Intoxicated Beveridge

26th December 1997 at 00:00
Monday: I was almost the victim of a serious industrial injury this morning, when I opened a guidance office cupboard in a fruitless search for some adhesive tape to repair my register. Suddenly, a cascade of red plastic wallets descended upon me. One knocked my glasses off - another hit me a glancing blow in the neck, leaving a small but painful abrasion.

Further exploration revealed an Aladdin's cave of these folders, clearly unused for several years. At morning break I mentioned to Pickup I thought they'd make jolly good storage wallets for 4C's English Standard-grade folios.

"They might," he shrugged, examining one, "if they didn't have 'National Record of Achievement' plastered all over them in gold lettering.

"And anyway," he fondled one covetously, "I've got other plans for these, Morris."

"Such as?" "I'm planning to open a restaurant in my retirement," he guffawed. "And these should look grand for holding the menus - a damned sight better use than they are being put to in here."

Perhaps he had a point. What did happen to the school's policy on national records of achievement?

Tuesday: It's the Christmas dance season once again, and I have - perhaps foolishly - added my name to the list of stewards for Thursday night's senior ball. A growing problem associated with this event is the desperate state of inebriation evident on the occasion - among the pupils, I hasten to add.

Last year, for example, several members of the fourth and fifth years arrived with a veritable ale-house of supplies for their after-dance parties, and proceeded to get blind drunk in the school toilets. Unsurprisingly, George Crumley has refused to perform toilet patrols at the event ever again, and is still pursuing a claim against the education authority for a new suit.

Personally, I've had enough. At this afternoon's guidance meeting, I proposed that we crack down firmly, and bar anyone who seems to be suffering the effects of, or is even carrying, alcohol.

There were raised eyebrows and embarrassed coughs. Brian Cooper spoke the thought on everyone's mind: "So who else will be there apart from you and Marlene Beveridge?" I pursed my lips at his tasteless reference to a fourth-year girl who is suffering an adolescent yearning for her English teacher (me) and ignored the cheap jibe. The meeting slithered to a halt as I refused to take any further part in it. Eventually Ms Lees suggested we leave the matter with her for further consideration. Which we gladly did.

Wednesday: Marlene has sent me a Christmas card. Lots of pupils do this, of course, but I can recall few in my teaching career (with the possible exception of Sandra Lovett 11 years ago) who would have dared send me one like Marlene's. It wasn't just the dubious invitation to "climb up the chimney of Christmas love", there was also the front-cover portrayal of a less than adequately clad Father Christmas in the arms of an even more scantily-clad Christmas fairy.

And the joke inside bears no repeating - certainly not in mixed company. I gulped an embarrassed "thank you for the Christmas card, Marlene", as she left the classroom - unwisely, as it turned out, because she took it as an invitation to discuss my seasonal discourse on T S Eliot's Journey of the Magi.

"Oh, that was a wonderful lesson, sir," she purred over the desk. "See the way you described those shepherds, and those camel men wanting their women, and those regrets, sir - especially the regrets."

"Yes, well, it was Eliot who did the describing, Marlene, and . . ."

"Oh, but you brought it to life, sir," she insisted. "Especially that line - what was it at the beginning, sir? It was a great line the way you said it, sir. 'A hard coming we had of it', wasn't it?" I fell into the trap. "A cold coming we had of it, Marlene, a cold coming."

She raised her eyebrows and apologised with affected embarrassment for her mistake, asked me whatever would I think of her - and suggested I promise her a dance tomorrow evening.

Grasping at any ploy to get rid of her I agreed.

"But only when the DJ puts on Brenda Lee," I shouted after her, lest she plan a romantic number.

Thursday: Ms Lees came up with the craziest solution possible to the under-age drinking problem at the senior dance. I couldn't believe my ears when she outlined her plans at this morning's interval.

Briefly, she suggested a policy of open government. As it was an open secret that the senior pupils would bring alcohol for their after-dance parties, we should meet the challenge head-on, state clearly that we would allow no drinking on the school premises, but would instead take charge of all carry-out alcohol and store it in a locked cupboard during the dance proper. Pupils could collect it on their way out.

Thus I found myself issuing cloakroom tickets at 8pm, not for the usual collection of body-warmers and designer raincoats, but for a stunningly varied collection of canned lagers, bottled lagers, continental lagers, hard spirits, Buckfast wine, German wines, Australian wines, American wines, alcoholic lemonades of every hue, Drambuie, Chartreuse and, indeed, every other drink I'd ever heard of. And some I hadn't.

Ms Lees's offer to guard their supplies had clearly been interpreted as tacit approval of their collective intention to drink as much as was humanly possible after the dance, and we ran out of cloakroom tickets by 8.30pm. Alas, I found myself the only dissenting voice.

"For God's sake, Morris," Mr Pickup insisted. "Look at the toilets, man. Not a vomiting pupil in sight."

"No, but just think what they'll be like when they leave here and go off to their parties."

"Nothing to do with us." Pickup washed his hands of the responsibility.

I was about to argue further, but Marlene arrived at the cloakroom to insist I fulfil my promise of a dance as the DJ was "about to put on some rock 'n' roll, sir."

Of course the DJ was about to do no such thing. Instead, I found myself on the dance floor with 60 or so besotted couples draped around each other, smooching along to that classic celebration of our greatest Christian festival, - Mud's It'll be Lonely This Christmas. I maintained a professional distance between Marlene and myself at all times, although it was unfortunate that one of her classmates decided to take a photograph just as she was whispering something into my ear at the record's end. And it was just as well she didn't have a cassette recorder to hand, given Marlene's proclamation of undying affection. I loosened my tie, thanked her for the dance, and scurried back to the cloakroom to start distributing the reclaimed carry-outs.

Alas, the closing minutes of the evening were marred by a verbal scuffle between Mr Pickup and Brian Booth from the fourth year, who accused his elder and better of having drunk half his carry-out. Pickup vehemently denied the charge and rounded off the argument by pointing out that the liberty to store after-party drinks with the staff should have been extended only to fifth and sixth years anyway, so Booth could "like it or lump it".

His arguments of moral propriety were, alas, weakened by his beery grin and the three lager cans stuffed in his anorak pocket.

Quis custodiet, indeed.

Friday: Something has certainly hit the fan over the school's role as a liquor warehouse last night. Irate parents have been ringing all morning with complaints about their respective offspring's state of inebriation after the dance, all of them completely disbelieving when they hear our depute's explanation of events. Last thing I saw - as Pickup and I set off for tonight's staff dinner in Rashmani's - was Ruth Lees in a state of desperation as she warded off the persistent telephone questioning of a reporter from the Parkland Gazette.

Our Christmas dinner was memorable for all of the usual reasons - endless delays while Miss Tarbet made up her mind about the main course, unpleasantly cheap wine and an underfunded drinks kitty, and the usual prolonged argument about who had what and how much they should pay. I don't know why I keep going.

The only bright spot came when Mr Rashmani produced his bill of fare in some remarkably familiar red plastic folders, the covers of which bore the recently inscribed name of his restaurant on the front. And a Scottish Office stamp on the back.

"Hang on," I exclaimed. "Aren't these . . ?" "Shut it, Morris." Pickup nudged me fiercely in the rubs. "Keep your trap shut and I'll cut you in for 20 per cent."

I thought for a moment. "How about 25?" "Done." he agreed forcefully. "Happy Christmas, old son. Happy Christmas."

Next month: another year, another bandwagon. Morris Simpson goes on a positive thinking course

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today