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Advice for seasoned practitioners

After Radio Five asked for Christmas office party stories, I listened aghast to an eye-watering litany of boozy indiscretion, point-scoring and poorly directed projectile vomiting.

"Teachers," I thought, "aren't like that. A quiet dinner served by liveried flunkeys, with a string quartet in the background and the occasional tinkling laugh from the NQT at the far end of the table is surely the norm."

Yeah, right, as our young colleagues say. That was until I gave someone a lift home from their staff party. It was held in a Jumbo jet hangar laughingly called the "ballroom" of a large hotel. There was a disco. The noise wasn't just painful: it was causing the air in the room to give up and lose its transparency, so that everything seemed to become blurred and indistinct.

The worst thing, though - and here's where I want to put in a plea on behalf of longer-serving teachers - was that no one could hear to think.

Which, frankly, was a shame. Former colleagues, including two past heads, had been invited. And those who wanted to talk to them were finding it completely impossible to do so. At least one of the visitors hadn't been back for many years; old friends wanted both to reminisce about old times and to catch up on recent history. Short of using semaphore, or lipreading like the girls in the cotton mills, they just couldn't achieve any sort of contact.

So, on behalf of all those teachers who quietly complain about this sort of thing year after year, can I suggest that when social functions are organised, and friends and visitors are invited, some way should be found of allowing conversation to take place? It might mean dividing the evening up, or spreading the event across two separate rooms (although at RAF Decibel, two separate counties would have been barely adequate.) I eventually found my friend and we went outside. "Did you ask them to turn it down?" I asked.

"Several of us did," he replied. "It wasn't so much that they wouldn't do it, it was more that they actually couldn't make sense of the question. We might have been from another planet."

"You were, old boy," I said. "You were."

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