I am off down the corridor on a secret mission. I can tell you only this: I need PVA glue, and I need it now. You don't need to know what for. No one needs to know.
I will risk the dangers because I know I am expendable: if my fingers are caught in someone else's pot, I can plead dumb ignorance, what with being dumb and ignorant and everything. Plus, as a parent helper, I am out of the loop of any intra-classroom politics or petty personal feuds that may exist between teachers. My glue swiping won't set off a chain of resentment round the school.
Normally, subterfuge would be out of the question. I had planned to ask politely for a small squirt in my yoghurt pot. But that was before I saw the pitiful state of everyone's glue reserves. I can't risk being told "No". I need glue!
We did have PVA of our own. But it's been a long, sticky term, and Class 1's supplies are finished. Our bottle's been upside-down since yesterday home-time. We have scraped the insides with spatulas. We have wiped a finger around the rim. The lid has been rubbed clean of drips. There is no other option.
So I lift down the nearly-empty glue pot, hoping that no one will see me. I can't be quick; liberating PVA is no smash and grab. I invert the vat of glue on my yoghurt pot, then balance it with props of paint pots and toilet roll tubes and wait. I have to hover: close enough to be able to grab my prize, but far enough away not to draw attention. I take a more-than-keen interest in a display of Class 5's "Favourite Animals". I hear a loud and steady thump, thump, thump and I don't know if it's the dripping glue or my anxious heartbeat.
Then, disaster! It's assembly. Thirty children march past me and past their upturned glue pot and if any of them looks the wrong way I'm rumbled. I give everyone a weak smile and dare them not to look me in the eye, willing their gaze away from the art area. And before I know it, it's done. I slope off with my little pot, feeling a little triumphant and a little guilty. I won't tell anyone where I found it. No one must ever know.
Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend