Is Kabbalah the future for career development at St Brian's?
I have finally been given a personal target by my line manager. But is "create your own destiny" a clear, concise and measurable goal? The voice belongs to Blaine Harrington, the gorgeous advanced skills teacher who is my boss this year, but the words are clearly the work of the head, Dr Alastair Scarlett, who converted to Kabbalah during the summer holidays. As a result, the school improvement plan has become a little unorthodox.
"Create your own destiny, Charity," repeats Blaine, slowly stirring his cappuccino. As his jade-green eyes meet mine, I look away. "Let's start by investigating your space." He takes my arm and leads me to my classroom, a mouldy 1950s prefab, where he identifies my "fundamental problem": the stock cupboard. Blaine tuts at the chaos. I try to explain that my former head of department, Judith Crock, used the cupboard as a makeshift kennel for her Scottish terrier, but Blaine shakes his head. "No, no, no, Charity.
It's your chi. It's all over the place, honey." I look down to check that my blouse is buttoned up properly, but apparently he's referring to my directionless energy flow, which needs to be realigned.
The following Saturday, with a fistful of regeneration cash in my pocket, I'm in Homebase flicking through swatch cards for the "earth colours" paint range. Then I spend the afternoon with Blaine decorating my classroom and supervising the installation of the water feature. I ask him if he really believes in all of this mystical stuff and he just smiles. "We all have moments of doubt, Charity, but the senior management team are here to protect us. Just remember that. Now pass me those wind chimes, please."
The CPD programme has also been scrapped, or "revisited" as Dr Scarlett puts it. "What is this bollocks?" says John Baller as he reads out the new training options on the noticeboard. In place of "Excel for Beginners" and "Beating Bad Behaviour", we now have "Seeding New Concepts for Lesson Plans" and "Exploring Extra-Planetary Energies Through Differentiation".
"It's the new enlightenment," sneers Orlando Jones. "You really must get in touch with your feminine side, John." Baller's face reddens. "Listen son, the only bloody feminine sides I'm touching are my Pauline's love handles!"
Nigel Horsmel, the deputy head, appears at my classroom door, and stares at the crystal hanging from the ceiling on a red ribbon. "Are you all right, Charity?" he mutters. Remembering Blaine's advice, I try to deflect his negative energy with a sweet smile. He seems unsettled by my new-found composure. "This school is called St Brian's, you know, not St John's Wort!" he says, suddenly belligerent.
"Excuse me, Mr Horsmel, but I'm due at Mr Harrington's new-moon meditation on the workload agreement." By the time I arrive, Blaine has already started. "I want you to think of me as a soul speaker," he says, as a group of adoring admin staff gaze on.
After the talk he asks if I would like to have my chakra manipulated.
Blaine is impossible to resist, but I do feel rather silly lying fully clothed on the desk as he strokes my navel and tells me that my internal tantric energy channel was blocked. "Oh, thanks," I say, a little flustered, as I get up to leave.
I don't think it's clogged up any more.
Next week: Meet Dave, the normal one