Ask me … go on, ask me…
Are you looking forward to retiring?
Hmm… tricky one… and an interesting and relevant question. You must be a very perceptive person. Let me see…
“Libby, did you want to share your news?” Libby puts down her hand, wades to the front of the carpet and faces her audience.
“I’ve got news about my mum and dad,” she announces.
“Is it happy news?” I ask. Some things are probably not best shared in show-and-tell.
“Yes it is. Sometimes, my mum takes all my dad’s clothes off and then she laughs. Any questions?”
You might have come across the ‘boiling frog’ model of how people cope with change.
The idea is that if you put a frog in a deep pan of water, it sits around doing happy frog stuff and saying ‘it’s not so bad once you’re in’. Then the pan is put on to heat. The frog adjusts to the gradual rise in temperature – sending out for the odd Ben and Jerry’s perhaps, but basically staying put. It adjusts and adjusts. Then it can adjust no more but, by then, it is no longer physically able to jump out of the pan. And so it goes to the great lily pad in the sky.
No frogs were actually harmed in the making of this metaphor. Hold that thought.
Even at four, Terry is built like a Great Dane who works out. So when, on his first day at school, he barges into wee Jack, there’s no question of who will be sent flying. Terry stands in front of me, sheepishly.
“Terry,” I say, gravely. “You knocked over Jack and he’s hurt.” Jack howls to underline the point.
“I didn’t mean to.”
“I’m sure you didn’t. You know that it is wrong to hurt people on purpose, don’t you?”
Terry nods. “It was an accident,” comes the gruff reply.
“Well, even if you didn’t mean to, Jack is still hurt. See how upset he is.” Jack is currently working towards a nomination for Best Actor in a Playground Incident. Terry himself now looks on the point of tears; the classic gentle giant. “Now, what do you think would make him feel better?” I ask.
Terry’s face brightens. “Flowers?” he suggests.
“It’s my mum’s anniversary today,” Violet yells above the playground buzz.
“That’s lovely, Violet.”
“She’s been married eight years. I wasn’t even born then!” There’s a gasp of amazement from the giggle of girls around her, which swiftly moves into a conversation about frocks worn at various parents’ weddings.
I thought that she was in the outdoor area working with Miss Sugarsprinkles. Miss Sugarsprinkles thought she was in the classroom, working with me. So, we instituted a search. Not in the toilets. Not in the Welfare Room. Not in the Office.
At last I found her; huddled in the corner of the small resources room: headphones in ears, gum in mouth, mobile in hand.
She shrugged. “Those f*cking kids are doing me ‘ead in.”
“Then perhaps,” I suggested, “a career in education is not for you. I’ll ring your tutor.”
“We don’t want the Reception children to think that we are saying the F-Word,” Oliver tells me earnestly. “So when we get to the word ‘fox’, we’re going to say it like this…FOOOX. Very clearly.”
“Good thinking, Oliver. I’m quite sure that, um – Ylvis – would be horrified if anyone thought he was swearing. Off you go, then.”
Sunday evening, autumn, 1966. Muddy paws stretched out, Sheina basks in front of the glowing coals, whimpering through memories of an afternoon chasing squirrels in the woods. LittleSis gurgles, propped up on cushions between Ma and Pa. LittleBro and Action Man are busy conquering the Universe with a fresh haul of conkers. And the Andy Williams Show is just coming to an end. The Cookie Monster has gone back to its lair. Andy turns to us and starts crooning:
“May each day in your week be a good one…”
The horror, the horror! My spirits plummet with the reminder that tomorrow is Monday. My throat is already tightening with stress. It’s all very well for him, I think bitterly, talking of each day being a good one. He is not going to have to face Miss Offord’s sewing lesson tomorrow afternoon.