Thank God it's Friday

13th December 1996 at 00:00
Monday: During morning assembly the infants recite the Lord's Prayer. "Forgive us our Christmases," says Kim. It's their nativity play on Thursday and there's nothing to forgive, of course. They're little charmers and the performance is always a winner, whatever happens. Last month six-year-old Ben, cast as a page, told his mum excitedly that he'd been chosen to be a book.

Later a group attaches baubles to the tree while I struggle to make the lights work. James is watching. "It took my dad all day to get ours going," he informs me, helpfully. But the decorations remind me of a daft thing I did last year. Being accustomed to receiving bathroom smellies as presents I took a golf-ball home assuming it was novelty soap. After several days, and wondering why it didn't lather, I noticed it change colour when I realised I'd been washing my face with white chocolate.

Tuesday: Some infants are rehearsing on the stage. "Arms by your sides. Donkeys don't hold hands," they're told. Then Miss checks how many tea-towels can be borrowed as head-dresses. She thinks they may be hard to find in the age of the automatic dish-washer. Bradley offers a table-cloth instead, saying his family only use theirs on Christmas Day. Having observed his eating habits I'm not surprised.

A visitor is unimpressed by the Bethlehem backdrop. It includes high-rise flats and he thinks the shepherds should be inquiring how far it is to Benidorm.

Wednesday: The dress rehearsal is under way and just after announcing, "Hail, thou that art highly flavoured," Gabriel loses a tooth. But Miss is prepared for any crisis and stealthily passes two tissues along the line. One is for the hapless archangel to dab up the blood and the other for the tooth's safe return. She knows the going rate for the tooth fairy can be at least Pounds 1 and even divine messengers need pocket money.

She also knows that Herod's attendant has trouble remembering both his words, so she writes one in felt tip on the back of each hand.

Thursday: It's just as well the show is a guaranteed hit since Bethlehem has succumbed to Benidorm belly and several donkeys, two goats and a shepherd are confined to their beds. Having informed the audience of these absences, I remind everybody that though we've banned camcorders they may use cameras. This shouldn't be a problem because, according to one little girl, they have 36 explosions on them.

Our troubles persist when the Star in the East has stage fright and tearfully refuses to make an entry. The shepherds continue regardless though, pointing instead at the key stage 1 equivalent of a celestial black hole. Then a king, no less, processes past his granny who's on the end of a row and asks loudly whether there'll be jam doughnuts for tea. But the Star's mum hasn't wasted her time sewing an elaborate costume because there's huge applause when he makes a late entry for the final tableau.

Friday: The week ends in complete contrast when the staff entertain the children to an ad hoc version of Cinderella. While I pretended concern yesterday that I'd be asked to deputise as a donkey, this time I'm content to be an ugly sister. My personal stage fright as I wait for the performance to begin, dressed in drag, complete with make-up and a shocking pink wig, is that I will be called to meet a parent on urgent business. Now that would be worth recording on tape. Happy Christmas everyone.

Luke Darlington is headteacher of St Mary's CE primary school, Yate, Bristol

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