By inclination I am a disciple of Gilbert and Sullivan's Duke of Plaza Toro, inclined to lead from the rear. In managerial terms, this includes giving space and opportunity to suggestions from staff, setting good ideas in motion, and letting them expand within the parameters of health and safety, or of 5-14, or whatever the regulation imposed by authority may be, while maintaining the option that a suggestion that cannot live comfortably with these may be regretfully but firmly declined.
I extend this philosophy to all clients of the school, including a newly resurrected parents' association that is heavily pregnant with ideas, all for the children's benefit. When this group approached me after the October break with its programme of forthcoming events, I could only agree to it, as it all seemed above board and sensible.
The first event, naturally enough, was a Hallowe'en Disco, in fancy dress, for P4 to P7. My only proviso was that the parents not provide such quantities of high-quality food as they had done for the leavers' disco in June, because much of it had gone uneaten.
Agreement was general, and as the time grew closer, Hallowe'en trappings appeared and so did my notes home. These are necessary, or at least I think so, to ensure that all participants are clear about the game plan, which includes the requirement, essential in "oor bit" as the children call it, that parents pick up their progeny at 9pm prompt.
When the night arrived, it did not lack its little crises. The first involved the portable disco, complete with laser lights, ordered well in advance. Half an hour before the scheduled start the owner called, regretfully extending his apologies. Like Miss Otis, he wouldn't be able to come, his reason being that a housebreaker had stolen his equipment.
At moments like this the true ingenuity and creative talents of parents are galvanised. Whereas I was just about to start running around in circles, they ran out in straight lines to God knows where and produced, after 15 minutes, a more than adequate music centre with a megabass boom that, when fully operational, threatened to dislodge the cement from between the bricks. After 20 minutes, a father staggered in with a battery of laser lights the size of a small elephant. "Just take a minute to start," he gasped, as he wrestled it on to the stage, plugged it in and let it go about its random tasks.
Battle and building-shake had barely begun when the second crisis ensued. "Oor bit" is poorly lit, and within the school grounds there is no lighting at all. The rest being, as my old grandmother used to say, as dark as the earl of Hell's waistcoat, it does not lack its demons, and the sound of distant drums invariably attracts them. Our Hallowe'en disco was an all-ticket affair: the demons had no tickets, and they expressed their displeasure by providing a counterpoint to the bass boom by hammering on the doors and window grilles for about half an hour, until they grew bored and took their abuse somewhere else.
The third and final crisis was mine. Wicca whirled with Dracula to the sounds of Spice, and peons pranced with ponygirls, for the ingenuity and enthusiasm of the young folk's costumerie matched that of their parents' sound effects. While I was circling around taking flashlight photos, a Braveheart's mate clone sidled up and informed me that I was judging the best costume.
Given the management style that I have made my own, these are hard words to hear. I circled the circle, boxed the compass, and eventually, as all managers do, made a decision. Or rather two. The Scarecrow from Oz and the Columbine whose tears had had to be staunched an hour earlier (because she wanted to go home, but no one would come for her till the appointed time) were the winners.
By 9.15 the hall was cleared, swept and restored to what passes for order in its normal state. I thought I had seen the last of the Masque of the Motley Crew. Instead I found myself cornered by the Motleys. "Can we see you about a Christmas disco?" Not long now.