Friday, 1 July 2011

Teachers: A Sensitive Subject, And Not For The Reasons You Might Expect

If anyone mentions teachers to me again today, I think I may be going to scream.

I spend half the morning listening to a group of them who've come in to this week's surgery to lobby The Boss about the Government's reforms to their terms and conditions; and the other half trying to deal with constituents who want to discuss why they should pay for teachers' pensions that are better than their own.

The Boss relies heavily on his tried and tested "Ah" manoeuvre, but I'm not sure that it convinces anyone from either side that he knows what he really thinks.

They're united in looking pretty unimpressed, though - a response which Andrew always finds traumatic. He's desperate for a drink by the time it's over.

So am I, seeing as you can get PTSD just by witnessing a distressing event.

It's lunchtime by then, so I'm about to join Andrew and Greg in an emergency trip to the pub, when Johnny phones. That's the third time he's called me this week - God knows what his phone bills must be like, unless the Global Oil Company pays. I bet I'm tax-deductible.

I start telling him about my morning, but he interrupts me as soon as I mention teachers.

"Ever miss those days?" he says. "When we were at school, I mean."

"Every day," I say. "Whenever I look in a mirror, in fact."

"You're sexier now than you were then," he says. "Which is saying something."

It may be, but I'm not sure what.

Then he mentions next week's school reunion again.

"You decided if you're going to go yet?" he says. "While you're back home visiting your Dad?"

"I might, actually," I say. "Seeing as I'll probably be desperate for a break from listening to him telling me about Porn-Poon's creative sexual techniques by then."

"Shit," says Johnny.

Before I can say, "My feelings exactly", he goes on to explain that he definitely won't be able to go. He has much more important things to do in Dubai. Like lying in the sun drinking cocktails, and making multi-million dollar deals.

I'm so depressed by this thought that I can't help thinking about how miserable Max must be feeling since he lost his job. Not that that involved much luxury - or many deals since VAT went up and everyone stopped buying furniture - but he misses it, even so.

Maybe I should suggest he accompanies me to the reunion? He usually finds that sort of thing incredibly boring, but there'll be free drink, and we could always lie about our occupations, if anybody asks. That would save us both from embarrassment in the face of all my horribly-successful ex-classmates - and their equally-successful spouses.

"I'd love to," he says, when I phone him to ask if he'd like to go. "It'd be nice to do something sociable. And it would get us away from your dad for a bit."

It doesn't take much to make Max happy, does it? I should be grateful for that, especially given what my face looks like. I am going to tell Johnny it's all over - whatever it is - and concentrate on appreciating the good things about my husband. I shall start as soon as I get home.

Which seems like a very good idea, until I arrive, and find an unfamiliar cardigan lying abandoned on the stairs. It's pink, and covered in glittery stuff - so it's definitely not mine; and Connie wouldn't be seen dead in it. Neither of us go in for "girlie" clothes.

"Whose is this?" I say, walking into the sitting room, and brandishing the cardigan.

"Oh," says Max. "Ah. Um."

"None the wiser," I say. "Try again."

It must be something about my tone of voice - or Max's expression - that makes Josh suddenly recall that he has to go out. Immediately.

"Well?" I say, once he's shut the front door behind him.

"It might be Ellen's," says Max. "She popped round after school, with a bottle of wine - to say sorry for yesterday."

"Yesterday?" I say.

The plot is thickening very fast.

"Well, she came round while she was on strike," says Max. "She said she was bored, and wanted some company - and thought I'd be at home with nothing to do since I lost my job.

"Oh," I say. "Did she think you could offer that thing she's always so desperate to find? To alleviate her boredom?"

"I don't know what you mean," says Max, who can't possibly have forgotten that.

I raise my eyebrows much higher than Ellen is capable of doing, so then he makes a last-ditch attempt to throw me off course:

"She wasn't here that long, anyway," he says. "She went on about her pension so much, that we had a bit of an argument."

Which is as nothing to the argument that he and I are about to have.

If I'd known about this yesterday, I'd have held my own one-woman counter demonstration: in support of a certain teacher losing all of her bloody pension. And being made to work eighteen hour days to keep her out of my house while I'm at work - and my husband isn't.

It's not as if I don't know exactly what Ellen means by company, after all.

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