Candlelight at the end of the tunnel

20th December 1996 at 00:00
The end is nigh. Only the Christmas play, the Christmas concert, the staff panto, the carol service and report writing to get through. And that's in your own school. If you're also a parent, there'll be the Christmas play, the Christmas concert,the carol service and reading the report. You probably won't hear a lot about the staff panto - very esoteric things, staff pantos.

The week actually begins on Sunday, with a superhuman effort to gather the family together for our elder son's carol service. We come, the five of us, from three locations, on trains, buses and by car, covering hundreds of miles. The service is candle-lit, and reminds us of a couple of years ago when the power failed - a nightmare for the deputy head. Not only were the candles compulsory, and one of them dripped down the back of the lady in front of me, but the organ packed up and someone had hidden the hymn books so they had to break out a whole church-full of new ones. But this service is lovely, and for a family already scattered and likely to scatter even further, it is a truly Christmassy moment.

On Monday, I squeeze in a ninth birthday party for our younger son and a dozen football-mad friends. One young captain must choose from three youngsters to complete his team. They are not the most impressive physical specimens, and one is wearing glasses - but does this justify his cruising the line, declaring: "Too fat, too thin, blind." The child must have escaped from The Lord of the Flies. Perhaps I should lend him some of my management textbooks. But his team wins, so maybe he doesn't need them.

Reflect, over a large brandy, that the only thing more demanding than refereeing this dozen for an evening would be teaching 38 of them all day and every day, which is what their teacher does. I recently heard from a prospective Labour candidate that the party plans to limit primary class sizes to 30. Hurrah! Then I checked the small print - the promise applies to five, six and seven-year-olds. So no one seems to think nine-year-olds need smaller classes. Silly me.

But they do need Victorian clothes - "Rich or poor?" their poor, pressed teacher asks hopefully - to be in the chorus for Oliver!, which seems to have taken over where Nativity plays left off. Ah well. Check reference books, then raid the airing cupboard, which has mercifully resisted efforts to de-clutter my life. That's Wednesday gone.

On Thursday the car won't start, which worries me a lot less than my reaction, which reminds me of Basil Faw-lty on a bad day. If I'd had a hockey stick I would have taken out the windscreen. Am I a smidgin stressed? Maybe the car is not the only one in need of recharged batteries.

A late nighter on Thursday, after the concert, finishing the reports. I strive for accuracy, remembering a report we received that gave our daughter a grade and comment in a subject she was not studying. It was good, too.

And so to Friday. The end of the week, and nearly the end of term. Praise be. And joy to the world.

Hilary Moriarty is a deputy head of an independent girls school.

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