Thank God it's Friday

2nd February 1996 at 00:00
Monday: The head of this Devon village school is still in a haze after two recent phone calls. One from OFSTED confirming that they will be on their way shortly, and one from the film producer of Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility. The head has agreed to let them use some of the children as extras. We are all gobsmacked but delighted. OFSTED fades into the background.

Meanwhile as an impoverished single parent (I can't live on my supply earnings...) I persuade my youngest son, Luke, not to have his hair cut. My purse has felt empty for weeks and I'm sure he looks better with curly locks.

A neighbour tells me the film crew is looking for adult extras including a small, dark-haired greying woman. I head (on two wheels) through the leafy lanes towards the nearest job centre and proffer my best side. The girl behind the desk gives me a sidelong glance and assures me wearily that interviews were conducted last week; all vacancies are filled.

Somewhat deflated, but still pouting like Bette Davis, I leave the office counting my change and making a mental note to collect leaves for tonight's nettle soup.

Luke comes home from school having been selected with a group of other lucky ones - all long-haired - to play in the film. Nettle soup tastes rather delicious tonight but all my offspring reject it on the grounds that it is "green".

Tuesday: I pop in to school where I'm also a parent governor. The infant hut is waiting for camouflage foliage to arrive because the film crew wants to take a downhill shot of the Georgian village school and its bell tower nestling amongst rolling hills as Willoughby rides away.

Yesterday we all hooted with laughter at the thought of Mrs Higgs and the infants being trapped in the hut, entangled by suckers and creepers at playtime.

Wednesday: Luke must be delivered to the film set (a field) at dawn. A huge industrious sprawl is there - miles of caravans, tents and lorry generators chuntering through breakfast time. The head, who has been appointed official chaperone, is looking the teeniest bit apprehensive.

The children are directed to the wardrobe lorry and re-emerge looking impressively Austenesque - if the sun keeps its promise, this lot will boil. My son wears a three-cornered hat and a pair of what he describes as "trap door" trousers!

An extra emerges from the breakfast tent - her plate loaded with scrambled eggs and other yummy items provided at the producer's expense.

Seeing through the disguise of a bawdy wench I recognise an unemployed friend and we scream with derisive laughter at the bulging bosom and tatty frock. I note the long dark greying hair and realise it couldn't happen to a nicer person.

Thursday: Luke tells me his best friend's Mum hid behind a tree in the churchyard yesterday and watched the filming. Smitten with envy I resolve to do the same. I watch spellbound as a goat in a cart is rumbled up and down the lane eight times until the take is satisfactory. The goat feels the inclination to leap out of the cart halfway down and needs a sitter to help preserve its patience during this repetitive procedure. The sitter stuffs the goat with carrots at the top of the hill, and leaps off as the cart begins to roll down the hill.

I catch sight of the headteacher as he watches a team of black horses thunder past with a spectacular coach in tow. Today he is wearing a floppy hat and looks as though he was born for a film set. At midmorning elevenses, the children stack their plates high. They sit among the tombstones in the sunshine and look angelic apart from the sugar round their mouths.

Shooting starts again. All is quiet. One of our eight-year-olds is thrashing the churchyard grass with the stick that's been given him as part of his costume. He inches his way along the edge of the wall in the wrong direction. Realising he is about to thwack the top off the most elaborate dummy wedding cake I make frantic gesticulations to the head and a crisis is averted.

At lunchtime I head for the local comp. If my eldest son is to be a film director as per plan, then this is an educational visit not to be missed. Luckily, I am able to bend the producer's ear and he's taken under the director's wing.

Friday: The weather has been glorious all week. During the morning I notice Mrs Higgs and a long line of infants coming through the churchyard. They have come to witness the stardom of the juniors. She asks if I can get some autographs so I collar Luke who crawls through a sea of adult legs and plants himself beside Hugh Grant. He obliges - asking son to hold his cup of tea while he writes an endearing message to the infants. I wonder if he has tried nettle soup.

Armed with a wad of paper, I tour the set collecting autographs from such unlikely people as a washing-machine bus driver and a "whisker whisker-offer" who specialises in removing false beards. I am about to be appointed to this school but don't know it yet. There are some hidden advantages to unemployment after all. See you at the cinema.

Ursula Drummond is a teacher at Berry Pomeroy Primary School. Sense and Sensibility was filmed last May and opens in London on February 23

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