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Man of the Year is... a hamster

The Diary comes to you live this week from The TES's glittering ballrooms in the heart of fashionable Wapping. It is time to announce the 2002 Diary Awards.

Our first category is the Hammer Horror Cup for most bizarre conference performance. This has been fiecely contested. Honourable mentions to Peter Smith of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers for his bandaged-headed re-enactment of a scene from The Mummy at his union's bash and Graham Lane for his New Year's resolution to speak to the Local Government Association in French. Sadly, Graham only did part of the speech en Francais.

But the prize must go to James Wilding, chairman of the Independent Schools Association who stood up, apropos of nothing, in the middle of his conference to present a respected male delegate with a pair of sequinned hotpants. Then, that evening, he stood up again to talk about his old nanny... "She called me into her room and said: 'Take off my bra". So I did. Then she said:'Take off my panties.' So I did. Then she told me I could never wear her clothes again." Curious.

Robert Mellors, a head in Nottinghamshire, earns honourable mention in the Twilight Zone Award for weirdest coincidence. The name of his school? Robert Mellors school. Pure coincidence he assures us. But the award itself must go to Mr Lane for a mobile phone call to friend Mary Conneely, executive director of the London East Learning and Skills Council. As he chatted, he noticed an irate suit on the train seat opposite on his mobile getting no reply. It was Mary's husband.

The Stanley Knives Award for backhanded compliments must go to Diary darling, Jilly Cooper, for describing the then education secretary Estelle Morris as "wonderfully unscrubbed". But "Jolly Super" then secured the BP Oil on Troubled Waters Award with her admiration of the daringly high slit at the back of one of Estelle's favourite skirts: "It makes you think that there must be this sizzling sexual being underneath".

But the most prestigious award, Man of the Year, goes to Harri, school hamster at Corris primary in Machynlleth, Wales. Kidnappers broke in one night and, according to the head Olwen Griffiths, "went straight for Harri. They didn't take anything else. They left the note demanding money on the flip-chart in the staffroom".

But the hamster was tougher than he looked. The next morning, Harri was found safe in his cage outside the school gates - covered in in human blood.

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