Waiting around to see a doctor is bad enough. Being shunned by total strangers while you do it is frankly unacceptable. The last person to come into this already packed waiting room sat beside a highly infectious and incredibly whingey child just to avoid sitting next to me. Was it my bright orange face and green hair that upset him? Or could it have been my white dungarees with stripy stockings?
Whatever the immediate cause of my social discomfort, I blame the crisis in general practice. There are just too many patients and not enough GPs. And if I’d known my appointment was going to be delayed by more than 30 minutes, I would have gone home first and changed into something less conspicuous. This outfit was my wife’s idea. I originally planned to go as Mr Twit.
“We’ve had a fancy dress day at school,” I tell an old man with a chest infection who accidentally catches my eye between coughing spasms. “I’m a primary teacher. I don’t normally dress like this. Well, only at the weekend.” The room breathes a collective sigh of relief. The old man resumes his bronchial attack. I pick up a leaflet about testicular cancer.
Our Dahlicious Dress-up Day wasn’t just a superific way to raise money for good causes, it was a whizz-banging learning opportunity, too. At the end of a day packed to the gizzards with marvellous storytelling, fantastic writing and incredible drama, the children gathered for circle time. This was their chance to tell each other everything they had learned about their favourite Roald Dahl characters.
Matilda number 3 volunteered to be first in the hot seat. She adjusted her red ribbon, pulled up her ankle socks and began to tell the class exactly what she thought of herself. “First of all, I’m very intelligent because I have read all the books in the library. Also, I have super powers to move things with my eyes and this is called telekinesis. But the best thing is that I am brave because I’m not scared of her.” She pointed her finger directly at Miss Trunchbull (aka Mrs Rottweiler).
Back in the waiting room, I am halfway through learning how to conduct a testicular self-examination when a thought occurs to me. Many of our children (and staff) came dressed as the characters they most resemble in real life. Aaron (tallest boy in the class) came as the BFG. Shania (good at stirring up trouble) came dressed as a witch. Ms Boudicca (headteacher) came as Veruca Salt.
Just when I’m on the verge of coming up with a truly brain-boggling theory on the psychology of fancy dress, the infectious child stops whingeing and asks, “Mummy, why is that man dressed like a clown?” I wave away the mother’s apologies and explain to the room that I’m an Oompa-Loompa.
“Ironically, I’m here to discuss my blood sugar levels,” I add. “Diabetes is something of an occupational hazard when you work in a chocolate factory.”
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield