Thank God It's Friday

31st May 1996 at 01:00
Monday: I am introduced to the school as their "writer in residence" for a whole week. The head says "aren't we lucky to have him?" The question is partly rhetorical but he waits for a response. There is none.

My brief is to spend the first day wandering around classrooms and making myself known, which proves rather difficult because all of my children's stories are written under a nom de plume. My wife said it was a daft idea, now I agree.

Tuesday: A much better day. Gory ghost stories with the top juniors. Feel rather pleased with myself until one young chap stares at me and says, loudly, "You used to be a teacher, you used to teach my Dad". My credibility dips alarmingly, as does my self-esteem, so I exit and try other classrooms.

In the next classroom there's suddenly a freak rain storm, thunder and lightning, rain hammering on the roof and then hailstones. The children are strangely unimpressed and stare straight ahead at me. Not one of them looks through the window.

"Ah", I say, because now I understand. "Don't worry I'm not going to ask you to write about the weather". There is obvious relief all round. One teacher ushers me out of her classroom, explaining that she has a bang-up-to-date computer with a thesaurus, so she doesn't really need me. If the Luddites were still around I would become a fully paid-up member.

In the staffroom I am persistently offered coffee and cigarettes because lay people always assume that writers thrive on coffee and cigarettes.

Wednesday: Best day of the week. Spend it with the infants. We play with words, there are no inhibitions, it's like painting without the mess. The fun factor is sky high and the kids produce enough work to line the classroom walls three times.

I apologise to the head for using so much paper and then spend an hour and a quarter with the infants' teacher trying, not very successfully, to relate what I have done to the demands of the national curriculum.

Thursday: I have the afternoon off in exchange for talking to a group of parents in the evening. They want my stories of Yorkshire humour.

The session is quite enjoyable. One man asks if I'm going to read my stories with a Yorkshire accent, which is rather funny because I have an accent like Alan Bennett's without his Oxford culture. An old lady says, "I read your stories every month . . . some of them are quite funny".

Friday: Back at the chalk face. The entire governing body has turned up to watch me work with the second year juniors. This is deeply suspicious.

Breaktime and all six of them follow me to the staffroom. They sit with me. Governors One and Two have written some poems, would I look at them? Governor Three is writing a novel and he just happens to have a copy in his briefcase. Governor Four wants me to run my eye over his CV and job application to check the grammar. Governors Five and Six ask in a round-about way if I am famous and wonder, in a round-about way, whether my autograph is worth getting. When I tell them the absolute truth they lose interest.

Four o'clock and the head thanks me and pays me - in cash. Oh what a sweet man!

Kevin Berry lives in Ilkley, West Yorkshire

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