Charity begins

17th October 2003 at 01:00
There's a note in my pigeonhole. "Orlando Jones requests the company of your pleasure at his half-term happening. Find your own little bit of heaven in Penge."

The head of drama's parties are legendary in the staffroom. The supply staff and the Kiwis have been talking excitedly about the latest bash for weeks, but the full-timers don't seem so keen. Even John Baller, Orlando's drinking buddy, is giving it a miss. "Not really my scene, Charity," he says. "Bit full-on, if you get my drift." I ask Judith Crock, my head of department, if she's going. She says she finds Mr Jones "inappropriate".

The head's door swings open and I hear a girl shouting. "Listen, you minger, there's nothing in the dress code about having to wear knickers! OK?" It's Ramona Lynch, from Year 12. She's wearing a micro skirt and a crop top with the words "St Brian's booty" printed on it. Ramona is on her final warning for the term, after spiking the caretaker's tea with Rohypnol. As she sweeps past, she sees my invite. "Oh that's so cool, Miss.

See you there!" The head stands in the doorway, muttering to himself:

"Challenging, very challengingI" I'm feeling a bit apprehensive as I ring the bell to Orlando's house. The door is opened by Jason the Kiwi who apologises for being "completely klangered". I see Orlando with his sidekick Gabriel Mooney the RE teacher, who's filling plastic tumblers with Jack Daniel's and handing them out to Ramona and her friends.

"Look, it's Chastity, the NQT cutie," Orlando shouts. He wanders over and says he wants me to help him with this year's school production, Godspell.

He's telling me about his plan to take it to the Worksop Literary Festival, when Graham Love, the supply teacher from my induction group, hands me a joint and a slip of paper with his phone number. "Call me any time. Best skunk in town."

Somehow I end up in a bedroom with Orlando. "Look Chas," he says, sprawling across a futon as he lights a Gauloise, "I've got a lot of baggage but, hey, I'm willing to carry it myself. All I need is the love of a good woman." I can see his bald patch in the ceiling mirror and feel queasy. I ask him who the photograph of the oriental woman is next to his bed. "Oh that's Toy, my third wife. Legged it back to ThailandI the cow."

Thank God for Graham Love, who puts his head round the door, "because they're getting suspicious out there". Orlando says there's "room for one more", but I decide Toy had the right idea and head for the door.

I spend the rest of the evening talking to Graham in the garden. He's writing a novel. Supply teaching is just a stopgap. Publishers are queuing to sign him up.

The noise from the house is getting louder. "Day by day, Oh dear Lord, three things I pray..." The auditions for Godspell have started already.

Through the window I can see Orlando in the middle of a circle of female students and teachers, performing what can only be described as a chicken dance.

Orlando collapses, and rolls around on the floor, laughing hysterically.

He's shouting something that I can't make out above the screams. I move closer and realise with horror what he's chanting: "I want Ramona! I want Ramona!" Time to go.

Next week: A man called Horsmel

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today