Last of the summer whine;School Diary

30th July 1999 at 01:00


Gail remains upset that - for the second year running - we are unable to afford a summer holiday abroad. I've tried explaining the facts of life to her - that is, we've got no teachers' pay-deal yet, and if one of us looks likely to take up a job-sharing position to enjoy the easier lifestyle of being a housewife for part of the week, then she can hardly expect the fruits of our joint labours to prove so bountiful as in the past. "But I've not even decided I want to job-share yet, Morris!" she proclaimed with undue exasperation. "What with Margaret likely to get into Rockston Nursery next year, it hardly seems as if we need to..."

"But I thought you said you were dreading next year's Primary 7, and wanted out before..."

"Well, maybe I did, but if it means you're going to play Scrooge every summer and deny us the chance of a family holiday abroad, then..." I held up a hand that brooked no further discourse. "Gail," I said forcefully. "I'm sorry if I've proved unable to keep you in the style to which you want to become accustomed. But we both chose teaching as a vocational career that we knew might lack financial reward. And time's too short - I want to get into school tomorrow to check up on my preparations for next session."

"You what?" Gail looked genuinely bemused. "You can't be serious, Morris!"

"Actually, no," I conceded. "I really want to borrow the departmental computer so that you and I can try a few motor-racing games on it tomorrow night after Margaret's gone to sleep! What d'you say?" I grinned excitedly.

Gail sighed and closed her eyes. "You sure know how to give a girl a good time, Morris."


My plans were thrown into disarray this morning by the fact that my principal teacher, Simon Young, has already taken the departmental computer home for the summer.

"Worksheet Preparation" read the somewhat nebulous log-book entry under "Reason for Borrowing".

"Hmm," I thought suspiciously, fully aware that the last time Simon Young prepared a worksheet was during his teacher-training period in 1978. "No matter," I mouthed quietly to myself. "I'll borrow George Crumley's from the geography department." Alas, my intentions were thwarted once more, this time by the even more ridiculous geography log-book assertion that George had taken his Intel Pentium machine home to prepare "Geography Practical Schedules".

It was the same sorry story across the entire school, with reasons ranging from the scarcely credible ("taken home for security purposes" - Miss Tarbet, home economics) to the completely risible ("analysis of fitness issues in football simulation software" - Mr Hind, PE).

It was a disgraceful waste of educational resources, as I pointed out to Gail before we settled down for a post-prandial game of Cluedo this evening.

"Oh?" she enquired archly, before accusing Colonel Mustard of something dastardly in the conservatory. "And what exactly were you planning to do with the computer? Please remind me."

"Ah. That's different. Mine was a simple perk. But they're all abusing Principal's Privilege." Gail shrugged. "Isn't that what it's all about, Morris?" I called the conversation to a halt and asked her for the fourth time whether she had the candlestick or not. She did.


Another trip into school. Last night, it struck me that our depute head might be able to "lend" me her machine. "You can bet your boots that Ruth Lees won't darken the school's door during the holidays," I explained to Gail, "and a quick word with the janitor should see me into her office, no bother."

Alas, and to my dismay, Ms Lees had commandeered her computer for "timetabling rationalisation and examination predictor programming". And to my even greater dismay, she was using it - in school - for those very reasons! How unusual.

"Gosh, Ruth," I exclaimed, as I broke unannounced into her unlocked office. "A surprise to find you here. You're - um - busy?"

"Certainly am, Morris - but what brings you into school at this time of year? Looking to gain a few Brownie points?" I chortled. "Why? Are you giving out any badges?"

"Depends," she raised her eyebrows mysteriously. "I'm looking for as much support as possible for the new uniform policy next session."

"But didn't we have a new uniform policy two years ago, Ruth?"

"Maybe so, but it's time we had another one!" she declaimed with vigour. "The last one was too strict. This time, we're going to call it a 'dress code', and we're going to allow pupils to opt out if they get a letter from their parents. But if they do, they'll have to wear a pupil identity badge for security reasons."

"And if they don't?"

"Then we won't allow them in."

"But surely..."

"Are you with me on this, Morris?" she eyed me balefully. "Because I'm very conscious that your Acting PT Guidance job's coming up for the 'real thing' interview in the next three months. And I'd like to think that I've got all the major players in the guidance team 'on side' before I present this to the senior management team." It was that "major players" phrase that got me, I have to confess.

"Sure thing!" I put both thumbs in the air.


Gail and I took Margaret for a walk in the park this evening. It didn't prove to be the happiest of events.

To explain, we were enjoying the evening balm and had just decided to give Margaret a treat on the toddler swings. Unfortunately, they were in use upon our arrival, but the occupants were somewhat over the age-limit, to say the least. Consequently, I asked the three gum-chewing 10-year-olds - in the friendliest of tones - whether our daughter could now have a swing.

"Piss oaff, foarr-eyes!" was the measured response. I was taken aback, I have to admit, but tried not to let it show.

"Oh, come on!" I smiled indulgently. "Surely there's room for a little one?" The leader eyed me slowly, then made a fearsome rasping sound in his throat - and proceeded to direct a gelatinous mass of phlegm from between two pursed lips, which landed squarely on the toe of my clean "Kickers".

"Piss oaff, foarr-eyes!" he repeated venomously.

"Right!" I snapped into teacher mode. "What are your names, and what school d'you go to?"

"None o' your effin' business, Simpy!" offered their second-in-command.

"What?" I demanded. "How did you know my name? And how did..." I was interrupted by Gail dragging me forcefully away.

"Come on, Morris, she urged frantically. "That's Tony McManaman and his cronies."

"You know them, Gail? But how...?"

"I know them because they were in Primary 6 last year. And they're coming into Primary 7 next year."

"What? At Rockston Primary?"

"Well where the hell d'you think they come from, for God's sake? Of course, they're from Rockston Primary. Why d'you think I want to job-share next year? Or retire, preferably!"

I sighed. Primary 7 next year. And first year at Greenfield the year after. Does the line stretch out to the crack of doom, I wonder?


I have decided that Gail deserves a holiday after all. This afternoon I announce a week-long booking for a caravan park in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

"Sorry?" Gail glanced up sharply. "What - and where - did you say, Morris?"

"A caravan. In Berwick-upon-Tweed. Chance to get away from it all!" I explained jovially.

"Well that's all very nice, Morris, but I'd anticipated somewhere warm. Somewhere with the sea lapping quietly on the beaches. Somewhere abroad."

"Well, it's abroad, all right," I confirmed. "It's in England, Gail! And it's at the sea-side. So two out of three's not bad, now is it?" She shuddered.

"And it'll give me time to swot up on all the educational reports that I'll need to be aware of when it comes time for my interview next term."

"You really think you've got much of a chance, Morris?" Gail beseeched me.

"Gail, m'dear," I assured her. "Now that I've got Ruth Lees in my pocket, I should think I'm practically guaranteed the job!" She muttered something about pride coming before a fall, and went to pack our suitcases. I think we're both ready for a break.

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