Short on smiles as Easter bunnies reveal a dark side
I decided to start the week with 1N by sharing Mother's Day experiences and kicked the ball off by explaining how I'd bought my wife a bunch of flowers and helped our children select appropriate gifts for Gail, before taking her out for an overpriced meal in an overcrowded restaurant.
"So how did the rest of you spend the day?" I enquired. Silence prevailed until Samuel Smyth explained that he had given his mother some chocolates, and was allowed to break his Lenten chocolate fast on account of, he explained, "Mothering Sunday also being known as Refreshment Sunday in the Church's calendar, when those of us denying ourselves for Lent are allowed to relax the restrictions slightly."
"Fascinating," I nodded my head, before returning to the topic in hand. "What about anyone else? Did anyone's mother get a really interesting present?"
Chanel Butcher's hand shot up, and I seized the chance to encourage one of our most difficult pupils. "Chanel?"
"Ma mother's boayfriend goat her a rabbit," she said.
"How delightful!" I exclaimed. "Has she given it a name? Does it sleep outside or inside?"
Chanel wrinkled her nose. "How'dye mean, Sur?"
"Well, does it have a hutch, for example? Or is it a house rabb ..."
"Aw, naw, Sur. No a rabbit. Ah meant she goat a rabbit! A 'Rampant Rabbit'! Frae Ann Summers, the sex sh ..."
"Yes, yes, stop there, Chanel!" I interrupted in shock as half of the class burst into uproar, while the other half looked distinctly puzzled. Especially Sam Smyth.
I cut discussion short, and moved on to a close reading exercise instead.
Rosemary Slater was looking tired as I passed her in the corridor this morning, so I made comment.
"Mmm," she responded: "I was at a headteachers' meeting at the council offices yesterday. It was enough to drive you to drink."
"They're on the warpath about Education Scotland coming in with inspections that won't grade above 'satisfactory' if we're trying to introduce National 5 choices at the end of second year, so they were laying it on the line about that. Then they were reminding us that we can't break national and council procurement policy by ordering stationery from local suppliers who offer us better prices on better-quality products than those being supplied by the English contractor who was awarded the contract and takes three days longer to deliver. Then they insisted that any school trying to order textbooks directly from publishers rather than through the approved supplier would face a clawback on per capita.
"Honestly, Morris! I love my school, I've got great staff, the kids are mostly great as well, and I try to do my best in line with what I think's best for the place. But I go to the council's head offices believing they're going to give us assistance and support to that end - and I come back thinking they're trying to do the exact opposite, and wanting to kill somebody instead!"
"Did you tell them how you felt?"
She gave me a sceptical look. "Are you joking? I've got a pension to think about!"
Chanel's mother is coming in to see me tomorrow as part of the strategy we agreed at parents' evening to improve her daughter's behaviour. For understandable reasons after Monday's revelations, I'm a little apprehensive about meeting her again.
Mrs Butcher arrived dressed to the hilt in low-cut blouse and tight skirt, in evident hope of meeting our Adonis-like PE teacher, Brian Lindsay. She looked positively crestfallen when I explained he was at Rockston Primary today.
"Thatsh too bad," she slurred awkwardly, mouth distorted.
"Hmmm," I narrowed my eyes, wondering if drink had been taken. "So, how do you think Chanel's doing?" I queried.
"Eh ... itsh chicky fur meety shay, Mishter Shimsvun," she slurred again.
"I'm sorry, Mrs Butcher, but I can't understand what you're saying, and ..."
She looked up angrily, put her hand to her mouth and suddenly removed an upper set of false teeth. "Ach, ah knew it wouldny wurk!" she explained, her gum glistening damply. "Ah broke ma toap plate thish morning, sho theshe ur ma shishter's."
The rest of the meeting passed in a haze. The only thing I remember her saying was: "Pleashe don't tell Mistur Lindshay about ma falshies. OK, Mistur Shimpshon?"
I assured her of my complete discretion in the matter. And almost thought to add similar assurance about her Mother's Day present at the same time.
I can hardly wait for the Easter holidays. And I feel suitably prepared for them now, having accepted Sam Smyth's invitation to join the Scripture Union's "Easter Anticipation" meeting at lunchtime.
It has been a long time since I sang Kumbaya, and it was particularly touching to hear the group's prayers, for "all of the teaching staff here, who do so much in enabling us to become confident citizens and responsible individuals", at which reflective moment I decided it would be inappropriate to correct the phraseology. I am sure the Good Lord knew what was intended anyway.
I must say, the whole affair left me with a spring in my step as I set off to face the third year - although I have to confess that during the singing of "All things bright and beautiful" I kept thinking of the Easter bunny - and I couldn't get that damned Mrs Butcher out of my head.