Line-up of mugs in a brew-haha

24th November 2006 at 00:00
A life in the year of Emily Shark

atahualpa the Peruvian snail survived, and also found love, which is nice.

His dramatic loss of appetite was not my fault. Joe says he was pining for Frieda, a Mexican beauty with black stripes. I would like to see their children. I'm glad Joe's snail did not die, but I'm now mourning a small loss of my own. My favourite mug has gone.

I know it's only a mug. But it's new and sunlit blue with a pattern like a kelp forest. Its bumpy handle is really comfortable, as bumpy handles usually aren't, and it has a little fishy design inside so I can pretend I'm snorkelling every time I've finished my tea. Perhaps it's too nice for school. But what are you supposed to do: get a mug that says "I eat horses"

or "Mouth ulcers are great"?

There will be other mugs. But there is just a twinge of regret for the future we never shared. If you lose a mug after a year, then at least you remember the good times. It soothed you during horrible phone calls with Mrs Trellis. It calmed you before double lessons with 9Z on Friday afternoon. You shrug fondly over a store of memories. Sadly, that blue mug never had a chance to become truly mine.

My search is making breaktimes more fun, though. I've been circling my colleagues for more than a week now, hoping I'll catch one of them with my mug. If I do, I'll move in with a swift "Ah, there it is" and a wide smile that says, "I'm not a nutter, I have got a life, and now I've got a mug too." The muggee will never sense the depths of my dark, possessive joy. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm still not ready to sigh and move on. I know it's out there somewhere.

And I'm learning some strange things about my colleagues. Steven Glape washes mugs before he uses them but not afterwards. Jennifer Boney slits open Jammie Dodgers with a ruler and Marian Frond sniffs teabags. Richard Spatley mumbles when he's reading the jobs pages. And Mr Felix picks his nose with fearful symmetry, one thumb for each side, as he sits by the computers ignoring the phone. Mr Felix is the pinstriped mystery of the science department. No one knows his first name.

Then there is Melinda Sleam, our head of schadenfreude. She's not actually head of anything, of course - just very good at reinforcing insecurites.

"Really? That class is great for me, no trouble at all," she flutes to a hollow-eyed newly qualified teacher. I'd never noticed before just how small Melinda's bites are. It makes me want to stuff that jaffa cake down in one scary gulp, just to show her how it should be done.

The sea of school life is spangled with many mysteries. My mug quest may be doomed, but I'm enjoying the glimpses I'm getting along the way of how my colleagues look below the surface.

Emily's adventures continue in a fortnight

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