Forget the classroom - I'd rather write;Comment;Opinion

27th March 1998 at 00:00
Columnist Gregor Steele has written that he is not giving up his day job, and so television comedy's loss is his school's gain. Most teachers who want to write and eat, too, do tend to stick in at the chalk-face. Some of us lucky older ones have solved the problem via early retirement, which sure beats working. That is not to say that journalism is not hard work. It is - but like teaching it is perceived in some quarters to be a doddle.

Like teaching, freelance journalism has its good days. Take a recent Wednesday. At noon, the hour at which the disruptive pupil, like the sun, reaches his zenith, Trudi poured me a glass of champagne. She is head of public relations at Calvin Klein Cosmetics. She had kindly invited some press people to lunch at the ritzy Malmaison in Glasgow. Even as the jotters in a thousand classrooms must be piling up awaiting correction, I am chatting to Clare and Karen, area managers of C.K.

Well, er, actually I have to confess that the Herald does not want me to write about the new fragrance. It was as well I said that, because just on bell time, even as Trudi is recharging my glass, in comes Alison who is to write it up for the Herald.

The three C.K. staff and we six journalists sit ourselves round a big table to watch a short video. There is no wad of photocopied sheets, no overhead projector and no droning adviser. Contradiction is the name of the new fragrance (not scent, perfume or smell) for the woman who is modern yet classic, sensual but discreet, with no mention of the contradiction who is a teacher and unfrazzled.

This is the first such presentation I have seen in years which has not tortured the subject to fit in with 5-14. Including Chinese eucalyptus, jasmine, tambouli and sandalwood, Contradiction is what C.K. calls "a joyful oriental". After two glasses of champagne, with a good lunch in prospect and having 18 months ago left my school desk in the east forever, that just about sums me up.

Ab Fab! A good bag, silver with cord handles, is given to each of us. Instead of being reduced to buying one's own Pritt-stick and odds and ends by February, here is a freebie of eau-de-parfum and body lotion, both in generous sizes.

We glide through the cafe and across the brasserie to our table. All this compares very favourably with Portakabin in the playground, currently the staffroom during building work back at the school. The mineral water is sparking. I wonder if my old colleagues have had the water connected up to the temporary staffie, or if they are still taking in coffee in flasks. Trudi orders the wine.

There is nothing more demanding than the menu to be studied. Sounds of talking and laughter drift across the room. The noise is at an acceptable level. A football does not hit the window. I choose roasted vegetables followed by confit of duck, secure in the knowledge that if anyone present grazes their knee, or is bullied, it has nothing to do with me. Any outbreak of effing and blinding or the throwing of a tantrum or a chair will be discreetly dealt with by others. In the event, nobody complains of as much as a sore tummy or cries for their mummy.

Nor is anyone cheeky to me. In fact, they pay attention politely when I speak to them. There is talk of who's wearing what to the Press Ball. The journalist from the Record should be a sensation. The two from the Sunday Mail chat away and Alison tells Claire the best places to go in New York when she's over there next week. The coffee, the mobile phones, the taxis - and 4pm finds me taking a leisurely stroll round Princes Square.

On the train home I read that supply teachers are turning down work in some schools. The following day I hear of a whole authority where no supply cover is available. Maybe there are more congenial ways to earn money than by teaching for it.

Anne Cowan did teaching stints over 33 years from Easterhouse to East Lothian.

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