Thank God it's Friday

31st October 1997 at 00:00
Monday: "It's Harvest Vegetable on Friday," six-year-old Sean informs me. "My dad's bringing a pump-king." I'm grateful. Not much produce has appeared yet, though I'm confident acres will arrive during the week.

I remind the school at assembly and am careful in case the message reaches home that I've said everyone has to bring something. It will probably happen anyway, even though I emphasise it's not a time for plundering the store-cupboard without permission. Similarly, when I ask for flowers, I imagine a whole year in the life of a dedicated gardener being devasted in a few moments of loyal endeavour by a child trying to please.

Tuesday: We need something bigger as a centre-piece for the display so I cadge a harvest loaf from the supermarket, arranging to collect it on Thursday. I always cadge by phone: it's much easier.

Today the vicar takes assembly and talks about sharpening the wits. He asks the children if they know what wits are. No reply. "Have you got any?" There's an embarrassed silence. Then he cottons on. They think he means nits.

Afterwards I remind the children to bring money to spend on Friday. It's amazing what they'll buy when they're on the loose. Give them a balanced packed lunch and they'll extract bits from the sandwiches as if they're dead flies. Give them the chance to buy a crabby apple and it's a feast.

Wednesday: The sale will begin with a service to which parents are invited, and I wonder if there's anything I can say in my welcome which most haven't heard before. I'll thank them for their generosity and invite them to buy everything back again, which usually brings a wry laugh, but I'm a bit short of relevant jokes.

I might tell them about the headteacher who witnessed an assembly and vainly tried to recall a Bible story with a pear in it, having noticed one on a table adjacent to the speaker. He discovered afterwards that it was left over from the previous day's lunch. If I add it was a fruitless exercise and talk about The Lord's Pear I will earn a groan.

Thursday: I return to school with the loaf - and we're just admiring the baker's skill in crafting a large sheaf of corn when another one is delivered. Melissa's mum works in a bread shop and arranged it as a surprise. Perhaps we'll enthrone the "pump-king" instead with the loaves around it.

Friday: There'll be an unruly scrum today if we sell the produce straight off the display, so I'll ask the parents to wait while we sort out a better arrangement. It'll upset the newcomers in the front row who will have endured sitting on infant chairs hoping to snap up bargains, but the veterans will know exactly where to postion themselves.

Then there may be an irate visitor who asks for a purchase to be set aside, discovering later it has been sold again by mistake. It may be unwise to offer the pumpkin instead.

And there's one further problem. Our theme is the Harvest of the Sea and we may receive a last-minute gift of a huge pink salmon in all its garnished glory. Given my record for successful cadging, it's quite possible. I also had a word with a friendly fishmonger this week - by phone of course.

Luke Darlington is headteacher of St Mary's C of E Primary School, Yate, Bristol

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