In a pink fit over the green forms

A life in the year of Emily Shark

this whimpering "green concern form" has no chance. That's why it's avoiding my gaze. Well, it does itself no favours with that stupid name.

What, pray, is green? Is it the form or the concern?

I haven't even issued a yellow detention slip for this child, so my concern is nowhere near green. I'll just have a quiet word with him before I write anything down - a quiet word that conveys not only green concern but also purple threat. That will save 20 minutes of pointless filing and photocopying, and then being told that last year we kept paper records but this year it's all done on the computer, but it's really easy, you just... No! If it's that easy, you do it!

Ah, grumpy Shark, this is bad for you. You've got to find a simple, non-grumpy way to decide what's essential and what's not. Shiny red folders and file dividers will only get you so far. I need something that will work in my head, something that can sort things out before they become a ghastly mound of paper to snarl at. A mental shredder. Can such a wonder exist?

OK. You'll just have to weigh up the misery of doing something against the misery that not doing it would cause to others. Oh, I like that. So, if I had refused to buy my nephews a Christmas present on the grounds that Christmas shopping was horrible, there would have been an imbalance of misery. My nephews' misery at getting no presents from me would have been far greater than my avoided misery of shopping. The miseries created and avoided wouldn't be proportional.

You could plot all this on a mental graph: the proportional misery index, or PMI. Right, let's put the green concern form through it. Now, I have never seen anyone worrying about green concern forms. I've seen people panicking about orange folders, and a series of stroppy notices about the brown lost property list. But no one has ever shown any concern about a green concern form.

Maybe they should be called "green but not really that bothered" forms. On the PMI, these green forms score a pathetic one point: no misery is saved by their existence. But they could threaten me with a thumping nine points: if I fill this one in, I'll be expected to keep doing them. I will then be miserable, but no one else will be miserable if I don't do it. The PMI says, "Shred the green form now." Right, I'm off to do something blue now.

Damn, there's a staff meeting at lunch today. Well, the PMI can't deal with that - it won't help with things that everyone is equally miserable about.

But it'll help me, as I sit there mentally shredding things before they reach my desk. Oh, yes. This might even give me a feeling of white control.

Emily returns in a fortnight

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