I’ve always secretly admired those teachers (and headteachers, in particular) who bounce out of beds in the morning, go for a cycle, a swim, a 3km run and appear at school by 7.30 a.m. full of energy and endless enthusiasm and optimism for the day ahead. I have a tendency to hit snooze repeatedly before falling out of bed and heading bleary-eyed towards school – a short 200 metre walk away from my front door – arriving slightly behind my start time of 7.45 a.m.
Anyway, all of this by way of introduction to me being woken at about 7.35 a.m. by one of the wide-awake type, a junior school teacher. The immediate thought that runs through my mind when the phone rings at this ungodly hour is one of despondency as I recognise the likelihood that it is a member of staff who is unable to come into school that day. However, on this particular morning, that was not the case.
‘Hello?’ in the most polite tone I could muster.
‘Ah, good morning, Rod.’
‘Morning. How can I help?’
‘Just thought you might like to know that there are four bulls walking up the school drive. Slightly concerned that this might worry a few of the parents as they drop their kids off.’
At this point in the conversation, as you may imagine, my first thoughts are possible newspaper headlines should the said bulls prove less than amenable to hundreds of children running at them and poking them in their eyes, ribs, rump and so on and so forth.
After a lengthy pause, therefore, ‘Mmm. I see. Well, thanks for letting me know. I’ll deal with it.’ Looking back, this last sentence seems somewhat ludicrous in its simplicity. Somewhat understating the enormity of the number of potential problems that could by incurred by four bulls wandering aimlessly around the school playground.
However, no point in getting into a panic.
I got dressed a little too hastily for comfort and made my way (ran in a non-panicky type of way) down to the school. There were, indeed, four bulls, now standing on the front lawn eyeing cars and children suspiciously.
I decided the best approach would be to stand between the bulls and the arriving parents/children and do my utmost to make light of it all. So there I stood, smiling, waving and acknowledging the parents in a kind of ‘Isn’t this just the funniest thing?’ kind of way.
The Estates Manager appeared. ‘You’ve spotted the bulls then,’ in his usual understated manner. Indeed, I had noticed the bulls. I was more worried that they had noticed me and that they were summing me up in a very disparaging way.
‘Where on earth did they appear from?’
‘It’s a long story…’ I had thought it might be. ‘Well, they belong to a local farmer who has been trying to track them down. They’ve been on the run for the past three days.’ At this point I had a vision of them in masks running from the law. ‘They nearly had them last night but the police arrived with flashing lights and their siren blaring and they legged it.’ I’ve never been able to work out why police use their siren in situations that clearly require a sense of decorum and quiet order. Then again, perhaps they wanted the bulls to leg it. ‘Anyway, I’ve phoned the farmer and he’s coming out with his team to re-capture them. They’re bringing a very large cow. Apparently, she’ll be able to herd them.’ It didn’t really give me a considerable sense of relief to learn of this plan. However, I became distracted by a lunatic member of our parent body, who had decided, in a moment of blinding stupidity, to take flash photographs of the four beasts.
‘What is that crazy woman up to?’
Brian shook his head. ‘I think she’s taking photographs…’ At which point the bulls took an unhealthy interest in her and started walking towards her.
The bulls began to gather momentum and the unfortunate parent had to take refuge in one of our more prickly hedges in an altogether unflattering and undignified manner. At least she would live. In my somewhat agitated state, I did wonder whether or not this could be considered a positive outcome.
However, my priority was to put all the children’s minds at rest and so I continued to smile and casually saunter around the lawn. By the time the farmer arrived the children were safely ensconced in their classrooms and the potential for disaster had all but been entirely negated.
So why have I bothered to tell you this story? Easy. Simple.
Lesson number one: Expect the unexpected.