Burnout in the disco inferno

Friday night fever leads to Saturday morning meltdown for Graham Bell

I'm the worst sort of dancer - reckless, enthusiastic and dangerously inept. So when I put on my bow-tie and set off for the Year 11 prom, I knew something would happen.

I arrived on time. The excitement was palpable; the kids looked stunning, ball gowns and dinner jackets mixed with shivering arms, flat vowels and acne. This was going to be a good night - and not just for the students.

Taking care to look remotely responsible, I sipped my Becks before hitting the polished square of mock wood. I wasn't going to be first - let the geographer with the fancy pants do his stuff - so I sat as a clutch of female staff marched on the spot in that kind of perfunctory disco way.

Then Staying Alive broke in, and I was off, a cross between a caged leopard and a marionette with twisted strings. But it had been a year since I'd done any sort of exercise, and I tripped off to the gents' leaving behind gaping jaws at my lack of self-regard. In the mirror, it was there: that painful image of a man approaching 40 whose heart and soul are not yet old enough to vote. With a sloosh of cold water and a deep breath, I set off back.

The night was in full swing. Even the lads were taking turns at jigging around with the girls who were stuck to the floor. Then it happened - a personal first: down on the floor that old party classic Oops! Upside Yer Head. I've hated that tune for 20 years. Yet here I was, in an invisible rowing boat, screaming girls on one side and a row of teachers at the other.

Then, a streak of pain in my back. But I couldn't give in now. Left. Right. Back. Forward. Right. Back. Right. Left. Clap. Forward - or however it's supposed to go. But it hurt. I knew I'd pay.

No more than five minutes had passed. Then I thought: "Yeeess" as an indie tune kicked in. Someone needed a lesson in how to pogo. And that was it. Bouncing around, heading footballs that no one could see, me and Chris (a lad intelligent enough to feel sorry for me without the irony) went for it. The floor was ours. Reeling around I had a rush of freedom. I claimed the music. It was Friday night for me as well as the kids. I needed to live out the beat and the thrashing guitars; to cry joy to the soulful voice and hypnotic beat. Then I felt ill. And out of breath. I could barely stand, let alone walk.

It was midnight. Five minutes earlier I'd said: "Yeah, I'll come round town, too," to my younger colleagues. Now all I wanted was to hobble downstairs and leave.

At home, it was ibuprofen time. Upstairs, I couldn't bend. The human ironing board got undressed without kissing his daughter goodnight. The cot was about 3ft too low.

It's now the next day and I'm wincing at the PC screen. If I look carefully, I can see a man's face reflected. He could be 38; or 16. He looks in pain. Then he smiles... "inside I feel so alive but, Oops! Upside I'm Dead!"

Graham Bell teaches English at Almondbury high school, Huddersfield

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