And the winner is . . .

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
I tried. Lord knows I tried. Those loonies on the school board insisted.

I'm sure they were all inspired by their visit to see Harry Potter and Co at Hogwarts.

"Bridget, we need a return to merit, reward and praise. Can we reinstate the St Pats prize-giving ceremony?"

I looked at their faces. They were serious. Surely not? What next? Graduation from the nursery? Prom night in P7? Essay of the year? Best dressed family?

The St Pats dux board hadn't seen an inscription since 1975 and Bernadette O'Flaherty. Honestly, it was. The bold Bernadette ended up as an alcohol and drugs counsellor in Fraserburgh, after having six children by five different "partners" and blowing almost all of a pound;250,000 pools win in a brief, but eventful, sojourn in upmarket Milngavie. Allegedly, she is still known as Bernie Crivvens in certain Glasgow clubs, but we won't go into the origins of that.

Now, 30 years later, they want to resurrect the farce that was the prize-giving. Write the script now. Prizes by postcode. Parents living out their dreams and fantasies. Reinforce failure. To those that have shall be given. I argued for ages, but in vain. At least I got them to agree to prizes for progress, service to the school, outstanding effort and the like.

Supercilious Simon wanted to "book" a big name to present the prizes, and suggested a variety of Z list celebs that even Channel Five would have rejected. Two were in rehab, one was rarely up in the afternoon and one was currently the subject of a vice squad enquiry.

Each one of the school board suggested prizes that their own particular offspring had a fair chance of winning. Not many schools have a prize for white water rafting, especially when the nearest "white water" is some 50 miles away, but readily accessible by those in Chestnut Lane. Well, those at number 48 Chestnut Lane. To be more precise, those at number 48 whose father had a "special friend" who happened to run an outdoor pursuits centre.

I could have listed the winners - and losers - there and then. The nightmare to end all nightmares. Goodbye opportunity for all. Au revoir individual learning. Auf Wiedersehen prat.

The day lived down to expectations. Father McGregor arrived - too early. I sat him down in the staffroom and left him flicking through an edition of Hello. Councillor Anderson arrived next, smelling of aftershave and peppermint. He was "ever so proud" to have been asked to present the prizes. Pardon? Who asked him? Councillor Anderson, known locally as "Heineken Harry", was an absolute embarrassment to his party, his family, his constituents and himself.

He was, of course, a former pupil of St Pats and had been delighted to accept. His opening words of greeting to me were: "Hello hen, whaur's the cludgie?" Ominously frank. I sought inspiration. I found perspiration, frustration and desperation.

Soon the school board peacocks arrived. Strutting, posing, showing off and being totally obnoxious. Patronising and pompous in equal measure, they really were a good advert for the abolition of boards as we know them.

The staffroom smelt like the perfume counter at Debenhams, and I must admit I started to giggle. Sister Verity and Sister Charity arrived and blessed me and my every endeavour. I felt much better for that. Teas were poured, sandwiches delicately nibbled and hats gracefully set aside. There was an air of farce about the place.

Simon was full of himself. He shuffled through his prompt cards.

Highlighter pens are wonderful, aren't they Simon? Father McGregor panicked. "Where's Councillor Anderson?" he asked. My face was a picture of innocence as I protested ignorance. I assured him that everything would be fine and, if all else failed, Sister Verity could do the honours. The good sister was a nice old lady and, at 85, a very good advert for the lifestyle behind the curtains of the Convent of the Sacred Heart.

Children were hushed as the first chords of "One More Step" rattled out.

The platform party shimmied across the stage. They all found their places - eventually. There was hardly a soul who had noticed Mrs Davidson remove one chair just before the entrance of the great and the not so good.

The ceremony was totally predictable. Parents preened. Cameras clicked. P1s peed themselves. Sister Verity was a gracious presenter. To this day, nobody knows the true story of Heineken Harry's disappearance. It was the best investment of pound;12 the St Pats school fund ever made.

Jim the jannie, a former classmate of Harry, was duly dispatched to Asda to buy two packs of extra-strength lager. The good janitor kept Harry amused in the boiler-room, where the combination of intense heat and excess alcohol had brought on a deep and lasting slumber.

Jim deserved a prize.

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