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Thank God it's Friday

Monday Our house bears an uncanny resemblance to the Oscar ceremony as fellow teaching veterans commiserate with my partner over the problems of the school play. Move over Steven Spielberg. The technical difficulties of writing an adaptation of Scrooge with 60 parts and incorporating at least two songs by Boyzone far outweigh any minor hiccups in the filming of ET.

Then there are the backstage obstacles to resolve: the BEd course doesn't seem to include any training on lighting, sound-effects or costume design. But my partner is relieved that at least the Angel Gabriel wasn't sick down the back of Mary during the nativity play.

Tuesday Disaster has stuck - Jesus has gone missing from the manger in the school entrance hall. One child has replaced Jesus with a sheep from the stable scene, muttering something about the Lamb of God, but this is felt to be inappropriate. Several battered dolls have been handed in, but alas, no one has found Jesus yet.

Wednesday The house is awash with glitter and stringy bits of tinsel. Yet again, my soap opera viewing has been interrupted by trial runs of the dreaded Christmas cards. Every year is the same as we fumble around with wads of cotton wool, silver foil and PrittStick. The children have already made Hansel and Gretel gingerbread houses - I think this is more than enough.

Thursday I sneak into the Chris-tingle service at the cathedral, which is glowing with children clutching candle-lit oranges. I am hoping for a repeat of last year's high jinks when one of my partner's pupils showed remarkable entrepreneurial skills. Not only did he smuggle in a packet of marshmallows to see him through the lengthy service, he toasted them by the light of his candle. Other children soon realised what was going on - loud whispers of "Can I have a pink one" were heard throughout the church. My partner fought his way through the throng of children to remove the marshmallows. The boy looked crestfallen: "Sorry, there's only a white one left, and I said Clare could have that."

Friday The end of term. My partner returns home with a sack of presents from grateful children. Not all of them are intact - a lovingly rewrapped chocolate orange has one of its segments missing.

I am also rewarded for my support and patience throughout the term, although I'm not sure that a sticker with "I've Worked Hard Today" is much consolation.

Emma Howell lives in Oxford

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