Thank God it's Friday

13th October 1995 at 01:00
Monday: My week begins well when an infant tells me I look smart in my new cardigan, but deterioration sets in when the phone rings and an anonymous voice angrily demands "Where are my son's shoes?" I haven't a clue. Under the bed, perhaps. "Who's speaking, please?"

"Where are my son's shoes?" repeats the voice. I can't believe this.

"What's your son's name?"

"He doesn't go to your school," said in a tone which strongly implies I'm an idiot.

"Why are you ringing me then?"

"You had a football tournament on Saturday." The pitch had been hired by the cubs.

"Can you describe the shoes?"

"They're trainers, of course."

No footwear has been handed in, so I offer her a purple baseball cap instead. It's abruptly refused. "What school does he go to?"

"Never mind," says the voice, tired of my stupidity, and the line goes dead.

Tuesday: I learn an important lesson today. If members of the reception class lose their clothes you don't only search the lost property bin, you look in the dressing-up box and the toy microwave in the home corner. It's obvious really. Any infant knows it.

Wednesday: A loo is flooded, the caretaker is unavailable, so there's no option but to take my shoes and socks off and mop up. Some of the staff notice me with the bucket and nod their approval. I glow inwardly. I've been seen doing my job. But when the plumber arrives I struggle to look intelligent as he gives me a detailed reason for the leak.

Moments later I'm in a similar situation when a grounds maintenance man arrives and asks for the site manager. That's me in a hard hat and welly boots presumably. He wants to know if the contract is being carried out properly. I can hardly tell a dandelion from a daffodil, and when he adopts the current trend of using Latin names for the trees and plants, I again feel inadequate.

Thursday: A mum tells me her son has earache but she's bathed it with TSB. She's just testing me, but I'm not daft, I know what she means. The boy's name is Lloyd and she thinks he's a listening bank. Parents are easily confused.

I want to paint HM (Head Master) on my parking space, but can't in case they think it means His Majesty. I'm called away from lunch to deal with a child who has kicked a meals assistant, and am astonished to hear myself saying "I'm not having you cooking a dinner-lady." He's puzzled. He knows he's not a cannibal. But when I tell him his behaviour is childish he concedes I'm correct.

Friday: It's not just children who think heads were born yesterday, adults do too. One day I'll produce a book of transparent excuses. Whenever I telephone to discover why something hasn't arrived I'm told "It's in the post." This really means "I haven't touched it yet, but since you've rung I'll dig it out of my mushroom pile and do it now."

It's just happened again. Come to think of it I'd do the same if there was a chance of avoiding some of the paperwork. I'm all for cutting corners. Why struggle with "diarrhoea" when you can write "trots"?

The week is neatly summed up at lunchtime when the same six-year-old who complimented me on Monday spits Bolognese sauce over my cardigan as she reassures me that I look "neat and tired".

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

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