The prospect of an hour and a half with the pompous parade of parental peacocks, aka the school board, fills me with a deep sense of foreboding.
Ours is a Daily Record STVMatalan catchment and the board are all from the exclusive development known as the Arbour. Locals smile when they remember its former incarnation as the Co-operative slaughterhouse.
They have a wide range of educational experience, unfortunately none of it in these parts and none of it in the state sector. Some mean well, others want to run the school. I had an awful job trying to explain that Burns Night was neither a fireworks display nor an elementary first aid course.
We drew lots to decide on the staff rep on the board. The loser gets to be the rep. It's Miss McGregor's turn this year, and she just hates it. I have long suspected that a local anaesthetic is needed to get her through the evening and the pungent aroma of oil of peppermint suggests that it is indeed locally administered. And why not?
Tonight I have to submit our development plan to their satanic majesties.
Do I get to see their plans for impending Caribbean holidays, always taken in term time?
The car park is full of Freelanders, Rav 4s and people carriers. The clapped-out Fiesta is Miss McGregor's. I've told her not to put the lap dancer stickers all over the rear window. Jilly dishes up the Darjeeling, Reggie chats up Bea and we're off. I feel a migraine coming on.
It's 7.55pm and we're still at the minutes. The commas are replaced, the grammar corrected, the definitions scrutinised and the tedium stretches on.
Miss McGregor is asleep, I swear it. Those tinted glasses don't fool me.
I realise that I've missed Coronation Street. Will my beloved remember to tape it? I started doodling. I could hear them talking in the distance when I heard the dreaded words "over to you, Bridget ..." I sat bolt upright and launched into the most meaningless, jargon-riddled, name-dropping, double bluff of psycho-babble you could imagine. Every acronym was cast before them - and then some more.
Miss McGregor looked at me and found it exceedingly difficult to stifle the giggles. I had decided to go for broke. I referred to the spectacular new reading programme we were going to adopt. I had baited the trap, and good old Reggie walked straight in. "Will that be Ginn 360 or Oxford Reading Tree?" he asked in a superior fashion.
"No, we have debated this - and we are going for Clarks."
"It helps correlate development, underpin the essential philosophy and ethos of the school and there is a proven symbiotic relationship between pedicure and pedagogy."
Miss McGregor left the room, barely in control.
I could feel the blushes screaming up my well-concealed neck. Thank God for high collars They had been silenced. Was Bea going to ask a question? Jilly who knew a thing or three about teaching, as she had been a tutor at a finishing school in Morningside, looked bewildered. Jilly always looks bewildered.
Before you could say picnic hamper, the meeting was over. Game, set and match to Mrs McElroy.
I invited Miss McGregor to join me in a small refreshment in the Covenanters Arms. The board would be in the Crown - Bea's partner owns it.
We could relax.
I relaxed so much, that I actually asked Miss McGregor her first name. From that moment on, we were Bridget and Jennifer. After two gins, three if you count Jennifer's one at rehearsals, my young colleague leant over and whispered with an interesting combination of curiosity and apprehension:
"Mrs...eh, Bridget, what exactly is the Clarks scheme?"
I feigned surprise at her lack of CPD. "Well, Jennifer, as a head I have found that the children improve their reading skills as their shoe size increases."
We both fell about laughing, and imagined the board trying to ascertain the true nature of this new scheme. The emperor had new shoes, well sandals.