When the bitter afternoon is bitterest, the heavy fog is heaviest and the filthy floor is filthiest: persevere.

PERSEVERANCE (descriptively done): November blues

School. Deep into the Michaelmas term. Dense, low lying, inexorable fog. The branches of adolescent trees, rigid with cold even at their young age, moan, perturbed by the thickness of the opaque matter that crawls past them. Rain sluices down in a gentle, grey drizzle.

No doubt, the inclement weather was donning its most wintry mask: soot black storm clouds that rode fiercely across the sky; squalls of frigid wind that rattled the ancient window panes; and a touch of ice in the air that made the flesh shiver. A combination of dead leaves, encrusted with the dull and crispy evidence of a happier past, and mud is distributed at the side of the walkways, creating a kind of decomposing clay that makes its way into every building, corridor and room. Pupils lug their mud-sucked shoes from one step to the next; their collars upturned against the oncoming elements, necks sinking ever deeper into their coats as they briskly walk to some anonymous destination.

So much dirt and sludge and mire has been routinely trodden into the already grimy carpet of Rigg’s Hall that it has turned the colour of the outside and its mood. Bits of the raw, dry, flaky silt grows from it like some sort of grotesque fungus inevitably only to be kicked later on by some returning footballer, sagging with defeat’s burden, who would then, with meticulous pressure, crush the cancroid into the floor, only deepening the melancholy atmosphere of November. It would not have been surreal to have walked passed some gothic mutation, emerging from over the lichen-mauled School House wall, arms dripping with moisture, ready to thwart any last bit of human characteristic from you. But you would not have seen it. For it would be no different to the surroundings and its disposition: darkness, dankness and depressions blinkered tenacity.

Fog. Expanding and thickening. Fog around the Main School Building, where it trawls the enervated flag through the air so it limply floats, gently flapping without wind; fog in the Main School Building, seeping through the cracks and under the classroom doors, surrounding and absorbing the life and energy and colour from pupil, master and artefact. Fog on the river, fog on Top Common: adding water to the pitches, recently demoted to a puddle-strewn field. Fog lying beside the Darwin Statue: an isolation of remembrance. Fog in the stone pupils, turning them pearly white against the charcoal background. Fog creeping into the school bags of innocent new boys as they walk, dampening the innards, their outer extremities already brutally bitten; fog in the lungs of that master who perhaps should have considered retirement many years ago, making him wheeze and splutter with vexatious discomfort. Fog drawn to the street lamps as the night draws closer, the light barely illuminating the path through layer upon layer of diminutive ice crystals. Fog in the gutters of the Main School Building, dribbling down the drain pipe periodically with a methodical drip, drip, drip onto the grey bin, weathered with experience, with a deliberate, drumming emptiness: thump, thump, thump. Fog lingering between the spokes of a teacher’s bike, its impeccable skeleton almost shivering with anxiety as if alive; and fog hovering in the Fives courts, impeding sight and sound from the now unwilling players.

And, as the day draws to the close, boys lean and peer from their windows, squinting into the foggy darkness. They look for inspiration; an ambition that will animate them. Nothing. With fog all around them, they stare into a fruitless mirror.

Eventually, the fog lifts: a clear sky manifests itself. The boys groan and slam their windows shut as the cycle restarts once more.

When the bitter afternoon is bitterest, the heavy fog is heaviest and the filthy floor is filthiest: persevere.