Thank God It's Friday

12th January 1996 at 00:00
Monday: I drive into the still estate. Not a stray dog stirs. Time for coffee before the day begins. In the junior playground two solitary figures snap to attention and sprint towards the staff car park.

"Miss, it's Harry," the boys blurt out, words and bodies falling over each other. "We think he's really ill."

"Not the caretaker?" "Our mouse." Isaac explains, "He looked odd on Friday and Jamie has been thinking."

Jamie nods. "He might have a tumour."

Inside Jamie holds our class pet. I can see the tiny canker on his bottom jaw.

"My gran's dog looked liked this." He glances at Isaac and mouths over his drooping head, "before the end."

I touch his shoulder."Everything grows old Isaac, people, pets..."

"If Harry passes over," he says hesitantly.

"Yes," I prompt gently.

He lifts a face brimming with enthusiasm. "Can we get a gerbil?" Tuesday: The children are subdued. They turn from their history, voyages of exploration in Tudor times, to stare quietly at the empty cage. Harry is with the vet today for surgery.

Continuing with the lesson I say: "Navigators used the pole star to find north."

I click open a midnight blue umbrella. Inside I have pinned constellations of bright yellow stars with the pole star at the centre. Resting the handle on my shoulder I spin the brolly. The pole star remains fixed at the centre while the others rotate round my head. Claire, a difficult pupil to motivate, waves her hand vigorously.

"Yes?" I beam.

"Miss, it's bad luck to open an umbrella indoors."

A sharp knock on the door has us turning as one. Jean our secretary pops her head into the room.

"That was the vet on the phone." She closes her eyes and shakes her head.

"Dead," gasps Claire. Hastily I close the umbrella.

Wednesday: We have been making cardboard skeletons this afternoon. Spare parts litter the floor. David, late in from playtime, carries a sizable bone, chewed at one end. He found it, he says, on the field. He offers to take it round the class to let everyone see. "That is clearly some poor dog's dinner," I say. "Give it back right now."

"He'd finished," he protests.

Thursday: The children crowd around the cage and cry out with delight. Two dishevelled gerbils, faces covered in peat, pop to the surface.

"Meet Sharon and Tracy," I say.

"Sharon and Tracy?" Jamie shakes his head in disbelief.

Several names are called out. A show of hands decides that our new pets will be called Toffee and Fudge. Jamie smiles with relief.

Friday: I patrol the playground as the sun sinks and the wind rises. The bell which signals the end of break is only just audible.

My class lines up by the fence. David furtively heads the ball to Philip. Both cry out as a strong gust carries it into the neighbouring garden where it strikes a wary dog on the head. We watch as he staggers to his kennel. Through the now piercing rain I can just make out the name painted on the roof.

Lucky.

I bet he's glad it's Friday!

Mary Bland teaches at Old Moat Junior School, Withington, Manchester

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