The Day th’ Inspector Comes [poem by John O’Brien, 1954]

[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in The Parish of St Mel’s and Other Verses, 1954.]

The Day th’ Inspector Comes

It doesn’t seem like school at all
The day th’ Inspector comes;
You’d think the youngsters, big and small
Were shined up for a fancy ball —
Such fal-de-dal-de-dums;
There’s shoes and frocks and stockings white,
And frizzy hair in ribbons bright
What’s been tied up in rags all night,
And curly-wurly-ums.
We’re all wound up and sitting tight,
The day th’ Inspector comes.

We’re not supposed to know what day
It is th’ Inspector comes;
But Sister gets a ring to say,
“Brown paper parcel’s on the way.”
Then us and her is chums —
She hunts us round to try to make
Things decent for th’ Inspector’s sake;
You wouldn’t believe what pains we take,
Nor how excitement hums;
We work with broom and mop and rake
Before th’ Inspector comes.

The spiders gets it in the chest
The day th’ Inspector comes;
The stupid boys they graft the best,
And down comes every hornet’s nest
In smither-rither-rums;
And Sister says, “Boys, burn that mess.”
There’s filled-up exers. numberless,
And broken slates and canes, I guess,
What all your fingers numbs —
We jams the lot behind the press
Before th’ Inspector comes.

We have the blackboards cleaned real hard
The day th’ Inspector comes;
The fireplace is freshly tarred,
There’s not a paper round the yard,
Nor crust of bread nor crumbs.
Inside’s a table neat whereat
Is sticks of chalk and pencils pat,
A comfy chair, a bonzer mat,
And real geran-i-ums.
We only put on dog like that
The day th’ Inspector comes.

He’d like to nip you in the stew
The very day he comes;
He thinks he’s pretty cute, he do;
But Sister knows a thing or two
Outside kirriculums.
To ketch you on the hop’s his whim,
But she has everything in trim;
So when he sneaks up sour and prim
To start his tantarums,
We’re sitting up expecting him,
The day th’ Inspector comes.

She sticks in front the kids that fag,
The day th’ Inspector comes;
But coves like me that loaf and lag,
And other coves that play the wag,
Or has thick craniums,
We sit along the wall all day,
And get swelled heads to hear her say,
“That lot back there would turn you grey
Just mixem-gatherums.”
The best ones always are away,
The day th’ Inspector comes.

But still we grin at all the jokes
The day th’ Inspector comes;
It’s great to hear him give some pokes,
Especially at the “clever” blokes
What gets mixed in their sums.
At all them little jokes we roar
And then he starts to crack some more —
He’s cracked them fifty times before —
And them kinunderums.
We take him off behind the door,
The day th’ Inspector comes.

The Sister looks a bit knocked out
The day th’ Inspector comes;
She has a headache and a pout,
But sticks to us without a doubt,
And in his ear she drums,
That we could really do the lot
Except the little bit we got;
But, golly, don’t we get it hot,
Next day about the sums.
You’d think we didn’t do a jot,
The day th’ Inspector comes.

But this is where she does him brown,
The day th’ Inspector comes.
Which makes a smile replace a frown —
He holds the sewing upside down,
And haws and hems and hums;
She knows she has him beaten quite,
And crowds it on him left and right,
He handles it as if ’twould bite,
And don’t we just enjoy the sight
The day th’ Inspector comes.

Yes, school is not too bad at all
The day th’ Inspector comes;
You sit up along the wall,
And don’t let on you hear him call,
Keep playing hidey-hums;
But when he’s gone with all he knows,
You feel like when the circus goes,
You come to school in shabby clothes,
No fril-de-dill-de-dums.
And you can thank for all your woes
The day th’ Inspector comes.



Published in:
John O’Brien. The Parish of St Mel’s and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1954

Editor’s notes:
fag = in this context, it refers to hard work (hence “fagged” for exhausted) (possibly from the archaic meaning of “fag”, meaning to droop; which, incidentally, can refer to the ash end of a cigarette, or “fag”)
kinunderums = conundrums
kirriculums = curriculums

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