Don't swing on my tie, pal

IT was Sven the Psychic Donkey who finally confirmed my worst fears. I read about this amazing animal when surfing the newspaper review pages on Teletext. According to the Star, it predicted a 2-1 victory for England over Argentina before defecating on one of the South American team's strips.

It was confirmation of what I had begun to dread for some time: the species - human not donkey - has diverged. It has diverged into people who think that dumping donkeys with dubious powers of divination make for entertaining news copy and those who are capable of no emotional response to the story other than dismay.

Off on separate evolutionary tracks, one group relates to the puffy-lipped pink creation on Big Brother who cries as she hugs her fellow eviction nominee, while the other reaches for the remote control if not a heavy vase to throw at the television.

Yeah though I walk through freezing cold weather I will wear but a fitba top For my tonic wine art in me And my fags me comfort still.

This could be the hymn of some of the worthies in our local high street. Old before their time, with tortoise-lidded eyes and tiny red veins on their cheeks, they sometimes talk to me. There is usually an air of sympathy; I taught a lot of them in my first year in the job and they are well aware of the hard time they gave me. I have been urged "not to take it personally" and, in the days before street drinking was banned, was offered a swig of Buckfast by way of reparation.

It would be completely disingenuous to pretend that these guys are my mates, that we think alike and seek out one another's company. Nevertheless, we sometimes laugh together and there is an undoubted shared humanity.

Towards the end of my first, less than stunning, teaching practice, a huge teacher with a voice like Sir John Gielguid strode into the staffroom. After he left, I was told that he had terrible problems with discipline. The kids all but swung on his tie. This was attributed to his habit of talking over them, of failing to connect on any level at all. Where will that leave me when the psychic donkey lovers and Big Brother devotees inherit the earth?

Perhaps failed teachers will be put out to grass in an endless reality show to repeatedly make asses of ourselves. Our only comfort will be the odd bottle of electric soup kindly proffered by former pupils turned bevvy merchants.

Gregor Steele thought that Buckfast tasted like petrol mixed with blackcurrant jam.

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