We 'ave to drink owt a rolled up newspaper

22nd April 2011 at 01:00
Is the age of austerity sending teachers into a protracted moaning contest? Not so far

My mother-in-law . my mother-in-law . Actually, my mother-in-law was a lovely, funny, tolerant woman who never made me feel anything but welcome despite her running "make yourself at home - where you should be!" joke. Let's try again. My central heating pump packed in the other day, so I called the gas HomeCare people. Well, you can guess what happened next. They told me an engineer would be out between noon and six. At 12.15, a guy turned up in a van and half an hour later I had a new, fully-working pump.

Afterwards, I went to the supermarket, picked up a trolley and - you know what? It went off in a perfectly straight line. I mean, what's going on here? Does their level of customer service involve periodically checking the state of their trolley wheels? Is there a trolley repair business somewhere that fixes wonky ones? I think we should be told.

All my attempts to script a stand-up routine seem to be doomed to failure, because the real world refuses to conform to the stereotypical one. Waves of physics teachers arrive at our premises, each one doggedly refusing to be a socially dysfunctional loner, and the very few who are ragingly eccentric are ragingly eccentric in a friendly, constructive way. Makes you wonder if Heather Reid and Brian Cox are actually the norm, rather than the wild-haired, hand-waving loony that used to pass as a TV scientist.

I hope the current financial climate does not stop teachers getting out and about. When I was seconded some years ago, it did me a lot of good to hear and see for myself what conditions were like elsewhere. I quickly realised that almost everyone thinks they work for the worst local authority or that their school has the most heavy-handed or out-of-touch management team. Sitting with a group of teachers from around the country, I would anticipate being able to launch into a Monty Python "Four Yorkshiremen" conversation whenever working conditions were mentioned. Hearing someone start to complain, I lined the word "Luxury!" up like the vanguard of a squad of paratroopers about to come tumbling out. At least half the time I'd have to abort the mission when I realised that I was better off than the speaker.

Maybe it doesn't matter. An early trademark of my TESS pieces was my ownership of a Skoda car, before they became much-lauded. Only once in scores of pieces did I ever write about breaking down, yet somehow, some people found simply the mention of Skoda to be funny. So good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My mother-in-law was a primary teacher who was generally well treated by her employers.

Gregor Steele is amazed to find exactly the same number of coat hangers in his wardrobe as there were when he last looked.

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