“That can’t be right!” said the girl who was training me. “45 new p for half of lard?” I looked again at the price-sticker. Oh. I should have rung up 4 ½p. “I’ll have to get the manager to come and sort this out,” she sighed.
Oh dear. And the previous customer had gone so well. I’d already got plans for my first pay-packet: Chelsea Girl had a red short-sleeved V-neck jumper which was crying out to be teamed with my puffy white nylon blouse. Did they sack you if you made mistakes? I was fifteen – what did I know?
“Sorry,” I said to the customer, as the queue started to build up behind him.
“I probably put you off.” said Pa.
I lasted three months in my first Saturday job at Caters Supermarket before moving onto greater things. By then, I had worked out that almost anything was better than spending the entire day stuck on a till. The trick was to dawdle down from the staffroom so that when you arrived on the shop floor, all the tills were already covered. The day could then be spent stacking shelves, fetching stock from the basement or helping customers to find cat-food. Variety is the spice of life.
My propensity to dawdle in the staff-room remains. In this, I am not unique among teachers. My first Head had the interpersonal skills of a slug; and the more she treated us as naughty children, the more we behaved that way. She developed a bee in her bonnet about staff not being prompt enough collecting the children after playtime. The route to the infant block from the staff room was down a long corridor past her lair. If she couldn’t hear us going past, Mrs Slug developed the endearing habit of bursting through the staff-room door, booming “it’s half past ten.”
“It’s the Talking Clock,” muttered one colleague, as we sloped off to collect the children.
One glorious morning, said colleague had a brilliant idea. Behind the staffroom was a square of scrubland: over-grown grass and what had once been a pond. Now all in desperate need of renovation.
About three minutes before the end of playtime, we levered open the rusty fire-door and picked our way along the back of the school, through grass and brambles and through the back-door to the nursery.
Standing at the far end of the corridor, we were rewarded with the sight of Mrs Slug stomping out of her room, flinging open the staffroom door and announcing the time to no-one.
It’s strange to think that in just five months, I’ll be allowed to dawdle all I like and no-one will shout the time at me or make me stack cat food. Last Monday, I handed in my notice. I’m going to take an early retirement in the summer.
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been wrestling with this decision. I love my colleagues and my school. I love teaching. I hate spending my weekends and evenings pouring over figures and objectives and levels and points and trying to work out how to make all the class above average. I am sick of jumping through Mr Gove’s hoops.
I am still keeping incredibly well, nearly two years into my diagnosis: perhaps due to the drug trial – I don’t know. But I also don’t know how long that will remain; I guess none of us do, even those without interesting neurological conditions. There are other things that I want to do with my life: being part of the fight for a cure, for instance. Having time to decorate the bungalow and do the garden. Reading a book by daylight.
Since that first day at Caters, I’ve never been without a job. Factory work, bar work, temping in offices and on switchboards. Shop work. Harrods, the Scotch House, Social Services, British Telecom. The NHS. Teaching. I’ve worked full-time, being lucky enough to have Ma and GrannieBorders and ActorLaddie to bounce children. I fancy a bit of a dawdle.
Perhaps I could employ ActorLaddie to burst through the door in character every now and then and boom out the time. Then I can shrug, raise an eyebrow and turn the page.
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The best way to get ActorLaddie to announce the time through a door is to stay in bed past 10:30am. That usually does the trick for me.
It galls me to have to click on Approve in response!