Stop the bus, I want to get off

6th December 1996 at 00:00

Monday: There has been more trouble over the school bus arrangements. I'm sick of getting complaints from parents, complaints from the bus company, and now complaints from the general travelling public who, if reports are to be believed, have been suffering appalling indignities at the hands of some of our pupils.

It hadn't surprised me to learn that Kevin Elliott and Michael Richardson - banned from using the official school service for four weeks, because of their instigatory role in last month's attempt to topple their transport home - had been causing trouble on the normal service (a minor matter, they claimed, of smoking on the lower deck). What had upset me, however, was that a gang of first-year girls - girls, mark you! - had ambushed and terrorised an old-age pensioner whose only crime had been to ask them to mind their manners as they decanted en masse from a number 14, having missed their official transport for the third time last week.

"Ach, sur!" protested Rosie McShane, as I interrogated her about the matter. "We wurny daein' anythin' tae the old bag until she started layin' intae us about pushin' an' shovin'."

"But you shouldn't have done anything to the old ba - I mean, to the lady in question, Rosie. She was quite correctly pointing out that a modicum of manners and a demonstration of decorum would be more in keeping with the deportment required of young ladies when alighting from public transport."

Rosie looked bewildered. "Ye what, sur?" "Oh, never mind, Rosie. What I mean is that there can be no excuse - no excuse, you understand - for six 12-year-old girls encircling a petrified pensioner of 74 years and closing in with the points of their umbrellas. D'you understand that, Rosie?" She shrugged, and clearly couldn't have cared less. It's time something was done about this bus business, and I'm going to say as much to Ruth Lees, to see if she can come up with a management solution. After all, it's what she's supposed to be paid for.

Tuesday: Mr Pickup was furious this morning about the latest round of thefts from his stationery cupboard.

"My God," he muttered between clenched teeth at morning break, "if I could catch the little bugger who's been filching reams of paper and bubblejet cartridges, I'd string him from the rafters. Here we are struggling to make ends meet, with hardly enough cash to buy one book between three pupils, yet since August I've lost the equivalent of a quarter of my stationery requisition to some thieving little toe-rag who's probably flogging it to finance his ruddy glue sniffing or his crack dealing! It's too bloody bad, Morris."

I thought he was being a little melodramatic, and was about to say so, but found myself stifling a yawn instead.

I rubbed a bleary eye. "Gosh, sorry. Margaret was awake and crying for most of last night."

Pickup was clearly happy to move on to cheerier matters. "And how is the little cherub?" I explained that "little cherub" wasn't the description I'd have used as I paced around the bedroom floor at 3 o'clock this morning, but Pickup wasn't having any of it.

"One of the joys of parenthood, Morris," he assured me. "And how about the name? Any movement yet?" "Nope." I pursed my lips as I remembered our acronymically careless selection of forenames for our child of four weeks. "We'd told too manypeople by the time you pointed it out last month; anyway, Gail and I are still very happy with both our choices, and we can't get rid of Gail's mother's name, now that she's so happy about it. So Margaret Elizabeth Saunders Simpson she remains. I don't think it'll matter, Pickup." I tried to assure him. "Nobody will ever put the initials together like that."

He just raised his eyebrows. "Probably not, Morris," he agreed without any conviction. "Probably not."

Wednesday: Bryce bloody Wallace is a smug little know-it-all. Pardon my language, but I've had just about enough of his supercilious attitude, which has been painfully apparent ever since I took over teaching the top English Higher section, of which Mr Smartypants Wallace just happens to be a prominent member. Not content with questioning every grade I choose to award his essays, and eyeing me with a baleful, not to mention reproachful, stare every time I offer a literary analysis of whatever text we happen to be studying, he has now announced his intention of changing the subject of his review of personal reading. At this stage in the proceedings, for heaven's sake!

"But I thought you didn't like my choice of RPR authors," he said, affecting a wounded reproach as we discussed it after today's lesson.

"Well, I didn't, Bryce, you're quite right," I confirmed, "but it's really rather late to be amending your entire RPR, isn't it? And who d'you want to do it on now, anyway?" "Iain Banks," he affirmed promptly. "I think he's got a more comprehensive oeuvre than Kelman or Welsh. Don't you, sir?" he enquired with all of the sarcasm at his disposal.

I parried brilliantly, though I say so myself. "Debatable, really, in my view, Bryce," I informed him grandly, before stretching into the deepest recesses of my brain for some up-to-date literary references. "It's quite a coincidence you choosing him, though, because for my own part I've been reading quite a bit of that Iain M Banks recently. Now, there's an author for you. I'm not sure if there's any connection between him and the chappy that you're wanting to do, but - " "I think there is, sir," Wallace cut in icily, and with what I can only describe as a withering gaze. "In fact, they're one and the same person, sir. One's the name he uses for science fiction, sir, and one's the name he uses for other work," he informed me snottily. "Sir."

It was that final "sir" - the fifth in the exchange - which got right up my nose, to be honest, but I don't think I let it show, and concluded the conversation by letting Wallace realise that I'd just been testing his knowledge - before nipping off to Mrs Kirby in the school library to check that he was correct. Unfortunately he was . . .

Thursday: Ms Lees has responded to my suggestion that we deal with discipline on the buses by putting me in charge of security at the bus pick-up points outside the school. The way she explained it at first, it seemed that she was offering me an opportunity to follow up my own initiative and that this would be a task which would give me hands-on experience at "the front" before I submit a report to the senior management team with my recommendations. I was particularly struck with her suggestion that I should make recommendations to the senior management team, and - to be honest - I reckoned it sounded like a glowing opportunity for promotion. However, I was brought down to earth by Mr Pickup's assessment of the situation when I shared the news with him at afternoon interval.

"Let me get this right," he insisted pedantically. "You suggested to Ruth Lees that we needed more supervision when kids are getting on the buses?" "That's right," I agreed.

"And, as a result, she's putting you in charge of the bus queues?" "Well, I suppose you could put it like that, but really there's a lot more to it than -" "Morris," he put his hand on my shoulder in avuncular fashion. "You've been shafted. Ess-aitch-ey-eff-tee-ee-dee," he kindly spelled the word lest I hadn't fully understood.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm as eager as the next man - or woman, come to that - to get these problems on the buses sorted out as quickly as possible. However, on mature reflection, I think Pickup was probably correct: I've been well and truly shafted. And not for the first time, either . . .

Friday: This has been an exhausting week. There has been the usual round of disciplinary indiscretions to deal with, plus the larger issue of school transport chaos, not to mention the self-righteous and irritating smugness of Bryce Wallace. On top of all that, of course, has been the nightly torture of trying to get Margaret to sleep. While applauding Gail's decision to choose whichever method of feeding she feels most comfortable with, I have to confess a secret desire that she would persevere with breast-feeding for just a little while longer; it would certainly have avoided the need for me to have become quite so involved in silencing the mewling cries which arise with such heart-stopping regularity from our ever-hungry infant, by the frequent demands that I "just make up another bottle, dear".

And I don't think I have ever felt so low as I did this afternoon. To explain, I was walking past Mr Pickup's room during the last period, when I chanced to witness him gathering the most enormous collection of A4 copier paper into a weekend hold-all.

"Ah-ha!" I interpreted his actions immediately. "Trying to foil the paper thief, eh, Pickup?" "Sorry, Morris?" he looked up as he thrust the final ream into a side pocket, having run out of room in the bag's main compartment.

"Just making sure your stationery thief won't get his hands on next week's supplies, eh? Taking them away for the weekend, then bring 'em back on Monday, if I'm not mistaken?" "Oh I see," Pickup eventually caught on, before pausing for reflection. "Well, I suppose it's a good idea," he admitted, "but actually, this is for my bridge-club newsletter, Morris. We've got over 50 members now, and by the time I've sent out a six-page circular each month, well, you soon get through the paper, y'know."

"But you can't - I mean, surely it's - well, isn't that a kind of . . . stealing in a different way?" "Stealing?" he exclaimed with genuine incredulity. "Of course it isn't," he looked down proudly at his hold-all. "This amount'll never be missed, Morris. And, anyway, it's just a wee perk of the job as far as I'm concerned. And it's about the only bloody perk we get!" I sighed. If we can't trust our public servants, I thought, who can we trust? I went home to Gail and Margaret, and hoped for a better future for us all . . .

Next month: Ruth Lees attends an attention deficithyperactivity disorder seminar, and returns with all the solutions to Greenfield Academy's disciplinary problems. Meanwhile, Morris Simpson goes on bus duty . . .

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