The best bit of advice I never received at training college was: don't go to the high street on a Saturday afternoon. Failure to observe this maxim has meant my glamorous social schedule is frequently the main topic of conversation in school on Monday mornings.
The little ones in lower school are harmless enough; they're just amused that you have a life beyond their daytime institution. They say things like: "Miss, I saw you in Poundstretcher at the weekend," and "Miss, what were you doing in Pizza Hut the other day? Can't you cook, Miss?" It's the older ones who are dangerous. The Year 12 girls who subsist culturally on a diet of reality TVshows and celebrity magazines; who earnestly debate whether Peter Andre and Jordan are right for each other. They are obsessed with my relationship status.
"Miss, have you got a boyfriend?" demands Ramona Lynch as I enter the room for the first class of the week. "Miss, I could fix you up with my brother - he's a pirate radio DJ," Cherelle Carson chimes in. I suppose they must have spotted me on my lonesome in the Beefeater on Saturday night.
The little sods know their love lives are probably more exciting than mine - and they're only 16. My latest humiliation was at the hands of the cute boy from Oddbins who I thought might be interested. He'd even given me a nickname: the Chardonnay Lady. We went for a drink and it was only when the karaoke started and he staggered up to massacre "I Will Survive" that I remembered my mother's motto: all the good men are either dead or gay.
"Do you want to end up like these sad people?" a voice hisses in my ear back in the staffroom. It's Tiziana Fausti, our disgustingly glamorous media studies teacher. She's pointing across the room towards the two elderly spinsters on the staff: Judith Crock, my elusive head of department, and Cynthia Thyme, alias the ghost of St Brian's. The latter is consoling Judith over her companion's recent by-pass operation. The fact that the patient is a Scottish terrier called Mr Pickles adds weight to Tiziana's point that I need to establish a life outside St Brian's.
The following evening I resolve to take drastic action and head for the local speed dating club. It's a high-risk strategy: this is just the sort of place a bored gang of teenage schoolgirls would head for on a quiet weekday evening. But I'm desperate. And guess what? I meet an estate agent from New Zealand called Danny. He must be the only Kiwi in London who isn't a supply teacher. We exchange numbers.
Danny phones the next day and we arrange to go for a meal at the local Italian. It's all going well until I mention St Brian's and Danny starts sniggering. I ask him what's so funny. "Oh, it's just that my last girlfriend was from St Brian's. Cherelle Carson! Crazy girl..." I ask Danny how old he is and he admits he lied on his dating form. He's 17. I leave before dessert and sit glumly in the taxi wondering what hell awaits me at school tomorrow morning.
As we pull up outside my flat the driver speaks. "Well, that's a coincidence - I live across the road at 42. So you're the one that wanders around in pyjamas all Sunday. What a waste, a good-looking girl like you! You should get yourself a boyfriend."
Charity returns from holiday on April 23