Don't mention the new huts;Further adventures of Morris Simpson;School diary
Mr Pickup has at last been cleared of charges relating to the downloading of indecent and offensive material over the school's Internet connection. His excuse - that someone in his fourth year class must have stolen his password when he wasn't looking - was a thin one in my opinion, but he seems to have gotten away with it. Mr Tod has launched an investigation among the fourth year - but as nearly 90 per cent of them haven't been at school for the past three weeks there seems little point. I suspect the whole affair will trickle into the sand.
It's finally been decided by the council that Redhill High - a neighbouring school suffering from falling rolls - will close next August, and its pupils will be reallocated to us at Greenfield Academy. With the final arrangements for transfer of materials and such like being made this week, Simon Young has been off to Redhill's English store cupboard to get his share of the books. He was narrating the sorry results of his excursion at this morning's departmental meeting.
"I don't know what George McKechnie's been spending his requisition money on for the last umpteen years," he said, "because most of the stock was completely useless. Four sets of Palgraves' Golden Treasury, three of First Aid in English, and not a reader in sight dating from before the early 1980s."
"Oh?" I suggested mischievously. "So about a decade more up-to-date than our own materials?" But Simon was in no mood for pleasantries.
"Cut it out, Morris!" he slapped me down. "What I think's happened is that Pat McVeigh from St Ainsley's got there before me and swiped the best of the lot."
"But I thought we were supposed to get 70 per cent of the books in line with the numbers of pupils coming to us?" "We were, Morris," he emphasised. "But the placing requests for St Ainsley's have been flying around thicker than confetti at an Italian wedding, 'cos the parents are up in arms about the extra distance to Greenfield. So Pat's obviously re-adjusted the book allocation off his own bat."
"So how many pupils are we getting then?" "God knows. Poor Jim Henderson's still trying to arrange class lists on a daily basis, but the numbers and personnel change every time the parents' associations have another meeting."
Gosh. What a way to run an education service. And what a shame about our new books.
Notwithstanding the indecision about pupil numbers next session, we are clearly going to require more pupil accommodation. The last of our five new huts has arrived in the playground and we find ourselves once more in the middle of a building site. Mr Pickup, who shook his head in dismay as he watched Mr Malcolm's lorry off-load the final hut, has already named this forlorn gathering of temporary dwellings "The Township".
"Bloody hell!" he swore as he gazed out of the staffroom window during a non-contact period this afternoon. "It only seems like yesterday that they took the huts away, Morris. Only yesterday."
"I think it was four years, actually," I corrected him.
"Was it now?" he sighed and looked into the middle distance. "And to think we had a vision that we'd seen the last of the huts. But at my age, Simpson, the years turn into days and your old men dream dreams instead of seeing visions. So here we are, back to hollow floors, noisy chairs, late arrival at lessons and flat, leaky roofs. The wheel turns full circle once more."
"It's not as bad as that, Pickup," I clapped him on the shoulder. "Look! These huts have got sloping roofs."
"Oh!" he conceded. "So they have. Well, at least our beloved education authority's learned something in the past 30 years. Maybe they can't predict school roll numbers with any more accuracy than Mystic Meg; maybe they can't provide a proper advisory service any more; and maybe they can't think of anything better to do with their money than produce glossy pamphlets telling us all what a wonderful range of services they provide. But at least they've learned that flat roofs let the rain in!" As a summation of the education authority's achievements in the provision of lifelong learning, I felt it lacked something. But it's never worth arguing with Pickup when he's in a mood like that.
Today saw the publication of our senior school's yearbook. This annual publication gives the fifth and sixth year pupils a chance to record for posterity their recollections of their times at Greenfield Academy. It was touching to be asked for a signature against my own photograph by so many pupils about to leave school.
I must say, I hadn't been aware of the vast range of affectionate nicknames by which I seem to be known, although I confess to being rather perturbed by Amanda Connolly's insistence that I sign her book anywhere other than next to my own portraiture.
The reasons became obvious when I eventually insisted upon signing her book "wherever I so wished, or not at all". Taking the magazine firmly from her grasp, I turned to page 36, only to find that my own photograph had already been adorned with several inscriptions and emendations by Amanda's classmates.
Most prominent among these was an enormously detailed phallic symbol placed fairly and squarely beneath the caption under my name. I drew a sharp breath, and pretended not to have seen it as I wrote a swift valedictory message to Amanda across the top of the page.
But it was harder to ignore the touching inscription from one of Amanda's classmates who had chosen this same page and picture on which to record her academic farewells. "Goodbye, Amanda," read Charmaine Gibson's piece. "All the best in the future - and remember Simpy Simpson?" An arrow pointed indubitably in the direction of my photograph. "A bit of a wanker, eh? But he meant well and never did us any harm. And if he hadn't helped me write my folio, I'd never have got my Standard grade English!" As a testimonial to my professional skills, I felt it lacked something, but I suppose it could have been worse. I just hope that Mr Pickup doesn't see the one they wrote about him.
I've been contacted by Jeffrey Archer. Not the author, you understand, but the head boy from my own last year at school. He's organising a reunion for the summer months and is trying to round everyone up. I've replied in the affirmative. It should be good fun.
Meanwhile, our last day of term was marked by an almost complete absence of pupils from any year group whatsoever. The school seemed like a ghost town. "But it won't be like that come August," mused Mr Pickup as we drew the academic session to an end in traditional style, with a modest drinking session at The Rockston Arms. "Jim Henderson's got a final total in today, and it looks like we'll be bursting at the bloody seams."
"How come?" I enquired. "I thought that half of them were opting for St Ainsley's?" "Yes, they were," explained Pickup, "until their parents got the forms to sign."
"What forms?" "The ones that asked them to guarantee that their darling offspring would pledge to maintain and uphold the general religious ethos of their new - Catholic - school."
"And some of them wouldn't sign?" Pickup put an imaginary flute to his lips and grinned. "No way! Hardly any of them would sign. It was like asking Ian Paisley to meet the Pope as far as they're concerned. So they're all coming to Greenfield!" "Ah well," I tried to persuade him. "With nearly 1,200 pupils, at least it gives us the chance to offer a much broader curriculum than before. And surely that's what we need to offer," I reminded him of the Government's commitment to our cause: "Education, education, education?" "Morris," he clasped an admonitory hand across my wrist. "With nearly 1,200 pupils in a building designed for 1,000, it'll not be education, education, education. It'll be chaos, chaos, chaos. And more bloody chaos."
As a call to arms for the coming session, it depressed me. So I ordered another pint for each of us and suggested that neither of us mention school for the rest of the evening, or think about it for the next six weeks.