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New Year, old habits

I can't believe I'm going back to work on Monday. What happened to the lost holiday fortnight? I admit to losing a few days through the Rugby Club Ball, all self-inflicted injuries, and a couple of days with food poisoning, courtesy of the in-laws breakfast from Hell.

During my enforced sojourn in bed, I resolved to make a fresh start for the New Year. ER's Christmas card had made me feel bad. I had been so uncharitable. I was going to be a new Bridget in 2004 - a nicer me.

Tolerant, understanding, diplomatic and appreciative - a friend to all, smiling and whistling through all difficulties.

Have you ever tried that? What if the girls missed the deadlines for forward plans? So what, if Marie is off with a "bad cold", and lets me know at 8.59am on the day in question? Bring me sunshine in your smile, bring me laughter all the while.

I was looking for my bag, when the phone rang. It was Joan, my neighbouring heidie, and she sounded evasive. "Come on Joan, what's this all about?", Joan was a great friend, a brilliant teacher, but a woeful liar.

It transpired that Joan and Rob had been at a Tribute Night at the Three Lions, and there had been an incident in the ladies loo. I began to think of all sorts of catastrophes, ranging from name-calling to fisticuffs.

Joan tried unsuccessfully to skirt around the subject with spectacular failure. It appears that the evening's entertainment was headed by Rod Stewart and Tina Turner look-alikes. Tina was to be the cause of the phone call.

She closed her act with a rendition of "Simply The Best", apparently of a particularly high standard, but not popular with those of a Celtic persuasion. There had been a few cat-calls and an attempt to launch into a counter-outbreak of "The Soldier's Song". I failed to see why Joan was telling me this.

Then she elaborated. Then I evaporated. Tina and Jackie McWilliams' mum were caught fighting in the ladies loo. Fists, hand-bags and shoes were used in a skirmish which divided the loyalties of the watching throng.

Why do some of the St. Pat's mums let me down like this? Mrs. McW apparently gave "Tina" a good going over, calling her all the names under the sun, and then a few more. Some of her phraseology was of the variety my grannie used to call "foundry language".

Tina's Afro wig was torn off, her fake tan smeared all over her expensive dress, and both eyes bore the brunt of a swinging hand-bag, which allegedly contained a wee bottle of vodka. Then she added the bit which forced me to sit down, and call for a glass of something stronger than coffee..

Tina's running order was contained on several sheets of paper, which had been scattered all across the loo floor in the course of the combat. Steamy Windows, River Deep, Nutbush City Limits... and then...St.Patrick's Primary School Forward Plan January 2004-April 2004. What? Joan repeated her statement. I thought I detected the trace of a giggle.

"You mean Tina had some of my papers?" I must have sounded like a blithering idiot.

"Bridget dear, you have a problem," said Joan in a statement of masterful simplicity.

I called an emergency staff meeting for first thing on Monday morning.

Father Paul had been in touch. He joined a queue which included tabloid hacks, the director and the massed ranks of radio and television newsrooms.

I saw the headlines: Simply The Worst.

They were all there for 8.30am. They looked shell-shocked. I took a quick roll call. All present. I looked at the faces. I checked the depth of make-up around the eyes. I scanned the faces for evidence of scratches or gauging. This was a test of my nerve. Should I be the new Bridget, or the real me?

I began in sombre mood. I wasn't blaming anyone. It did all take place outside school, after all. We are in a multi-faith society. Our school ethos reflects tolerance and mutual understanding. I myself have a mixed marriage. Some of my best friends are atheists. I took a deep breath.

"Right then, which one of you b***** idiots dresses up as Tina Turner, and ends up throwing school papers all across a ladies loo?" Silence.

Embarrassment. Much looking at shoes.

"Come on, ladies, who was it?" Some blushing. Some shuffling. No confessions.

Just then, Elspeth the cleaner poked her nose round the corner of the staff-room door.

"Mrs McElroy, the lavvie's blocked in the boy's toilets!", I could have shot her there and then.

I pointed to the door, ushering her out. I ran out after her.

She was wearing dark glasses.

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