It's the school disco, and we've sold a staggering number of tickets. It's also the first time we've had a disco, because I go out of my way to avoid the things. I've given up trying to keep pace with the noises youth listens to these days, and when my daughter's boyfriend asks me which clubs I used to rave at when I was young, I explain that skiffle used to get me pretty excited. He gazes at me sympathetically, and I tell him the music he enjoys would put me straight into an asylum.
But, says the newly formed Parents' Fund Raising Group, discos are fun and nice little earners. They promise to run the whole thing, clear up afterwards, and tell me I don't have to attend if I don't want to. I warm to the idea, especially the thought of raising school fund money, but feel a pang of conscience about not attending. I decide to go. So do my trusty deputy, admin officer, and the younger teachers. The children talk about the event excitedly, and in four days all the tickets have gone.
The big night arrives and the queue forms dead on 7.30. Dave, premises officer par excellence, has already prepared the hall and stands in the corridor behind a large table. Nobody enters without a valid ticket, and since all tickets have been numbered and names jotted down, there's little opportunity for gatecrashers. The disco lights are on and the DJ is testing her microphone above the sounds from the huge speakers wheeled in on trolleys.
Children flood along the corridor and into the hall, filling it with colour. They chatter above the noise and admire each other's clothes, the fashion-conscious circling the hall proudly. Danielle and Stephanie have no trouble chatting several decibels above the music, since during school time they can communicate with each other from opposite ends of the playground. The older girls have applied some make-up, not always with consummate skill, and they move to the music in small friendship groups. The older boys hug the radiators, or eye the girls with slight embarrassment but a little admiration, too.
The DJ tells eerybody to get on the floor because we're going to have some fun, and the parents wave their children goodbye for the next couple of hours. I smile at the parents as they leave, to show them what fun I'm having. The lights go down, the decibels rise, and the whole place becomes a seething mass of jumping children. The teachers join in, one of them wearing flashing lights on her head. The children love this, and I pray that Miss won't put her back out or sprain anything.
I circulate with my deputy and we watch the wilder dancers with great amusement. Charlie, special needs, is cavorting and gesticulating around the room like a deranged dervish. Tiny George, Year 3, has smothered himself with his dad's aftershave and it looks like he's got his dad's best shirt on, too. His head moves back and forth to the beat like a pigeon chasing biscuit crumbs. Sarah and Shajna dance in perfect syncI real talent hereI until Shajna wheels round and smacks Thomas in the ear. They look daggers at each other and I move in to calm tempers.
I go to help with the refreshments. We're selling crisps and fizzy drinks and making a tidy profit on these, too. Tony comes back repeatedly for more cups of Irn Bru. He's treating his mates, and the girls as well. Majid asks if we've got tomato sauce crisps. I tell him there's salt and vinegar, beef, and cheese and onion. OK then, he says, have we got any prawn cocktail? I explain again and he buys beef, but only gets three yards before dropping them all over the floor.
When I return to the hall, one of the parent group is leading a lively conga. Arms and legs flail everywhere, and those with least stamina fall by the wayside, or just fall. The DJ announces prizes for the best dancers and everyone goes wild when "Bob The Builder" hits the speakers, arms punching the air with pleasure.
The two hours pass like lightning, the children have been delightful, and the event has been an enormous success. They go happily into the night with their parents. I realise I've enjoyed it too, and the profit we've made will buy lots more instruments for making real musicI Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary school, Camberwell, south London. email:firstname.lastname@example.org