Save me a place at the Rover's

4th August 2000 at 01:00
A NUMBER of years ago I visited my private school pal in his posh house and found him watching Coronation Street with his mum. "It's so funny!" he claimed, which rather annoyed me. Coronation Street was my late granny's favourite programme. I knew it was rubbish but I didn't like upper middle class folk having a hoot at something that an honest pensioner in a council house in Cleland found entertaining.

It was only after I married and thereafter often found myself "not watching Coronation Street but often in the room when it was on" that I discovered how wrong I had been. First, it's not rubbish. Second, a lot of it is genuinely funny (I say, a lot of it is genuinely funny, Ashley lad!).

I wasn't in the room not watching Coronation Street on the penultimate Friday in June. Instead, I was pitching a tent in the middle of a sports field in East Kilbride. Our school had entered a team for the Cancer Research Campaign's Relay for Life, a 24-hour fund-raising event.

There were around a dozen of us, from teaching and support staff, with pretty well everyone else present spiritually as a sponsor. In a kind of Rover's Return egalitarianism, heidies walked with probationers, jannies with PTs. It was a time I felt particularly good, a time which made me hope that wouldn't be written out of the script in the foreseeable future.

Like many schools, our place seems to have a Coronation Street effect on unsociable tenants. Petite Duckworths, Mallets and Battersbys enter, establishing themselves as noisy, argumentative neighbours from hell with potential for havoc. After a time, they are getting the odd poignant storyline. Soon a good number are established mainstream characters, at ease with their fellow regulars, providing comic relief rather than confrontation. Of course this does not always happen, but it happens often enough to be significant.

The Coronation Street analogy breaks down when it comes to departure. Schools like to see pupils leave on a high note, ready to move on to their next stage in life. In soaps, expulsion rather than progression seems to be the norm, usually following a bizarre events such as baby snatching and an argument with a heavy goods vehicle. These plotlines seem to be big ratings winners and we wouldn't like our schools to be judged on ratings, would we?

Unlike Coronation Street, we have a summer break, but it will soon be time to tune in again to stories to make us laugh and cry, as Fred Elliott might say twice.

Gregor Steele would probably be pals with Roy and Curly.


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