The final week of the Christmas term rarely heralds much academic endeavour at Greenfield Academy, and 2010 is proving no exception, with DVDs and board games now making regular classroom appearances. At least 4C has taken last month's Remembrance Services and my subsequent study of war poetry to heart. Charlie Connelly asked today if he could bring in his games console to play something called Call of Duty, which he described as a "really serious examination of the `pity of war' ."
I acquiesced, although I explained that I would be bringing in Boggle, a game designed to challenge linguistic dexterity: "And I bet I'll have more people wanting to play Boggle than Call of Duty, Charlie."
Meanwhile, Frank O'Farrell is furious at the latest bundle of council leaflets in our staffroom.
"Look at this lot!" he brandished the authority newsletter aloft. "A forest's worth of paper to tell us what cuts they're making across the council next year - when, in my opinion, the first thing they could cut is this ruddy newsletter, especially sending 40 copies here, only to be recycled without being ." He tailed off, a thought obviously coming to mind: "In fact," he continued, "I think I'll recycle them now - by taking them back to county offices and dumping them at reception with a returns label from Greenfield Academy, saying we don't want these, thank you very much."
And he did so right away. I thought it was a splendid idea, even if I did advise him that I'd have put the sender's name as St Ainsley's, our neighbouring denominational school .
Margaret, our 14-year-old daughter, has announced that she wants a "pair of Uggs" for her Christmas present. I had to ask Gail for elucidation over breakfast, and was shocked at the pound;150 price tag: "For a pair of furry boots, Gail? She's got to be joking."
Gail shrugged. "We're spending the same on Fraser's train set," she reminded me.
"Ah, but that's different," I reminded her. "That's a train set."
She shot me a look of withering contempt.
School was a bit of a nightmare. Charlie Connelly's Call of Duty: Black Ops game, far from being a respectful tribute to Second World War veterans, turned out to be a fearsomely violent "first-person shooter" (as I believe they're termed), which is entirely suitable for those adolescents with a burning desire to commit violent acts without fear of reprisal. Unfortunately I discovered its addictive qualities for myself, after Charlie offered me a shot.
Thus it was that Madeleine Nichol, our faculty head, witnessed me displaying every aggressive tendency known to man, as I blasted several Vietnamese soldiers to kingdom come, while some of the quieter children in the class were getting on with a game of Boggle behind my back. It was clear that she was appalled by the images of bloodshed that she saw on screen, and announced she would be taking matters further, as she considered the game unsuitable for classroom use.
In all truth, she's probably right. But I must say I enjoyed myself, and I think my credibility with 4C has been enhanced immensely after I registered 14 kills in as many minutes!
Our head, Mrs Slater, has written to all parents urging that 18-rated video games should not be brought into school. Indeed, she went further, saying that she recommended that parents should consider seriously whether pupils under the age of 18 should be bought such gifts for Christmas. At least Madeleine Nichol has kept quiet about my involvement yesterday - it looks like the season of goodwill has extended to my normally over- critical line manager.
Meanwhile, Margaret has raised the odds in the Christmas present stakes, having announced today that she would prefer a pair of "Jimmy Choo Uggs", which are apparently an even more excessively priced pair of furry boots, coming in at pound;500!
The final day of term witnessed a furious visit from Mr Connelly to Mrs Slater's office. Obviously I wasn't present at the meeting, but one of the office ladies happened to hear much of it through the doorway, and explained that Mr Connelly had taken our headteacher to task for "daring tae suggest whit kinda presents ah should gie ma weans! It's bloody well Christmas, an' ah'll buy them whit ah bloody well want!"
And our staff visit from the council's public relations supremo was just about as friendly. They'd obviously taken unkindly to Frank O'Farrell's deposit of newsletters, so Mr Leacock had been sent along to reprimand us, and to explain why public relations are more vital than ever at a time of cuts, viz. to explain why things are being cut!
Frankly, he treated us with all the sensitivity that was evident when they sent round threatening letters about non-attendance during the heavy snow of recent weeks, and our whole experience this term has left us viewing the activities of Ebenezer Scrooge as a model of benevolent employment practice, compared with our local council!
A trip into town to let Fraser - now four - visit Santa took me away from the pettiness of school life; but it witnessed further teenage present demands. Margaret was on about the Uggs again, as we stood in the Santa queue, and I was standing firm about the Jimmy Choo ones - at which point I realised they had been a negotiating tactic, because she rapidly lowered her demands to the "normal" ones.
"And if you don't get them?" I looked fondly down at her.
Her face hardened, as she rose slightly on tiptoe to whisper in my ear. "If I don't get the Uggs, I'm telling Fraser that Santa's not for real, and he should pull this one's beard to prove it."
I froze, looked at Fraser, agog with excitement, and remembered his sister in the same position only ten years ago. How quickly she seems to have grown up .