Life begins again at fiftysomething

25th July 1997 at 01:00
We thought we would never hear the end of it. Our fiftysomething head of biology was in a bar when a young girl accosted him. "You look a bit like Sean Connery," she said. "Fancy coming home to tuck me in?" Those of you who know Douglas may doubt this actually happened, but there were witnesses. Apparently the temptress only gave up when she realised she used to go out with his son.

It all rather went to Douglas's head and he spent the following term working on a speech defect. "Pash the shalt, Mish Moneypenny." His ever-supportive colleagues were less kind. Gags abounded along the lines of: "You're a shight for shore eyesh, Douglash."

But we will hear the end of it because Douglas has handed in his licence to teach. Along with 10 others in the school, he has taken early retirement. No more will classes be treated to mildly risque jokes about dwarfs in nudist camps or giraffes strolling into cocktail bars.

New staff will be spared his seemingly endless stream of anecdotes, the best of which was about a female biology teacher and a chimpanzees' tea party. (It's a school trip to the zoo. Staff are wandering through the grounds when a young lady notices they are approaching the chimps. "I used to work here," she says, "helping with the tea party." One great ape has his back to her. "It's Charlie!" she cries. "I wonder if he remembers me? Charlie! Charlie!" Charlie wheels round. He is obviously in a state of sexual excitement. The chimp lopes rapidly on three limbs towards the side of his cage where he presses against the bars and makes kissy faces. Douglas and the others are hysterical. Come to think of it, I'm sure most teachers have, at some time in their careers, been able to relate to the embarrassed biologist, the helpless onlookers and - albeit in a metaphorical sense - the exhibitionist chimp.) My own principal teacher has also retired. More John Steed than James Bond, Lambert was always unflappable. I cannot recall a cross word from him in 13 years as a member of his department. He "went" a month before the end of term and a week later we got a postcard describing how he was watching the sun go down over the sea from the window of a caravan at Ledaig. Lambert deserved it, but he didn't have to rub it in.

I have to admit to having mixed feelings about the mass of recent departures. Popping up in this space almost as often as eulogies to Skoda and Triumph cars has been a complaint that newly qualified teachers cannot find long-term work. As more staff are going than there are surplus posts, this should improve.

Good. But let's not put abroad the idea that, by means of massive bribes, a lot of dead wood has been cleared. A wealth of talent and experience has gone caravanning, hill-walking and fishing and we will all feel the loss.

Some councils have apparently stated that they will not employ their own recent retirees as supply teachers. As a result, supply teachers from other councils have been lured across borders. Council A retires scores of teachers and pulls in cover from council B. Council B now has a shortage of supply, but there are all these people with time on their hands in council A . . . Perhaps they wave at one another as they pass in opposite directions.

What a shtrange shituation, ash big Sean might shay.

Gregor Steele's retired rector says he will continue to read The TES Scotland "in the public library, to keep warm".

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