Thank God it's Friday

13th October 2000 at 01:00
MONDAY Postman Pat arrives with a missive from the Teachers' Pensions Agency: notice of the monthly sum to be paid into my bank. This is no gratuitous generosity - not only did my brow sweat for 36 long years but I regularly contributed from my hard-earned salary.

My wife, also the recipient of a teacher's pension, recalls that when we first stood in front of our classes, our cheques were for a little over pound;30 a month. It's a good job we're index-linked.

TUESDAY The eldest of our grandchildren phones to let us know his A-level results - two As and a B. I offer congratulations, carefully avoiding any reference to reports of lower standards. He reminds me that his grades are exactly those required by St Andrews.

"You'll be joining Prince William, then." I note that William, with grades A, B and C, made it into the press, but I see no mention of Ben.

WEDNESDAY To the King's Lynn arts centre to see Charlotte Rampling and Alan Bates in the film of The Cherry Orchard. I still enjoy my favourite Chekhov play, but scenes from my erstwhile sixth-form Russian teaching mentally intrude. I clearly hear myself setting an essay on plot and characterisation,or asking for a translation of a significant speech.

THURSDAY Best clothes for our son's degree ceremony. Receiving his MBA is the eldest, at 42, of our five offspring - already occupying a senior position in his chosen field. He is the last of our clutch to graduate. Henley management college is thronged not only with the usual proud parents but also partners and bemused children. This is Oxfordshire, but the celebrations are perhaps a little more sober than those at a well-known university further up-river. These are, after all, mature students.

FRIDAY To a local hostelry for a dinner to mark the entry of another colleague into retirement. A dozen teachers, most already escapees but a handful still in post, pose to be photographed by an enlisted young waitress, whose charms produce the happiest of smiles from all. Over the meal we don our rose-tinted spectacles as we reminisce and share the joys of no longer being summoned by bells. As we take our leave, one senior wit volunteers that it was a reunion not so much of diners as of dinosaurs.

Michael Smith taught in Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Suffolk and Hampshire, and now lives in Norfolk


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