Deep in the doo-doo

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
I knew it was going to be one of those days, when I opened the car door and stepped on a pile of dog mess. Reminder - new notice required for front gates.

The playground was a study in 21st century social problems - discarded needles, crisp packets full of glue residue, dog mess, lottery tickets, betting slips and fag ends.

My first meeting with the new nursery parents was scheduled for today. I wasn't ready for what met me. I opened the hall door and my face must have been a picture. They looked like last year's primary 7 leavers. There was more flesh on display than in a butcher's window, and more belly decoration than in a Turkish bazaar. They looked so young. That is because they were so young. Studs in noses, rings on lobes - and that was just their babies.

Parents? I had prepared a talk on aims and objectives, targets and attainment and academic achievement. I looked at the masticating mouths, the twitching necks and the nicotine-stained fingers and decided not to bother. I'll go for safety, security, hygiene - and happiness.

Good old Ken Dodd. I thank the Lord that I've been blessed with more than my share of happiness. Enter Father McGregor, deeply tanned and distressed.

Did I miss something? A blessing, Father? Certainly, Mrs McElroy. The assembled throng seemed perplexed. Who was he?

Weans started to bawl. The reassuring mums bent over to quieten their charges. Cleavages and thongs fought for prominence. I ushered Father McGregor out before he could ask why so many young girls were wearing catapults instead of knickers, and before the breast-feeding Olympics started. I found him a class to visit.

Back to the parents. Some were just old enough to vote, others looked like escapees from the local lap dancing club. Two just nodded at everything I said, and grinned inanely. One man was there, holding a copy of the Guardian. He was taking notes. I was sweating profusely. Who was he?

I ignored him. It was time for tea and questions. His hand went up. He wanted to know what reading scheme we used. I explained. He nodded.

The next question came from Tracey. She wanted to know if the school could "hold on" to Kylie until 4pm, as she could get a job at the local canning factory. Mandy wanted to know if it was all right to light her fag. My temperature was rising.

Vicky was keen to find out if we had a loo she could use. She did look a funny colour, even allowing for the purple hair and the neck tattoo. She returned some time later, with a strange expression on her face, asking if anyone had been to Heaven recently. Should I fetch Father McGregor back? Maybe not.

Was I getting too old for this? The scribe was writing furiously. Two of the mums continued to grin and nod. Then they nodded and grinned simultaneously - a rare talent. They had come to the wrong meeting. They were supposed to be at the Zen meeting in the community centre.

Mr Guardian asked about league tables. Zoe sniffed, wiped her nose on her sleeve, and told him Celtic were still top. He was not impressed.

The secretary brought in the tea and coffee. They all had special additives for their brews. Sweeteners? I think not.

"What about the targets for next session?" asked Smarty Pants.

"Tea or coffee, Mr Pants?" I asked through gritted teeth.

Weans bawled. Tops were lifted up. Weans were silenced. I looked at Mr Pants and a wicked thought crossed my mind. Naughty Bridget. Forgive me, Father.

Eventually order was restored and I elucidated the names of the new intake.

There was Sky, Melody, J-Lo, Britney and Anastasia. Justin, Robbie and Henryk seemed to dominate the choice of boys' names. I wonder what Mr and Mrs Pants had christened their offspring - Damien?

Thank goodness the bell rang and I was spared further punishment. Mr Pants came across and introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Rory's dad. Do you have a school board? Could I get a copy of the development plan? I want Rory to go to Oxford like me."

I looked heavenwards and muttered a silent, but very heartfelt prayer. What was he doing coming to St Pats?

Later that day, I phoned Joan to tell her about my nightmare. She laughed.

I cursed her. "Don't you know who he is?" she enquired. "Check the surname, Bridget," my best friend advised.

The colour drained from my cheeks. Mr Pants was in fact Mr Greig. Mr Greig was a biochemist, Oxford-educated and the only beloved son of Mr and Mrs Hugh Greig. Mr Hugh Greig was our dearly loved and worshipped director of education.

Suddenly the dog mess seemed the least of my worries.

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