Thank God it's Friday

9th April 2004 at 01:00
Monday I repay a kindness shown to me on my own interview day and point out to a hopeful candidate that our esteemed leader is effectively nameless, preferring a respectful, if politically incorrect, sobriquet. Indeed, when those on the fringes of our tight-knit community innocently mention the unmentionable, they are frequently asked, "John who?" I think back to my first tentative utterance of "Headmaster" and the slightly uncomfortable feeling which went with it.

Tuesday I fell in with a bad crowd in my last school and they immediately renamed me in honour of Michael Crawford's comic character. It has taken two years for the F-word to raise its head here, and I only hope that its use will not become so commonplace that my children are once again puzzled by incoming phone calls for my alter ego.

Wednesday Lisa and Laura are good friends in the same class and quite dissimilar, but I have confused them so many times that it has started to irritate me almost as much as their tireless rebukes. I wonder if my previous existence at passport control, with its lists, manifests and books of names, has overloaded my memory. Perhaps these two extra Ls are like the fatal dose of histamine delivered by one wasp sting too many.

Thursday The barriers are down in an after-school club and although I retain my "Mr", the various characters in the fledgling rifle team feel comfortable enough to exchange nicknames. Paddington and Spinky happily count pellets while Big Tim organises the firing points. "Jack" Hobbs cuts out targets and AA, alias RAC, sorts out the safety specs. To enter the scores in the book, I find myself having to go through the registers for their real identities.

Friday Another case of mistaken identity. It is hardly surprising that there are unwritten rules in a school founded in 631AD. The week ends with a horrible transgression. Not only have I committed the cardinal sin of using someone else's cup in the staffroom, but I've been caught in the act by its rightful owner. I understand why Thomas Paine was in such a hurry to leave the school for America and resolve to have my own mug named. "Frank", of course.

Stephen Spencer is head of languages at Thetford grammar school, Norfolk

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