High praise indeed

4th March 2005 at 00:00
Back at St Pat's, we had launched ourselves into the latest fad to emanate from on high - "Determined to Succeed". We were developing our enterprise culture, setting the mood and tone, and encouraging the spirit - and whistling through all difficulties.

During a particularly boring assembly from Father McGregor, I scoured the gathered ranks of P6 and P7, seeking out the next Anita Roddick or Richard Branson. Jamie picked his nose, not an entrepreneurial trait I recognised.

Jennifer fidgeted uncomfortably. Not many captains of industry had nits and worms simultaneously, as far as I knew.

Anyway, the projects were well under way and the efforts of the parents would ensure that the income targets are reached, even if it meant dipping into the winnings from the bookies or the Gala Bingo sessions. Some of the dads and "uncles" had shown a fondness for entrepreneurial activity, but that had usually ended up in the Advertiser court reports.

Jimmy's dad knew more about the price of building materials than anyone in Jewsons, while Tommy's "uncle" Davie was a leading figure in the trade of discounted cigarettes. Both men were strangers to the finer points of bookkeeping, returns and taxation, but they were the only Porsche owners in the St Pat's catchment area.

Surely, some of this "talent" would show in our efforts? Primary 7 had been given most of the attention, and the chosen activity was market gardening - "Plants R Us" was the title of the enterprise. Not very original, I grant you, but a damn sight better than "Pat's Shoots and Leaves", as suggested by that smarty-pants from the Chamber of Commerce.

The business plan had been produced, markets assessed, pricing structure agreed and a marketing brochure printed. Sales were encouraging and soon the entire estate was awash with cuttings, plants and bulbs - whether the residents liked it or not.

My friend Brian, he of the Holy Roman Candles, was a leading light. Brian could sell anything to anybody, a trait he had inherited from his "late" father. When I say "late", I don't mean deceased, although Brian was told this at the time. It's "late" as in "away", "serving time", "doing porridge", or any other euphemism you can think of.

Brian's sales were phenomenal by any standard. From a meagre outlay, he had brought in hundreds of pounds. Repeat orders were impressive, especially from the local old folks' home - St Benedict's. Brian's ingenuity soon reached legendary proportions, and we were on course for some award or other.

Admittedly, his work suffered, and I began to think that Brian saw this as an escape route from the drudgery of maths and language. The visit from the Chamber of Commerce rep only increased the extent of Brian's fame, and soon his exploits reached the ears of the Advertiser. A reporter was duly dispatched, and the inevitable photo opportunity was contrived.

The director himself was to grace us with his presence, if he could "fit us in". Budgets - the best excuse ever invented by the directorate. Can't manage to do that - budgets. Won't be able to attend - budgets. Haven't got round to that -budgets. Funny how "budgets" never stopped overseas trips, social events, openings, freebies or sporting visits.

Anyway, Brian was duly photographed surrounded by classmates and foliage.

Sister Charity at St Benedict's praised Brian to the rafters. The old people had never been happier. Their spirits had been lifted by the living, growing greenery in the house. Old Mr McPherson had become a new man. Gone was the grumpiness, the nagging and the niggling.

I could see the headlines: "Miracle at St.Benedict's"; "The New Life of Brian". Was I ready for this? Before you could say catharsis, the television and radio crews descended. Brian was on the road to canonisation.

Some nubile dolly bird preened herself before launching into the usual round of banal questioning. I started to panic. I had seen that look on Brian's face before. What had he not told me? Sister Charity looked like something from the set of The Sound of Music. Old Mr McPherson smiled for the cameras. He smiled even more for the Peroxide One. He looked relaxed.

Too relaxed.

I beckoned Brian over. My worst fears were confirmed. Brian had shunned the offers of spider plants and busy lizzies and had instead opted for some cuttings from "uncle" Hugh's garden shed. The aforementioned Hugh was the last surviving member of the Tangerine Biscuits, the local psychedelic group who had reached number 87 in the charts in March 1975.

Brian had supplied the entire estate with cannabis plants of the highest quality. "Pot Plants R Us", anyone?

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