Army fall-out leaves a tarnish on the tinsel
The disadvantages of our PPP-built school are still in evidence, especially as the smaller class sizes for English and maths ensure multiple occupancy of space at all times, so that there is never a spare room left for unexpected use.
A case in point today was a search by the committee that has been charged with organising a meal to honour the departure of our head, Ms Gibbon. Thus, I was press-ganged into a motley group of staff wandering corridors.
We finally found a room devoid of pupils and fell to discussion. It was soon clear that trying to organise a group outing on the last Friday before Christmas with four days' notice leaves us in a situation akin to that of Joseph and Mary as they searched for accommodation in Bethlehem all those years ago.
It was agreed I should approach Mr Rashmani's emporium and make special pleading on the school's behalf. I reluctantly agreed to make the booking - and was greeted by Mr Rashmani with an equally reluctant acceptance for 48 staff at 5pm - "and it is only as long as you are all agreeing to be leaving the restaurant by two and a half hours", he insisted rudely.
Beggars can't be choosers. At least it won't go on into the night.
We've received an email from quality improvement officer Bill Moore about council policy on equal opportunities. He asked us to print our own copies for reference. These concluded with a legal disclaimer from the council at the bottom, accepting no responsibility for anything at all and a request that asked us whether we "really needed to print this email". Ironically, these last two items made up two and a half of the three pages finally spat out of the printer.
Mr McManus started to make aeroplanes out of the extra pages - but when he saw how much paper was littering the staffroom, he collected a large bundle and made a festive chain. It's made the place look really seasonal.
The Army careers team came to speak to the fifth and sixth years this morning - at least those of them left in school this week - and caused some distinctly un-festive sentiment from Ms Charles.
"Honestly!" our probationer complained. "It makes my blood boil that the local authority lets them into schools to get kids to sign up to get their brains blown out. A school's no place for Army recruitment!"
"Oh?" replied David McManus. "So where d'you think they should recruit then, dear? Care homes for the elderly?"
"Don't be ridiculous!" she snapped. "I just don't think they should be in schools, that's all."
McManus responded fiercely: "For some of our kids, it could be the best chance of a career they'll get. They can learn a skill, go into engineering, intelligence, IT, communications, financial training, medical work, musical experiences, and ..."
"And get their brains blown out!" Ms Charles retorted.
Mr McManus got agitated. "I can see it now," he said. "Next time the Army's needed for riots or floods or, God forbid, more wars, and they haven't got enough soldiers, it'll be the likes of you who'll be the first to the newspapers bemoaning the Government's incompetence at running an army!"
It is not the first time the two of them have clashed. I saw little chance of common ground emerging, so quietly left the staffroom.
An immediately happy outcome from yesterday's army visitation has been the news that "Mainstream" Michael Kerr is signing up! This one-person educational iconoclast has been the bane of our lives for the past five years, ever since the council insisted that maladjusted pupils be incorporated into mainstream education.
Of course, his once-famous anti-social tendencies and intolerable behaviour towards others has long since been ameliorated by our school's positive behaviour enforcement strategies, and he should prove an ideal candidate for the armed services.
Well, that's what we'll be putting in the written report for the Army, anyway ...
Ms Gibbon's farewell dinner, attended by 29 of us, was something of an anti-climax. Her speech managed to damn most of the staff with faint praise, and completely failed to mention the others. Such are the powers of motivational management.
And, of course, we had our usual divisions over the division of the bill, as those who had partaken of soft drinks argued against subsidising those who had enjoyed alcohol while those who had ordered boiled rice railed strongly against paying the extra charge that should only have been levied on those who had ordered the egg-fried variety.
Fortunately, Mr McCallum from maths had brought a calculator, so honour was eventually served. Alas, as the person who had booked the ruddy evening, it fell to me to pass on eventual payment to Mr Rashmani, which sum comprised the total of pound;794.60, plus a gratuity of just over a tenner, which fell somewhat short of the traditional 10 per cent in such circumstances, and worked out at close to 35 pence each.
Inscrutable as ever, Mr Rashmani thanked us for our "seasonal generosity" as he processed the payment. But I found it hard to believe that he really looked forward to seeing us again as he wished us a "very Merry Christmas - and would you mind helping in the leaving of the tables as quickly as possible to allow the next party proper access".
It was a disappointing conclusion to the term, as well as Patricia Gibbon's time with us. Now, bring on Christmas - and may the holidays last for ever.