Never mind, the tea's fab

11th December 1998 at 00:00
IT'S AN ego thing, pure and simple: I love getting a reaction to anything I write, though if the reaction was "submit all future pieces to headquarters for scrutiny" I might think differently.

Recently I was delighted to learn that my Phil Harrass column on calculating the School Characteristic Index by counting the number of earrings greatly offended the daughter of our head of support for learning. Further back, I was chuffed when a TES Scotland contributor picked up on my somewhat limited success as a BBC sketchwriter and wrote of the contrast between her past life as a teacher and her new role as an ab-fab freelancer.

Did I really give the impression that I was nobly continuing with teaching instead of raking it in as the new Ben Elton?

During the summer holidays I got a call from a script editor asking if I would like to come in to meet the producers of a new radio show to which I had contributed some ideas. They wanted to put a face to the material, they said.

Like Billy Liar I headed for the railway station, part of me running into fantasy overdrive. Though I never got to the stage of composing a resignation letter, the over-imaginative area of my brain had plenty to say about a parallel career.

My taste of ab-fab turned out to be a cup of tea in the Queen Margaret Drive cafeteria in the company of a man who had helped bring Mason Boyne to our screens (we're not worthy!) and a woman who had been involved in the show Is It Bill Bailey? (we're definitely not worthy!). They had some helpful advice on how to improve the material I had sent and on the comedy topics that had potential and those to avoid. On the way home my practical side took over and I began to think through the script changes.

My practical side is quite generous in that way, like the supervisor who allows an immature PhD student to do a lot of mucking about, peripheral to the business in hand, in the knowledge that something new and good might just come out of it.

I still cannot decide which side won when I first thought of teaching as a career. Some friends told me I was the sort of person the kids would take the piss out of. They could find evidence that they were correct.

Perhaps I had a fantasy that I could teach, one that became a reality through good luck, nice schools and supportive colleagues. Dinna ken. But our staffroom tea's several orders of magnitude better than the stuff you get at the BBC.

To date Gregor Steele has had precisely 44 seconds of sketch material broadcast.

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