“Look, dragon breath!” Mixed infants circle round me, their breath steaming in the winter air. I roar obligingly and they scamper away.
One little dragon loses her footing and is brought to me, howling, by Katie. We check out the knees and agree that a quick magic rub and the application of a little TLC will be sufficient. We’re just setting off on a turn around the playground when there’s a tug on my coat. Owen is standing behind me with a plastic cup filled with mud.
“Coffee?” he asks. I take the cup and pretend to sip.
“That’ll be fifty pounds,” he says. “You can pay by card.” I pick up a leaf and hand it over. “Do you want cash-back with that?” he asks.
But I don’t have time to answer as Katie has spotted a scuffle over by the fence. As I walk towards them, one of the boys catches sight of me. I fix him with my Paddington Bear hard stare and beckon. They slouch towards me.
“What’s going on, Joe?”
“He called me the e-word!” Joe steams indignantly. I frown. I know many, many insults but can think of none starting with ‘e’.
“Which e-word would that be then, Joe?”
“He said ‘idiot’,” Joe pronounces.
I do my best to look grave. “That wasn’t very kind, friendly and polite was it?” The boys shake their heads. “Now are you going to shake hands or shall I get cross with you?” Reluctantly they shake hands. “Now elbows,” I say. They touch elbows. “Now feet.” Starting to grin, they balance on one foot and wave the other in the air. “What are you going to shake next?” I ask.
“Bottoms!” they say together. As they waggle their hips, giggling, I look at my watch. Five minutes down, still a whole fifteen minutes of playtime to go.
“Playtime,” I say to the class. “It’s cold – you’ll need your coats.” We usher the stragglers out the room, do up zips, help on gloves. I grab some sheets to photocopy, a couple of dirty cups and make my way up to the staff room. Queuing up at the urn, I glance at my watch. Fifteen minutes down already, only five minutes of playtime to go.
It strikes me that when Einstein was working out his ideas on the relativity of time, there was no need to mess about with trains and platforms. A good bout of playground duty would have proved without doubt that time moves at different speeds in different situations.
And I know for sure that this next week, the last week of the holiday, will go past almost before I have saved this post.