Scandal of the school for socks

3rd November 2006 at 00:00
I can tell what stage of the term we're at by the state of my sock drawer.

At the beginning of the year I buy lots of new socks and tights. They're keen, new and tidy. They look excited to meet new feet and discover a whole new world.

Once they've been washed, they're no longer the new socks on the block. You can't tell them anything. You just have to be firm and hope they'll behave.

And don't even try to keep up with all the partner-swapping. I'm almost past caring about lost socks.

Look, you do your job and the rest is up to them. You can prepare the drawer nicely, make it interesting for them, make them feel valued, but in the end if they want to cause trouble, they will. No matter how hard you try, you can't reach every sock in the drawer.

Half-term usually yields a prodigal sock. There's time to wash things properly and follow up every incident. At least one will come crawling back. It realises that although it may be boring in one of your drawers, it's a soggy, lonely world outside it. It'll come back to be with its friends.

Socks and tights know when it's a parents' evening. All the socks hide and all the tights shrink. You can try to remember what worked in the past or try meeting them half-way but you're wasting your time. If they want to cause trouble, they will - especially if they know you're nervous.

Tights are the worst for this. You can try to take control of them by stretching them on your arms or thwapping them on the bed. You can pull them on slowly, hoping they'll reward your patience. Or whip them on in one dashing manoeuvre. All equally pointless. Nothing works.

The fact is, if you are facing a 14-hour day with lots of smiling, your tights will know. They will twist around one thigh in a subtly maddening way - just enough to make you concentrate on walking normally but not so much that you'll actually do anything to put it right. This low-level disruption is actually the worst, never quite bad enough to merit permanent exclusion but just enough to wear you down.

I did once have a really loveable pair of black tights. Still think of them sometimes. I explained the rules once and they never tried to get round me.

We were a natural team, at our best on open days.

Just knowing that I've had that, once, almost makes all the others worthwhile.

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