There's nowhere to hide

27th May 2005 at 01:00
How's this for a nightmare. You're going on holiday soon and you're in the changing room of a large department store. You've squeezed into a lime-green stripy swimming costume that's too small for you. You haven't shaved your legs so you feel like a man, and you've been too lazy to take off your boots. You know the swimsuit is horrible, but you've come this far and you're curious.

So you stomp out to look at your scary reflection in the mirror. What do you hear, right behind you? A pure and fluty voice: "Ooh, look! It's Miss Paver! Has she seen us? MISS PAVER!"

Cue Psycho violin music: eek! eek! Yes, you've guessed it: this was no nightmare. It really happened, to me. And yes, the stripes were horizontal ones and therefore not flattering. Did it matter? Well, yeah, it did. What did I do? I did a Basil Fawlty and wheeled round, all jovial and jerky, and pretended nothing was wrong.

And there in front of me was one of my brightest Year 9s with her soft-spoken and scholarly mother. They had taken my cue and were now keeping their identical grey eyes admirably fixed on my face. Meanwhile, I squeaked and gibbered on about coursework and how Milly wouldn't have any problems at GCSE because she always works so steadily throughout the year.

The more I insisted that this was all quite normal, the more weird it became. We all laughed too hard about animal pencil-cases. Then they vanished.

The horror! The horror! Of course, if you've been seen somewhere cool, this can raise your street cred in one night. A friend of mine was seen breaking up a fight outside his local nightclub and got himself a small but sexy scar. He had no discipline problems for the rest of the year, not even with 10X.

Now, the only time my reputation shot up was with one tough little Year 7 whose mother came into school especially to tell me that her daughter was scared of me. "Why?'" I asked. "Well," she hesitated. "She saw you with your biker boyfriend, who was head-to-toe in leather and chains, and he had an eye patch. She's convinced that you might ..."

"That wasn't me. No, I promise, it wasn't me." Another surreal conversation, this time with me trying to deny my punk pirate boyfriend.

Finally, this canny mother came up with the solution. It still makes me chuckle to this day, and more than repays the horror of the lime-green stripy swimming costume: "Well, I won't tell her. She's never worked harder in her life."

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