve on my desk by Monday morning, or it’s detention.
- Make sure to give all your characters stupid boarding-school nicknames – it’s authentic.
- Don’t bother about making sure your teachers actually look after the pupils. There’s hijinks to be had! They should only turn up to provide the necessary drama, or failing that, a backdrop.
- Make sure to give everything its own weird name. It’s not homework, it’s prep. It’s not a canteen, it’s a refectory. It’s not elitist, it’s select.
- Never include any mention of sex, drugs, alcohol or naughtiness that could not be committed with a catapult. Keep the socks pulled wholesomely up – the darker stuff is a whole other genre.
- Prepare for the inevitable series – you can churn one of these out for every school year!
- Teachers must always wear big black gowns and mortarboards.
- So much hockey.
And here’s one I prepared earlier…
“Pocko! Stop shoving!”
“I wasn’t shoving, Biffy, your arm was in my way –”
“You were shoving, I saw you shoving, and Figroll saw you shoving too – didn’t you, Figgers?”
“Mmm? Be a brick and pass the electrical tape.”
Philomena ‘Figroll’ Atkinson did not pay attention to the small riot breaking out behind her. It was the traditional way to resolve conflict at St Curlicue’s in the first year, edged weapons being reserved for the Upper Fourth onwards and pistols strictly the preserve of the Sixth Form. Pocko and Biffy would come away with a few bumps and bruises and – yes, a missing tooth, but Pocko was going to be fitted for braces in the summer anyway, so no harm done. She bent a hairpin out of shape and used that as a screwdriver instead; it would have to do.
When she’d unscrewed the top panel of the trophy case, and Pocko and Biffy’s fistfight had devolved into some limp kicking, she said “I thought you two were supposed to be my lookouts.”
Biffy wiped her bloody nose. “We are, but somebody couldn’t just budge over –”
“I was not shoving, I said I wasn’t shoving, didn’t I say –”
Figroll glared at the pair of them, pinafores crumpled, shirts liberally spotted with blood. “Did either of you bring a screwdriver? You know why we’re here.”
Pocko rummaged around in a grubby pocket and handed her a slightly fluffy screwdriver. She gave it a quick wipe before handing it over; it did not help.
“The least you can do is keep watch,” Figroll muttered, starting work on the bottom panel. “If we want to claim the Cup for House Boadicea we’re going to have to steal it now, before the others do.”
“All right, Figgers, all right. But I wasn’t shoving.”
Figroll turned back to the trophy cabinet with a sigh. Her plan was not going well. Prof and Cheddar had performed their parts nicely: Prof had used her glasses to start a small fire in the Refectory, thereby causing a mass evacuation; Cheddar was faking a convincing stomach-ache to keep Dr Cripskett, languages mistress and head of House Bathory, safely out of the way. In theory, Pocko and Biffy were supposed to act as lookouts at either end of the corridor while she took the panels off the trophy cabinet and stole the House Cup – picking locks was so déclassé. But now, she was wondering if she should have just taken Miss Snyde’s advice and worked on her lock-picking. It was taking a lot longer than she thought.
The House Cup glinted at her, big and shiny, and Figroll imagined the look on Mildred ‘Winky’ Stanton’s face when she saw the empty, glass-fronted cabinet tomorrow morning. She grinned. It would all be worth it to put one over on Winky – Dr Cripskett’s favourite and Form Captain, no less. If she could only get the bottom panel off –
“Footsteps!” hissed Biffy, “hurry up!”
Figroll panicked. She wound the electrical tape around her hand, whispered the school motto (“furor, ergo sum”) and punched through the glass. It hurt like the blazes, but the tape kept the worst of the glass out. She snatched up the Cup, sprang to her feet, and the three of them tore down the corridor. If they could just make it back to House Boadicea, they could hide the Cup in the Junior Common Room before –
Figroll skidded to a halt. The jig was up. All their efforts had been for nothing. The Headmistress, Professor Alnworthy, was coming down the corridor. Beside her, Pocko and Biffy stopped too. The Headmistress could bring down a girl at two hundred paces, three with a slingshot – there was no point trying to outrun her.
They turned to face her.
Professor Alnworthy was striding down the corridor, black gown billowing out behind her. She marched up to them, face set. Figroll put the Cup behind her back, but she knew the handles were sticking out.
“Well,” said Professor Alnworthy, “I never thought I’d see the day. Look at the state of you! Elizabeth Johnson, brass knuckles are not ladylike. Maria Poccolino, if you’re going to get blood all over your shirt at least tuck it in.”
Biffy slipped off her brass knuckles and stuck them, guiltily, in a hidden pocket. Pocko squirmed about trying to tuck in her shirt in a sufficiently ladylike manner. Professor Alnworthy glared at Figroll.
“And as for you, Atkinson. Setting fire to the Refectory. Stealing a trophy. Destroying school property. That is hardly the behaviour of a St Curlicue’s lady. Why aren’t you wearing your burglary gloves?”
“Your burglary gloves, Atkinson – a quintessential part of any good heist and, you will note, the fourth item on the school’s kit list. Where are they?”
“I think I must have –”
“And that is not regulation electrical tape – dear me, that’s barely a step above parcel, no wonder you’re bleeding. And where, might I ask, is your standard-issue lock-pick?”
Figroll shuffled her feet, feeling very small. “I think I lost it, Professor.”
“Was it named?”
“Hmm. Well, pop along to Lost Property in the morning. In the meantime, get Matron to see to your hand. She’s got some Lower Fourths lagging in Field Remedies. They’ll stitch you up, but the whiskey will sting.”
“Yes, Professor. Sorry, Professor.”
Professor Alnworthy straightened up. “I suppose that’ll have to do for tonight. Poccolino, I believe this is yours. I won’t have littering in the corridors.”
She held out a tooth, still bloody. Pocko took it and shoved it in a pocket, very embarrassed.
“Get to bed, you three,” said Professor Alnworthy. “I daresay House Bathory will conduct a vengeance raid tomorrow; you’ll need your rest. No running, mind you.”
They all nodded and shuffled their feet, mumbling “Yes Professor,” and “Sorry, Professor” until it sounded convincing. They slunk off down the corridor, ears burning.
“Girls?” Professor Alnworthy called. “One more thing.”
“This is St Curlicue’s,” she said. “We have a reputation to uphold. The next time you try and pull off a heist, do try for a little more panache. A classic ‘smash and grab’ is really not what I expect from students of your calibre. Remember, you are ladies.”
My full book-cookbook can be found here. Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.