Return to sender . . .

6th August 2004 at 01:00
I remember the Perry Como show when I was a wee girl, and the catchy tune they played when it came to the postbag slot. Here I am back at St Pats, trying to catch up with all the mail that has arrived since we broke up for the holidays. Please don't let there be anything from the priest. I had seen quite enough of him, in more ways than one, when we had our little nautical adventure on Naturiski.

Letter from the Office. It tells me that the new area officer replacing ER, of blessed memory, is to be Marjorie Dawes. No! Old See-Saw herself. The vamp of the college, the Lunch-pack of Notre Dame in person. She scraped through college, had what we used to call "a fling" with at least two of the lecturers and was invariably late with assignments and projects.

She had taught for all of two terms, and not very successfully at that, before a mysterious "illness" forced her departure for sunnier climes. She had returned to these shores some time later, complete with degree, diamonds, daughter, different accent and designer wardrobe. She was now Marj, and was here to keep all us mere mortals on the path to academic excellence. Would she remember me? Unlikely.

The next epistle was from Staffing. My new probationer was to be an Elspeth McDonald - from Glencoe. Before my nuptials, I was Bridget Campbell, so we should get on famously. It never ceases to amaze me that a vital part of my team arrives on the basis of college reports and a five-minute interview with people who don't know our school, our kids or our needs. This girl will have a crucial role in my school and I wouldn't know her from Adam.

Enlightened thinking.

An offer from a crisp company for sports equipment. Irony or what? Pile on the pounds, and then get pounds off your next trampoline and set of goalposts. Who's kidding who?

Free water for your staff. Litres of chilled mountain fresh water in the staffroom. It might go down well on a Monday morning - we'll see.

Letter from SEED. New glossy statistical report. Telling figures, indeed, Professor. Three-quarters of schools in Scotland have magnolia emulsion on the walls of their P2 classrooms. This report has been sent to at least 3,000 people for the price of employing another three teachers in an area of great need. Never mind the teaching, look at the quality of the paper and the pictures.

It'll soon be launch time again. Minister, can you look this way, please, smile now. Don't get too near that wee boy, Minister. Too late. Word to minder - special shampoo needed.

Freebie from a new school photography company. No thanks. We're quite happy with old George and his diaries, posters and key-rings.

Bank statement. OK.

Letters from unions. New pay scales.

Complaint from Mrs Robertson about allocation of classes - again. She didn't listen to my fantastic little speech about composite classes. She didn't like Mary (the teacher) and had this fuss when Susan, her eldest, was about to go into her class. She's convinced her little Karen is a child prodigy, and is destined for the Royal Ballet School. How can she possibly thrive in a class of 24 with those children from "those houses"? Put to one side, Bridget.

Postcard from Jennie. Having a wonderful time in Millport. Poor Jennie. I went there once. It was closed.

Strange letter in a brown envelope. No stamp. Wobbly handwriting. "Dear Mrs McElroy, I have to inform you that Jimmy and Kenny will not be coming back to school in August. Their father has moved in with one of your teachers and we're going back to live at my mum's house for a while." Fine. Ethos? Dignity? Honour? Mission?

Finally a copy of a letter sent to the head of support services. It was obviously written on a piece of jotter paper, as the lines were showing on the copy. "Dear Sir Madam, My man and I bought two tickets for the rollover Lottery last night and we won a big prize. I now no longer need to work, and so it gives me great pleasure to tell you that you can stick your jannie's job up your ****. Please accept this as my formal notice of resignation.

"PS: I've nothing against the school or Mrs McElroy. She's a nice lassie, and means well."

Damned with faint praise. I meant well.

Where am I going to get a jannie at this short notice? Help! Just then the phone rang. It was Marj. She wanted to visit later in the week, as part of her induction.

I could see it now. Father McGregor, come in - meet Marj. Marj, meet Gillian, she's just moved in with one of our dads. Gillian meet Elspeth, our new colleague. Elspeth meet me - I used to be a Campbell.

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