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Two dogs in the recovery position;Comment;Opinion

When an exhausted Ringo Starr inadvertently named the Beatles first feature film by collapsing with the Liverpool epithet "It's been a hard day's night that was," he might well have been any teacher talking about the rigours of the Easter term.

The excitement of the folio and investigation roller-coaster seems more intense each year, but this year's major worry has been the form of my exhaustion. I have felt myself being drawn into a surreal existence, with answers and comments from pupils that are so bizarre that they scarcely bear repeating in the cold light of day.

Take the solo talks I was assessing from my communications pupils (please!). It all started brilliantly, with a fascinating account of the Muslim religion from one of our fifth-year girls, but dipped dangerously when the next speaker, outlining how he was hoping to join the Army, mentioned how he would like to be attached to the Flying Corpse.

Struggling to come to terms with that, I almost failed to take seriously the next lad's topic, which was "The History of Doctor Who". (Did you know the BBC have lost 140 episodes?) I wondered out loud why he hadn't mentioned the Daleks, but before he could reply, another pupil earned his withering scorn by asking which Doctor had been his favourite: "We fans never choose a favourite; we like them all equally."

All this was before ten in the morning; who else has such weirdly varied start to their working day?

I expected some normality from my second years, but Mad March was making its appearance in their discursive essays. The main problem with cigarettes, apparently, is that they lead to lounge cancer, a whole new angle on passive smoking, or even smoking salons. Furthermore, according to one boy, in a surreal slant on the "innocent till proven guilty principle", people who hurt children should be sentenced to life "or even longer, if convicted".

Home provided little respite from this Alice in Wonderland experience. Somewhere between Changing Rooms and Kavanagh QC, I found myself stretched out on the carpet in the recovery position, as my wife practised for her first aid certificate the following day. Our son entered the room, took a casual look, and remarked: "Oh yes, I've seen that. It's from Gary Larsen's 'The Far Side' cartoons, the one with the two dogs." Don't ask!

Next morning, then, I clung a little desperately to the photocopier in the school office, hoping for a return to what passes for reality in our academic kingdom. A guest came to reception, signed in, smiled and went about her business. Being health and safety officer, not to mention nosey, I asked who she was. Nobody seemed to know, so I made the mistake of looking at the signing in book.

There, very neatly written, was her name, and, under "address", equally neat and clear, she had written "Mars".

Now this puzzled me, for the title of one of the pile of books waiting to be read by my bed states quite clearly: Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.

I went for a wee sit-down in the depute's office, where the extra level of my vapidity was quickly noticed. In answer to her concern, I outlined the mounting evidence of my rapidly loosening grip on reality, ending with my troubling vision of an alien.

With the sort of devastating and dismissive practicality of which only women are capable, she pointed out that the vision had retreated in the direction of the kitchens. The Mars she represented was the one that, allegedly, helps us work, rest and play.

I think I need a holiday.

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