Removal of hats on prats

23rd April 2004 at 01:00
Please remove your hat!" I say at the start of every lesson to Furnace, Crumlin and Mania. About a thousand times a week. "Liberties!" mutters Crumlin.

They take them off. I turn round and put Aims of Lesson on the non-interactive blackboard. I turn back. Crumb's hat is back on. He mutters about human rights. I mutter about school rules. He takes it off. I scrawl on board. I turn round. It's back on. "Hat!" Off. On. "Hat!" Off. On.

"Hat!" Off. On. "Hat!"

For this I specialised in 18th-century prose? I don't do Starters anymore.

I do Removal of Hats. They wear all kinds. Skew-whiff baseball caps or tea cosies or hoods. Furnace sometimes does all three. He resembles a Hammer Horror mad monk. "Hat! Hat! Hat!" I go before we get down to his number one crop.

Dillywig is currently sporting a pirate's scarf, a sort of desert sand number - late Beckham. It looks fantastically daft. But I'm worried about mocking it. It might be his new religion. Last week Attila Dervish wore a huge woolly number on his dreadlocks. It was rather splendid.

But rules are rules. "Hat!"

"My religion!" he said. "Rastafari!" Fair cop. Various specious faiths mushroom overnight. Mania flaunts similar woolly number on his shaved pate.

"Hat!" "Sorry sir. Religion!" Ho bloody ho. The church of the Holy Fools? I couldn't care less what Mania puts on his brains: tricorne, 10 gallon, periwig, pork pie, fedora, wig of judge or feathers of Apache. A burkha on his bonce might improve his gargoyle visage. Or a paper bag. I just don't want to be this Dress Code Cop.

Can't we have hat check girls in the foyer? But they would need checking too. They might not wear hats but some don't wear much else. So there's a new school rule. More and longer clothes. You can't look like Christina Aguilera or the Sugababes anymore. Probably a good rule but I don't like policing it.

Maybe school uniform is the answer - like mine in the 1950s. But we too larked about with our appearance. With our hair - sideburns, kiss curl, Duck's Arse, Wild Willie Harris, embryo Lennon - and we were sent to Matron for a short back and Molesworth. But also with our hats. Our caps went askew, reverse, akimbo. Or fell off.

"You boy! Whitwham!" barked headteacher Tucker waving a stick."'Where's your hat?"

That's it! Make it compulsory. Confuse them. I must choose my moment. "You boy, Mania. Where's your hood? Detention!"

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