Slippery slope for modern martyr;Opinion

12th February 1999 at 00:00
In medieval times Mr Hasty might have been considered a martyr. Every Lent, Ginny's class teacher breaks, strains or twists a limb purely in the cause of professional integrity. Among his other duties Angus Hasty is the organiser of St Jude's annual skiing trip and quite possibly the world's worst winter athlete. Nevertheless each February he takes to the slopes in time-honoured, disastrous fashion. His pride is bound up getting a few hours of falling over in the snow per annum.

Although I can quite understand why certain companies will no longer insure Angus Hasty I have to admire him. Teachers get so few perks. Miners snaffle lumps of coal, BBC producers walk off with videotapes and cabinet ministers with their secretaries but teaching is a profession starved of freebies.

I can remember my mother's lament when my Dad retired. "You've never brought anything home!" This was odd because my father came back with a salary every month and piles of marking every weekend. As for chalk in the pockets he must have absent-mindedly transported a small Dover cliff in 35 years of teaching. But I do know why my mother felt unable to hold her head up among the other professional wives.

Perks have primitive significance. They tell the world we amount to more than just our salary. Indeed in medieval times an important man might expect to live wholly on the perquisites he received in office. The beauty of a perk is that you don't pay for it but you can take it without anyone batting an eyelid.

Yet what do teachers get? Walk out of the school gates with a blackboard or overhead projector and you're likely to find the police and caretaker in hot pursuit. Which is why the illicit side of my father's professional life amounted to little more than a box of paperclips, two unwanted copies of Teachers' World and a confiscated first edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover which had somehow never been returned to the precocious junior who smuggled it in.

And which is why we should salute The Martyr Hasty, a man who detests winter, jolly Tyrolean villages, air-sick nine-year-olds and plunging down an icy incline on two small pieces of wood of equal measure but who refuses to give up the annual school ski trip.

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