Father's day

9th September 2005 at 01:00
Michael Cook is nervous. Maybe that prank with the tequila wasn't such a good idea

Back to school. In keeping with September tradition, there are tears at the gate and nerves in the air. But - all together now - not from the children.

They're happy to be back. It's me who has the autumn blues.

It shouldn't be this way. I've been parent-helping for ages. And Poppy's new teacher is as friendly and welcoming as ever. So how come I shudder involuntarily as I pass the head's office? And then it comes back to me - the Tequila Incident.

It was July, a more innocent time, when we still had hopes that summer would be glorious, and Johnny Depp would make a good Willy Wonka. I was busy in the classroom, taking down displays and scrubbing something sticky off the Unifix.

At playtime, the children had that end-of-term feeling, too. I don't know why the two boys were being kept inside the neighbouring class, but apparently it "wasn't their fault" as "someone told them to do it". I do know that their teacher was tied up in forensic investigation of the matter, and so could I take her bottle of tequila to the staffroom?

Tequila in the staffroom must be a summer tradition. But not in a Club 18-30 way. The bottle sits unopened with the tombola tins and the raffle tickets in the summer fete prize pile. But, even unopened, there's something potent about tequila. Which is why, at this point, my memory gets hazy. I can remember the notice on the staffroom door: the head was meeting with other heads from nearby schools, everyone was to get their playtime cuppa from her office instead.

Inside the head's office, the sense of two-weeks-to-go must have got the better of us. I asked if I should leave the bottle on the head's desk.

Someone suggested leaving it in her desk. We all agreed that the head would love our summer prank. But I was the one holding the bottle. And so I was the one sliding open the drawer and slipping the tequila inside, posed at a jaunty angle, so that anyone coming into the office would see it poking out.

In the summer sun, it all seemed very funny. But now I'm dawdling through the school gate in the chilly breeze of autumn. What if the head didn't find it funny? What if she didn't find it at all? What if, instead, a very important visitor walked past the door, spotted the bottle and decided to settle a grudge? What if, because of my summer jape, there is a new head at school, and a wrongful dismissal case grinding its way through the courts? I mean, I have my defence: "It wasn't my fault," I will say. "Someone told me to do it." But end-of-term excuses don't sound as fresh in a new school year. And my sticky fingerprints are all over that bottle.

Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend

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