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Ae fond farewell

I had dreaded this. All I wanted was to get on with the secondment and leave St Pats behind. No way. The Parents' Association demanded a "wee do", mainly to fill the yawning social void between Christmas and New Year. An excuse, if one was needed.

I couldn't bear any crocodile tears, especially from Father Murphy in his valedictory address. Bet he mentions East Ren, his beloved authority in whom he was well placed. Cometh the hour, cometh the anaesthetic.

Himself was comatose after another selection committee meeting.

By the time I arrived at the school, the majority of parents were blitzed.

There was a distinct whiff of alcohol emanating from the boys' toilets. I caught a glimpse of a Buckfast bottle protruding from Jannie Jim's pocket.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was picking up litter?

The disco was in full flow. Lights flashed. Jimmy's big sister flashed.

Most of the mums were wearing outfits which would best be described as scant. Some consisted of two bits of string and a hankie. The dads and "uncles" leered and coveted everything, except their neighbour's ox and ass. Well, their ox anyway.

Father Murphy was cheerful. Too cheerful. He tried to be friendly, but I could see through his act. In fact, I could see through his cassock. He was helped by intravenous Glenfiddich, as he pretended not to notice the casting of clothing as the more raucous numbers were belted out.

The buffet came and went. It could have been pet food as far as many were concerned. Maybe it was.

Then it happened. The floor was bouncing after a particularly energetic sequence of 1970s disco greats, when the good Father made his way to the stage, tapped the microphone and called for order. The alcoholic haze didn't prohibit the summoning up of ancient denominational training.

Despite chants of "One Father Murphy, there's only one Father Murphy... ", the crowd eventually quietened. "Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure... "

"I'll bet it does!" shouted one of the crowd, obviously not blessed with the benefit of a good church background.

"I to make this wee presentation to Mrs McElroy in recognition of all her hard work here at St Pats."

The money raised had been given to Brian's mum, Jenny, the parents'

association secretary, to buy "something appropriate". I dreaded to think what her taste in presents was, given that she was now in a state of near-nakedness as she slumped over the table and Jimmy's "uncle".

I didn't want to, but they insisted I open the parcel. I eventually did to reveal its contents - a scarlet basque, blonde wig and whip. Howls of laughter and cheers from every quarter.

A card dropped from the parcel. I knew it: "To Jenny Babe, Merry Christmas 2006 from Danny."

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