"Too much red wine at the do last night?" I enquired. The gesture was one of reluctant acceptance that the capacity was not what it had been when we shared a flat all those years ago. Three children, two marriages and a difficult school hadn't helped.
The candidates had arrived, and were sitting in the medical room, trying to look smooth and unruffled. Joan was anything but, and we were ready to start.
No Elizabeth Rose. No BMW in the car park. Should we start without her? I remembered the council's guide to selection interviewing, and the check list. Elizabeth Rose had just committed sins 1, 2 and 3.
We reallocated the agreed questions, and I was about to fetch the first candidate when in she flounced. In all the years I have known her, I had never seen her like this. Hair dishevelled, no make up, obviously distressed. I thought of seven reasons for the appearance, each one more mischievous than the one before, but resisted asking the obvious question.
"Sorry, folks, had to attend an urgent breakfast meeting at council HQ," she blurted out, convincing nobody, least of all herself.
I duly collected Candidate One, after she had reappeared from the toilets.
She looked startled. Wait until she saw the panel.
ER launched into a question which nobody understood, and elicited a frozen smile from the candidate. She fainted. It was a good tactic, and I wondered if we could all faint, go away and start again.
After coming round, she gathered her thoughts and duly withdrew from the interview. My initial thoughts were correct. Her future lay with a class of one, not 21. She was in the early stages of her first pregnancy.
Candidate Two was next, and my face must have been a picture when I introduced her to Joan and the somnambulant ER. Did nobody mention "appropriate dress code"? She wore an outfit which would best be described as a hankie and three shoelaces. Fine for Saturday night in a downtown lap-dance club, but lacking in professionalism for an important career moment.
It certainly brought the colour back to Joan's cheeks, as she tried unsuccessfully to stifle giggles and yawns in equal measure. ER was incandescent with rage. Her opening question, through gritted teeth, was about the philosophy underpinning the primary curriculum. She should have asked her about the straps underpinning her ludicrous top. I had a premonition. I knew what was going to happen next. No!
ER asked her about expectations of teachers, in terms of conduct, behaviour and dress. We've never had a Page Three teacher before, but the bold lass crossed her legs, leant forward and gave ER both barrels. I saw Kenny Everett flash past my eyes. Two down, and not a finisher in sight.
"I'm sorry, that's just not acceptable, Bridget. You shouldn't have put her on the leet. She is totally unsuited for teaching.You should have checked her references. Who signed them?"
This was my moment. I dug Joan in the ribs, and pretended to flick through the papers in my file. Ever so slowly, I pulled out a reference and started to read aloud.
"She is young, but has so much potential to develop into an excellent teacher. She shows great maturity, and displays tact, diplomacy and common sense. I have no hesitation in recommending her."
"Rubbish!" shrieked ER. "Who wrote that?"
"Who signed it, Bridget?"
ER was livid. Big Tam would have been proud of her response. "Shurely shome mishtake, Mrs McElroy?" I showed her the offending document. She was livid.
The final candidate, my ante post favourite, strolled it. Good rapport, sound common sense, spoke from the heart, loved children, willing to learn - and not a piece of jargon in sight. ER made some excuses and left.
Game, set, match. I just knew that ER would never darken my doorstep again . . .