Thank God It's Friday

10th October 1997 at 01:00
Monday: It has to be an early start because a sunny weekend means one thing. Trouble. Our school is in the centre of a large council house estate and there's nothing for the kids to do in the evenings so they play on the school field. Funny that, considering most of the out-of-work teenagers in the neighbourhood used to tell me they hated school and couldn't wait to get out. So I need to collect all the empty beer cans, crisp packets and golf balls as the field is used as a driving range by the local Nick Faldos.

No sex though, unless the kids have been plain stupid, because for once I've not come across a single condom. The local dogs have left their usual trademarks - they obviously can't read the notices telling them it's an offence to foul the playgrounds.

Tuesday: The head asks me to remove the dustbin he's noticed floating in the swimming pool. We find all sorts in our open-air pool: supermarket trolleys, motorway cones, fire extinguishers, prams - and some time ago a coffin floating upside down in the deep end.

The deputy head who found it went on the sick for three days, even though I kept telling her it was empty. We asked every undertaker in the town if it belonged to them but nobody claimed it. To this day it is a right mystery where that coffin came from. Even now my mates at the pub don't believe me when I tell them about it.

Wednesday: Schools are quiet, peaceful places without kids. So after opening up and collecting the post , there's the chance for a quiet cuppa with the cleaners before the hordes arrive.

Today the tea-break is interrupted by the shrieks of our cook Mrs Turpin, as she bursts into my room in a state. "Mice!" she screams, grabbing my arm and pulling me out of the door.

The head gave me a list of jobs when I first came here which included stoking the boiler, repairing things when they broke, cleaning and so on but I am sure it didn't say anything about being a rat catcher. He's at a conference today - health and safety or something like that- so I told the deputy about the furry visitors. I'd forgotten about the floating coffin and that she's not got a strong stomach. Anyway, I set a trap and one of the teachers takes the deputy off for a cup of tea and a sit down. Afterwards I ask the secretary not to book me a lunch as I'll be eating at home from now on.

Thursday: It's raining and my first job today is to put buckets underneath the leaks in the roof. I put PE mats over the one damp place in the hall and prayers go ahead without too much trouble. The head takes assembly in his Wellington boots and I think the deputy is in for another bout of flu as she has a box of tissues on her knee and sneezes all through "Raindrops are our Silver".

Friday: The staffroom is always noisier on Fridays; the teachers are more cheerful and they have cakes at playtime.

I change my pay cheque at the local pub and try to enjoy a swift half after work. The landlord calls me over to the bar. "Telephone," he says, pointing to the end of the bar. It is Mrs Sellars who lives next to the school. How does she know where I am? "You've got trespassers in the swimming pool," she says.

I empty my glass and go back to school. Nine o'clock and still at it. As I get near I hear the shrieks coming from the pool area which is surrounded by a wooden fence. I carefully unlock the gate and peer in. Half a dozen teenagers in the water swimming and having fun. And all starkers!

My heart tells me to let them play; turn a blind eye, so to speak. I know that the head, fresh from his health and saftey conference, would expect me to kick them out. Either way there is nothing in my job list about this, and I'd rather have the pool full of bawling teenagers than dustbins, fire extinguishers, prams and motorway cones. And the deputy head might say coffins as well.

Alf Stebbings is a caretaker in a Lincolnshire secondary school

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