Our new table lamp arrived in a box the size of a small car. On the outside, red warnings reminded everyone that the contents were fragile. Little martini glasses indicated which way round it should be held. Inside, as an added precaution, someone had wrapped half a kilometre of bubble wrap around a much smaller box that contained the actual lamp. This, in turn, was securely encased in blocks of moulded polystyrene.
If all fragile things were handled with this level of extreme care the world would be a safer (if less environmentally friendly) place to live. But accidental damage happens, and the consequences are often serious. And because we can’t put children in bubble wrap (the dangers of suffocation outweigh any safety benefits), teachers are often left picking up the pieces of broken ones and gluing them back together again.
Dayne is the latest victim of accidental damage. You could tell something was wrong when he arrived, on the warmest day of the year so far, with his head buried deep in the confines of his winter coat. His mum told us this was the only way he’d come to school. In class, he still refused to remove it and reveal the actual cause of his distress.
It was only in the quiet of the cloakroom, and after considerable coaxing, that Dayne allowed his mum to peel his hood back and expose the awful truth. It was worse than any of us imagined. Gasps of disbelief were stifled and replaced by soothing words of encouragement as one by one we took in the terrible reality of what had happened to him. Dayne’s happy, bouncing cascade of beautiful blond curls was no more. In its place was a grotesquely pale and extremely hairless skull.
His mother explained that he had spent the weekend with That Waste of Space (aka, his dad), who convinced him to let him shave his head in some sort of father-son bonding ritual. As a result, they both resembled extras from This is England.
Because careless crops cost self-esteem, there was no time to lose. A recovery mission snapped into operation. Task one was to prevent further damage by warning of the dire consequences that would befall any child engaging in unkind laughter, pitiless pointing or making hurtful remarks. Task two was to put Dayne back together again and wrap him up in several protective layers of positivity. These included telling him how grown-up he looked, how cool he’d feel now that summer has arrived, how he won’t ever get head lice again and how nice his bristles felt.
By home time he’d almost fully recovered from his close encounter with male grooming equipment. If anything, he’s now enjoying the attention from those of us who can’t stop stroking his head. Even his friends want to stroke him. All except Tyrone, who insists on calling him “cue-ball”.
“He’s just jealous,” I whisper, and Dayne smiles at me. It’s his old smile but, like most things that have been damaged and hastily repaired, it’s not quite as perfect any more.
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield