Blaine Harrington is getting agitated. It's our weekly line management meeting and I'm supposed to be outlining my "desired outcomes" for the key stage 3 history Sats (obviously the preferred outcome would be for them to be abolished, but that's not on the tick sheet). Somehow we seem to have veered off the subject. "So," says Blaine earnestly, "you're seriously trying to tell me that you find Desperate Housewives too knowingly ironic? Jesus! Don't you understand that irony is the new sincerity, Charity? I mean, just look at Prisoner Cell Block H."
John Baller, the maths teacher and union rep, wanders over and smirks.
"Well, if it isn't Will and Grace. Sorry to interrupt your management summit, but out in the real world there are people who need our help..."
Blaine shakes his head. "Thanks, John, but Celebrity Big Brother is so last year. I won't be voting this time."
"Actually, I was referring to the plight of our colleagues in the international movement. Cynthia's in trouble."
Cynthia Thyme, who left St Brian's last year to become a private tutor in Colombia, has been arrested on suspicion of being a drugs mule for a cocaine cartel. John says she's been fitted up. "She just got confused.
Someone asked her to deliver some class As and Cynthia went along with it.
Thought they were talking about exam quotas."
Blaine raises an eyebrow, and John can sense my unease. "Orlando's with us," he says, gesturing across the room at Orlando Jones, who's slumped by the phone. St Brian's very own Keith Richards is one of the few members of staff not to have embarked upon a new year detox programme, under instructions from his doctor, who warned that the shock could kill him.
Interrupting his telephone conversation to the Child Support Agency, he gives us the thumbs-up. "I'm in guys," he says slowly. "Half the bloody nation's leisure time is at stake if that shipment doesn't make it to Bolivia."
"I don't think so John," I say with a smile. "As a member of the middle leadership team, I have obligations to the students, parents and, of course, the governors." John rolls his eyes and stomps off.
Later, in the 13 Horseshoes, John puts a paternalistic hand on my shoulder.
"Look, Charity, you're very young. Don't fall for all this 'leading from the middle' nonsense. It's just the SMT trying to get you to do their dirty work for them. And that Harrington is all after-shave and no beard, if you get my drift."
Sandie McSniff nods in agreement, her pale face contrasting with the surrounding gloom. She is a woman whose job title, like her age, defies categorisation; all I've ever been told is that she "does PSHE". I think she probably does a lot of other things judging by the rubbish she talks.
"I've checked the files, Charity," she drawls as she puffs on a roll-up.
"Blaine was born in the Chinese year of the rat. You're a rooster. Bad combination. Do you know the damage a big rat can do in a chicken pen? This is your year, Charity - you don't need him."
I've had enough of all this. "For God's sake, Sandy, we're not an item, you know. I mean he's clearly..."
"He's clearly a member of the senior management team," says Baller. "That's what Blaine Harrington is."
Next week: the LEA adviser drops in for a chat