Thank God it's Friday;Diary;Features amp; Arts

5th November 1999 at 00:00

Two fifth-formers arrive for work experience and I'm terrified. It's my first time. Whatever shall I do with them? "They can make the tea," suggests Windle. He's my neighbour and he writes instruction manuals. Like me, he works from home. Craig and Janice arrive at 9am. By 10am Craig has cleaned and tidied my office; Janice has shown me how to send an e-mail and has put 43 quick dial numbers on the telephone. She then turns her attention to my computer and finds chapter 15 of my novel, which I thought I had accidentally wiped two weeks ago.


To a Leeds school, with Craig and Janice in tow, to see a south Asian dancer taking a workshop. The secretary comes to the door and we speak through an intercom. I try to explain why Craig and Janice are with me, but traffic noise is making communication difficult. She opens the door slightly. "You can't bring your children here," she says. "This is a primary school. They are too old." In the afternoon I take my "children" to interview a ballet company's new artistic director. He's Spanish. I can't speak Spanish but Janice can, and Craig somehow knows more about the artistic director than the company's press officer.


There are articles to be finished by noon. I dictate, Craig types, his fingers dancing over the keys, while Janice whizzes through reference books to check facts and dates. Windle appears in the early afternoon; he wants sugar. He stares at my tidy office in disbelief and asks Craig and Janice if they would like to spend the rest of the week with him.


A trip to London to meet a famously angry chef to ask him about his "best teacher". Trouble is he hasn't got one - not even a reasonably OK teacher. He rages about his teachers, especially his secondary school headmaster, as he chops meat. This is a big disappointment. An expensive trip to London and no best teacher.

Janice calms him down and then he talks lovingly about the master chef who gave him his first job and taught him the rudiments of cooking. He makes us a sandwich each. Craig and Janice don't eat theirs. "I've got some formaldehyde at home," says Craig. "This is like having Van Gogh do a quick sketch for you."


The usual quiet Friday. I'm struggling with chapter 16. Craig and Janice have gone through my tax assessment forms and sorted out my receipts so I'm ready for the taxman's next deadline. They are now writing up their work experience diaries. I make the tea and do some photocopying. Craig and Janice should be fully qualified journalists in five or six years, by which time I really ought to retire.

Kevin Berry lives in West Yorkshire

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