NOMATES. Brilliant. Marooned here by myself for the whole of August, tricked into holiday think tank cover by the evil genius of Scary Paula. The other four are swanning about on full pay, out there in what educationists call "the real world". I've already had a postcard from Caz, who's obviously not struggling with her conscience, in Spain. "This is the blue sky vision from my balcony ha ha. The hotel has a think tank here too, sort of. More a pool really, ha ha. With a bar ha ha LOL x" Yeah, wish you were HERE, Caz. Both the catering staff and the milk are ha ha OFF x
FAITHBOOK. It gets much more exciting later, when I meet the legendary enfant terrible of cinema, Quentin Tarantino. We're having a surreal conversation and drinking Cosmopolitans when a banging door jolts me awake. It's Scary Paula, checking my progress with a draft position paper on Heathen Education. "The Department feels there's a lot of mileage here, particularly if we can blur the boundaries between faith and non-faith schools. And free and non-free boarding school places. So get cracking. The Department is very interested in the ideas of Professor Dawkins, who wants to nurture free thinking in schoolchildren ..." I'm confused. Free thinking or fee-paying thinking? "Free as in you mustn't believe in God," she says, exasperated. "For God's sake! Don't you even READ The Guardian?" I frame a witty retort, but her mobile rings (theme from Strictly Come Dancing) and she's off - "Oh, Bryony. How ARE you?" - pointing vigorously at the Heathen Education notes as she leaves. By the time my witty retort has been reworked, edited and polished it's lunchtime.
NOTES. The Department may be on to something. I check out some atheist summer camp student blogs. "Today we learnt how to prove that unicorns do not exist. We each won a Pounds 10 note featuring the image of Charles Darwin, father of evolutionary theory, signed by Professor Dawkins!" This sounds promising. If you could take, say, Pounds 100 a day off aspirational atheist parents, then pay the kids a tenner each to behave themselves ...
NATURAL SELECTION. I draw up an ideas matrix. At the centre is Parental Choice, as usual. Suppose parents could decide what KIND of non-faith school their children should attend, from hard-ass atheist madrassas to agnostic comprehensives? I bet a specialist faithless school could get parents to spring for school trips, after-school activities, textbooks and so on. Bingo. I recommend we commission a report called Varieties of Non-Religious Experience and make sure it arrives after the Election.
SCARY. Paula rings, an unfamiliar tone in her voice. Am I free for a drink after work? Something's WRONG. Inchworm.