Loud and messy? Must be the staff do

27th June 2008 at 01:00
It's three-line whip time
It's three-line whip time. The end-of-term staff do is compulsory. It is also a compromise: prepare to pay to eat and drink in an establishment where you wouldn't otherwise be seen dead.

I have been to some great bashes and many dire ones. After skittles at Dunbar, everyone in convivial form, our bus backs in to a west end enclave of North Berwick. This is so upmarket that it's almost a gated community. The bus does a three-point turn over manicured lawns and its door opens. To the sound of discordant singing and raucous mirth, a teacher is decanted. As loud and repeated cries of "good night" and "can I see you home?" rend the fragrant air, the residents wonder why the rugby club is making unscheduled deliveries at this hour.

Climbing the front of Jenner's building in Edinburgh is a good post-prandial trick if you can do it. The urban myth, or true story, says that there was scaffolding up at the time and the teacher was brought down safely. Then there was the chap who fell out of the venue into the gutter of the Grassmarket in the capital to hear the words: "Hello sir."

There are teachers who like to be tucked up in bed by 11pm. Then there are those whose social lives are enlivened by clubbing and punctuated by stag and hen nights. Firstly, the twain shall meet. Everyone dines together, then the young, lovely and adventurous go on elsewhere. The worst scenario is where some older ones decide to be cool, too. Their dancing can be a total embarrassment.

The most off-putting aspect of some end-of-session dinners is their compulsory nature. If you don't attend, there must be something wrong with you. Ignore it at your peril. At the end, an element of guilt comes into play. Dear Miss Auld, beloved of all, is retiring after half a century at the chalkface. Now let your conscience be your guide.

One way to avoid the do is to play the dog card. The dog of convenience can be an effective get-out. This animal cannot be left without its owner who considers himherself to be its parent. Without a dependent canine, you're going along and that's that.

Quite the most contentious aspect of the evening is the bill. Everyone is waiting to go. The waitress has given the maths teacher a printout a metre long. He adds on the tip and divides by 47. There is a reaching for wallets, scooping up of handbags and scraping of seats.

Then a lone voice is heard crying in the wilderness. Not only did this person have no wine, but the diner next to her had steak, supplement pound;5. You may as well all sit down again. It's going to be a long night.

Then another voice pipes up. Apparently, in some schools, the headteacher pays for the wine. By the simple expedient of ignoring it, the head deals with this subversive remark. However, she decides that next year the division of the bill will be like the school lottery syndicate. Fair to vegetarians and teetotallers alike, it will be decided in advance and posted in writing on the staffroom noticeboard.

The holidays cannot come soon enough.

Anne Cowan is a writer.

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