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Thank God It's Friday

Monday: The financial adviser from the NAHT had told me I could sign on at the Job Centre as I had retired early from teaching. That way I'd gain credits which would ensure a full state pension in due course. So I thought my visit would be a formality.

Not so. The forms I had to fill in were almost as incomprehensible as those I had been used to receiving from the Department for Education when I was a headteacher. And I wondered how those former pupils of mine who had struggled so much with their reading would cope in such circumstances. But the assistant behind the desk was helpful, even insisting that she would find me a job. She didn't seem to understand that paid employment was very low down on my list of priorities.

Tuesday: The telephone rang. It was the helpful assistant from the Job Centre. Could I go in for an interview for a post which had suddenly become available? She couldn't discuss it over the phone but the job was part-time and involved working with children. She seemed to think I was a suitable candidate, though such posts were popular at this time of year.

Once again my feelings about the search for paid employment fell on deaf ears.

Wednesday: The Job Centre was full of people dressed in casual clothes so I felt rather conspicuous in my best suit and NAHT tie. My interview was at 10am and, as I'd arrived early, I passed the time looking at the vacancies' board: Fork lift driver at Pounds 3 an hour. Bar work for a busy city centre pub. Cleaners required to start at 5am in a local factory. Hairdresser for a unisex salon.

Nothing there to interest me. After all I didn't even want a job; just the stamp to ensure my full pension at 65.

The interview lasted all of five minutes. I was simply given a card to present at the store where I was to work. The helpful assistant was sure it was the right job for me.

Thursday: It had seemed improper somehow to argue yesterday. Perhaps it was against the law to reject a job offer. So here I was, in a well-known department store, informing the manager that I loved children, was able to communicate with them while being blessed at the same time with endless patience. Then into the fitting room to be measured for my outfit.

Friday: At 9 am I took my place in Santa's grotto; Jingle Bells playing over the tannoy, a cushion stuffed up my jumper and a bag of presents at my feet. Ready to face the world and its children. The curtain opened to reveal a woman accompanied by a small boy. Not just any woman or small boy. it was one of my former dinner ladies with her son, Darren - Darren who always had the last word.

"And what would you like me to being you for Christmas, Darren?" I asked, trying desperately to disguise my voice.

"You're not the real Father Christmas," replied Darren. "I know who you are. You're our old headteacher Mr Ruston, dressed up aren't you?" There just had to be a better way of ensuring a full state pension.

Dennis Ruston is a former primary head in Hertfordshire now living in Horbling, near Seaford, Lincs

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