All the world's a stage
Aileen was born to work with children, but maybe not as a teacher. She meant well - that typically Scottish saying, which usually meant the outcome didn't match the input. Aileen had taken Maureen's class for the four weeks of her final practice and decided that, with a class made up predominantly of unruly boys, the World Cup was to be her theme.
Room 7 was awash with flags, bunting and posters. Aileen arranged the entire month around the history, geography and cultural background of every competing nation. The children had a great time sampling various national delicacies, converting currencies and learning the essential tourist words.
They could ask for directions in Dutch, prices in Portuguese and the street names in Serbian.
Aileen wanted to share the outcomes of her labours with the rest of the school. I counselled against a public performance, but agreed to the far less risky class assembly.
It might have been small beer to the rest of us, but this was Broadway to Aileen. Her tutor, the legendary Gorgeous George, was to appear for a final time. Gorgeous, known to successive generations of gullible females, was finally taking the retirement he should have taken 10 years ago when his patter, as well as his credibility and tinted hair, was wearing thin.
Gorgeous arrived early. Enter Father Murphy. I had forgotten to tell him about Aileen's Extravaganza. He was relaxed. Too relaxed. Sister Charity arrived next. She had just "popped in". She was always "popping in".
I went down to the hall to check on seating and if Jean was steady enough for a quick rendition of "One More Step". Jean's steps were certainly not too steady along the road these days. Nice perfume, Jean. Eau de Trebor?
Aileen had invited all the mums, dads and "uncles" to the event. Dogs were tied up at the gate and cigarettes extinguished. They looked like they had just got out of bed. Most of them probably had. Stubble, uncombed hair, smells of last night's beer and curries. Fidgeting, scratching, yawning - they were there to be entertained in the horrendous void before the bookies and Gala Bingo opened.
I felt a migraine coming on. Aileen announced the opening of her little show. Enter three stereotypical Frenchmen to sing the national anthem, complete with sailor's jumpers, onions and stolen bicycle. Grant then proceeded to recite the Pied Piper in German. Impressive.
I was beginning to get into the swing of things, but noticed that some of the material was getting a wee bit tenuous in the links to the countries concerned. Claire's rendition of Abba's "Money, Money, Money" as a homage to Sweden was less than impressive, and someone should have told Aileen that Volvo is the Swedish one, not Volkswagen. Gorgeous George was writing frantically, although I swear he was not making critical observations on a Ladbrokes slip.
Father Murphy prayed for all God's children across this troubled world, whichever strip they wore or team they supported. Sister Charity nodded.
I'm sure I heard Jimmy's "uncle" say something about Holland. I heard the word Orange anyway.
Jean rattled out another hymn, but only she knew what it was. We sang "Morning Has Broken" regardless. Melanie and Susan sang "Ave Maria", dressed in Italian national costume. Sean and Kenneth recited the numbers one to 20 in Japanese, before Melissa and Freda gave a delightful rendition of a Kylie Minogue medley.
The introduction of a PowerPoint presentation on other countries was impressive, but fraught with danger. Timing was everything. I must admit to being impressed by the pieces on Iran, Ghana, Angola and the Ivory Coast.
Aileen had done well. Sensitive issues handled well.
All was going well, and Aileen was undoubtedly heading for the crit of the year, when it happened. Brian's wee brother was next on stage. He had that all-too-familiar look on his face. It was a family trait. It spelt m-i-s-c-h-i-e-f. I had seen it all too often.
Now we have several Polish families in the area, and indeed the Polish club plays an important role in our community. The bold lad took to the stage.
Aileen clicked the mouse.
"Poland is now in the European Union. Polish people often wear national costume - picture of national costume. There are many Polish dances (picture of Polish dancing groups). My sister is a dancer (picture)."
Father Murphy covers Sister Charity's eyes and rushes her out of the hall.
Catcalls, wolf whistles, applause, laughter. I'll kill him! The girl is a pole dancer, not a Polish Dancer. Aileen, dear - check your slides next time.