She walked into the Staffing Department, looking very tanned and very relaxed. A bit desiccated perhaps – sun and cigs, I’d guess – but definitely at ease. As she made her way over to my desk, it seemed that the whole office went quiet in her wake. Out the corner of my eye, I could see a little murmuring and some scribbling but when Mrs Marbella opened her mouth, it was obvious that the entire office had tuned in.
“However you organise the room to start with, you’ll want to change it the minute the kids arrive. At least, that’s how it was for me. It took me half a term before I had things organised the way I should have had them in September.”
I am still grateful to Simon. Unasked for, he helped me sort out my first‑ever classroom, including a lesson in the putting up of backing paper. I chose to cover all my boards in a ghastly, beige-y, custardy, blah sort of colour, I seem to remember. A good back-drop for all that free, independent writing my class would be itching to produce, was the theory. Titter ye not.
“You do realise that the work can be quite heavy? Loading the autoclave, lugging stuff to be sterilised and so on?”
The candidate nodded. “Yes, I don’t mind lifting. I’m stronger than I look.”
Mrs Valley ticked her list of questions and then I weighed in with some routine probing about previous work history. Just like they’d taught me at Personnel Management School. I handed back to Mrs Valley, the Head of Department for the hospital’s Sterilising Unit.
I’d not been in post for long and this was the first time we’d interviewed together. I’d heard that Mrs Valley had the reputation of being as mad as a box of frogs but so far she’d been absolutely charming. I was starting to relax: the hunt for a new assistant in the Sterilising Unit seemed to be going smoothly.
Mrs Valley looked up from her notes and smiled at the candidate. “Just one more question. Are you pregnant?”
Everyone was looking at me as I reached for the nappies. What on earth was I doing here, now? I skulked around the baby wipes, trying to ignore the frowns. Would I need a bottle steriliser? The NCT lady said no, but my cousin, Young Bessie, had said yes and she is a woman of infinite resource and sagacity. I tried to ignore them all tutting as I picked up the Milton, but I could smell the disapproval.
- Heat 4 fl oz of white vinegar in microwave for about a minute.
- Add 4 fl oz of washing up liquid.
- Put into hand-sprayer.
- Spray onto shower screen.
- Rub off with cloth or sponge.
I’ve got it cornered.
The Still-to-do List is down to one sheet of paper; the accumulated detritus of my years at Thrush Woods has been herded into a corner of the ICT room and sits tamely waiting to be sorted. I’ve found no untaught children stacked away in boxes, so it looks like I’ve got away with it again.
In the sliver of time between waving off the last child for their summer holidays, and coming back for the ‘do’, it occurred to me that I should have prepared a speech.
Last time I left Thrush Woods, I’d given quite a lot of thought to what I was going to say. A neat little speech at the Leavers’ Service in the afternoon. The last eight years have been very special, the school is very special, the staff are very special but I need a new challenge. So long and thanks for all the fish.
112 Living in the presents Part II.
“One of your tasks,” Miss Bradbury tells me, “is to order retirement gifts. You send the retiree the catalogue three months before their L.D.S. There are different catalogues, depending on their L.O.S. They tell you what they want; you order the gift. Is that clear?”
I try to look intelligent. Twenty-one, and in my first proper graduate job, working for what had been the Civil Service, and then the Post Office, and would shortly become British Telecom. I’m an Executive Officer in a Superannuation section. Pensions, to you and me. I have, under my supervision, two Clerical Officers and a Clerical Assistant. They are all unbelievably old – at least fifty – and I am now their boss. It is important that I appear competent.
Secondary school bus conversation of the day:
Girl: does he know I like him?
Boy: everybody knows.
Girl: but does he know?
Boy: everybody knows.
Girl: but does HE know?
Now, by Leibniz’s laws from logical papers 1690, she already knows her answer. Her question is obsolete.
Facebook post from the InfantPhenomenon.