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Sod the dough, got the T-shirt

OK, so it's hardly a rock and roll lifestyle, but a secondment with the advisory service does get you out and about a fair bit. Indeed, there have been moments when I have toyed with the idea of producing my own tour T-shirt with the names of various primary and secondary schools down the back, plus conference venues and hotels: "2004 Science Team Leader Tour"; "No Sleep 'Til Glassford".

I could not, however, put the Scottish Association for Education in Personal, Social and Vocational Skills (SAEPSVS) annual conference (Tulliallan polis college) on my shirt, partly because there would be no room for anything else, but chiefly because it wasn't an official gig. I was invited, due to my TES Scotland connection, as an after-dinner speaker.

I had never done after-dinner speaking before but feel I was reasonably successful. Not many people walked out and I received only one death threat. This was prompted by a piece of Blu-Tack that some polis lecturer had left on the lectern in the dummy courtroom where I was giving my spiel.

The putty reminded me of a story a pal told me. When he took up his first post, his principal teacher sat him down and said: "I'm going to give you the most important piece of advice you'll ever hear in teaching." My friend eagerly awaited a revelatory tip but instead was told: "Never, ever eat anything the weans make in home economics."

The wisdom of this was supported with a quotation, overheard from a less than fragrant lass: "See the dough in hame eekies? It's great fur gettin the dirt oot frae under yir fingernails!"

It was, on reflection, perhaps injudicious to recount this anecdote in front of SVS teachers, whose corps contains a disproportionate number of home economists.

I escaped with my life, probably because Scotland's police college is not the best place to demonstrate homicidal intent. In truth, I went home in a great mood. I had met a myriad of good people, who were all switched on to the conference's theme of citizenship. Another T-shirt came to mind. This one I saw in the distance in Dublin (Mr and Mrs Steele "Kids Staying With Auntie Maureen" Tour, August 2004). It bore a picture of the founder of the Theory of Relativity, underscored with the slogan: "Einstein was a refugee".

What a fantastic, one-line demolition of so much of the parsimonious, anti-asylum-seeker scaremongering we see in the sorts of newspapers that aren't fit to be pulped down into a dough with which to clean a lassie's fingernails. I'm sure my new friends in SAEPSVS would approve.

Gregor Steele checked his brake pipes before driving home from Tulliallan.

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