School Diary - Goodbye dignity, hello pain and paper pants

16th July 2010 at 01:00


It's been good to escape school life for a few weeks. Today saw our return from a family theatre break to London, where The Lion King had captivated both Margaret - nearly 14 - and Fraser, 4, alike.

Our return to Scotland was slightly marred by an overcrowded train, as well as the nausea that Gail experienced because of the tilting mechanism as it negotiated the curves north of the border. However, her embarrassment at being train-sick was nothing compared with mine, when I visited the large curved-door toilet at the carriage-end.

Having carefully selected the button to "Close Door", I watched impatiently as it hissed slowly shut, then lowered my trousers to sit down. Unfortunately, I was under the mistaken impression that I had also locked the door, a fallacy that became apparent when Fraser attempted to follow me by pressing the "Open" button from outside, thus revealing my discomfiture - and more besides - to a highly amused group of teenagers standing in the corridor.

Things got worse as I leapt up to press the "Close" button - never a wise move with one's trousers round one's knees - and ricked my back as I clattered to the floor.

It seemed a long way to Glasgow after that .


Our "holiday proper" begins on Friday with a week in Ibiza, where I shall have to keep Margaret on a pretty tight leash if everything I've seen on TV documentaries is to be believed.

Alas, today's plans to visit the west coast for a paddle steamer trip down the Clyde were thwarted after the ship had an accident when it tried an unsuccessful docking manoeuvre which represented, in educational terms, poor articulation of one module with another. Our trip was duly cancelled, but it was probably just as well as my back is playing up and I spent most of the day on the bedroom floor.


Popped into school to pick up some Curriculum for Excellence work I want to take on holiday. I was surprised to meet depute head Kevin Muir, a grimace on his face.

"I'm bloody fed up," he explained. "I've been in here every week since June and I still haven't got the timetable sorted."

"But we'd started it in June?"

"Well, we did, but don't you remember the chaos it caused? It's this new management information system the council's installed. The new system won't talk properly to the old one, so half the data entry isn't loaded when I pull the timetable together - and it's only a manual check that reveals how half of S1 is supposed to be in two different classes at the same time, while the other half hasn't got a class at all.

"I'm thinking of going back to pen and paper, like I did ten years ago - although God help any new depute who's not been trained in the old ways ."

Gosh. And I thought technology was supposed to make life simpler.


My back went into spasm last night, rendering me completely immobile, and I find myself in a hospital bed this morning, dictating these words into a hand-held recorder for transcription. The doctors have decided it's a reawakening of a long-term complaint, with urgent investigative surgery a necessity. Tomorrow.

Needless to say, this throws our holiday plans into disarray, but I made the noble gesture at afternoon visiting time of offering to let the rest of the family go without me.

The offer was accepted with alacrity by Margaret and slightly less enthusiasm by Gail who, understandably, views the prospect of seven days in Ibiza with a hormonal 13-year-old and a tantrum-disposed four-year-old with some misgivings.

However, there was little else to be done, and I assured them that my parents would do the visiting, then let them all hug me farewell. It was a pity that Fraser's embrace was quite so enthusiastic, as he jumped forcefully on top of me: I don't think I've ever realised just how high a pain threshold can be .


My surgery went well, although I still feel tender as I dictate these notes. And I was mightily embarrassed as I was coming round from my anaesthetic.

To explain, my nether regions were becoming increasingly irritated by the discomfort of surgical-issue paper pants that are apparently de rigueur for operative procedures. A very attractive nurse noticed me wriggling awkwardly, and asked, "Is there a problem, Mr Simpson, sir?"

Still drowsy, I blushed slightly, and confessed: "It's these paper pants, nurse. They're hell of an uncomfortable, and - maybe you could get a male nurse to come and take them off for me?"

"Oh, a male nurse won't be necessary, Mr Simpson. I won't be seeing anything I haven't seen before. Although in your particular case that's not strictly true - I don't think I ever envisaged this when I was doing my Higher English!"

I'd have sat bolt upright if I could! It was every teacher's worst nightmare as I stared at her badge and realised that the nurse who was about to remove my paper pants was Tanya Thomas, a Greenfield Academy leaver of 2007, whose hospital work experience programme in fourth year has been long recorded for posterity, with the prospect of "workin' wi' a lot of men's tackle" being one of the more memorable work experience objectives to be submitted.

She whipped back the bedclothes and removed the pants with alacrity. "There you are, Mr Simpson," she announced brusquely. "Nothing to be frightened of. Now, d'you think you'd like a bed bath?"

"No!" I shouted rather too loudly. "Er, rather: no thank you, Tanya. Just my pyjama bottoms please ."

What a holiday. I wonder if I can claim these days back as sick leave when the new term starts? At least that would make it all seem worthwhile.

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