Famous flights of the Fat Owl;Opinion

18th June 1999 at 01:00
FLITTING can be a moving experience - as we are just about to find out. In two weeks' time two-thirds of our school is being decanted to a temporary home while the old building gets the Private Finance Initiative treatment.

Previous domestic flittings have not augured well. With the foolishness of youth and a paucity of furniture to match I organised my first house move with a self-drive van. I can still recall the sound of torrential rain on the skylight as I woke up that morning. The flat was in a residents' parking zone and difficulties arose when an over-exuberant traffic warden said we should park 100 yards away and carry everything from there, otherwise I'd be booked.

More recently, moving my mother's personal effects from Glasgow to Edinburgh brought me into contact with the removal company from hell. Despite clear written instructions the team turned up two hours late having got lost on the M8. I was due back at school for the fourth year at 1.30pm, so late morning found me frantically carrying boxes down three flights of stairs to help speed things up.

All of which might have been unexceptional, save that the removal men were standing in the back of the van having a restorative smoke. My letter of complaint when all was over produced a counter-threat to increase the bill for faulty information and harassment of the workforce.

Faced with precedents like these, hopes are not high. Boxes have been delivered to school in plenty of time, but even half full of paper they are impossible to lift. Unless full, they are impossible to stack. We've been warned not to label contents too accurately lest they disappear over the intervening three miles. With great care I've stowed yards of Higher Still materials in boxes marked "valuable computer equipment".

One head of department had his room filled with boxes by mid-May, hoping to keep classes amused for six weeks with a pencil, some tracing paper and a disused Banda machine.

Preliminary excavations of my own office found some wire stacking baskets with their "in", "out", "shake it all about" legends, an Edwina Currie novel won at a first year ceilidh, and the folder I started five years ago when I thought it would be a sign of rigorous efficiency to note down all correspondence received and dispatched (that lasted two days).

I should have been warned by my earlier schoolboy failure, when I later discovered a Greek vocabulary notebook begun in my fifth year. It contained one word - the verb "to remain inactive".

For the moment, mindful of the Fat Owl of the Remove, I'd better get packing.

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