I was already disarmed by the first step on to the classic speckled floor. Add the whiff of industrial bleach/
alarm bell combo, and enough nasty flashbacks are triggered to complete the Pavlovian journey back to my ten year old self. Any moment now, I’ll avoid collision with a Reservoir Dog line-up of nuns sweeping the corridors. There’s not a sound, yet the din of rhythmic tables repetition swirls up and ricochets off the religious iconography lining the walls of my memory as I keep to the right. Or should that be the left?
My mind’s director is on her feet, whipping off her earphones and pulling her baseball cap back down after wiping her brow in defeat. She looks a bit like Sigourney Weaver. Fuck me, it is her!
“What is WRONG with you? [Jesus, she’s so American in real life].This isn’t even your school for Chrissake. You left that 30 years ago, remember? Picture the scene: you’ve come here for a work meeting with a bunch of banal civil servants who wear power suits and gesticulate weirdly about going forward. How hard can it be? [You’ve no fucking idea] Right, let’s try again.”
This is probably not a good time to open up about her being my first and lasting girl crush.
Three more takes and I make it to the meeting reasonably psychologically scathed. No tiny chairs to accommodate a quarter of my arse however. Thank Christ for being spared that stripping of dignity. Fear not though, they show up later in the evening.
It’s the first of two school visits that fall on what has come to be known as Freaky Friday (Was Sigourney in that show? Meryl?). The first is for work purposes with a bunch of grown-ups who end up acting like children; the other for children who pretend to be grown-ups, out-performing the real grown-ups three to one. They’re not mature enough to have developed passive aggression or the ability to take umbrage at anything from which umbrage can be taken, and from anything from which it cannot. Naturally, I’m torn between both camps, feeling like a tool. Story of my life.
I flee the first and meet the rest of the cast of the second before taking a moment to run through my lines while sucking on a few smokes starring my pen.
My concentration is interrupted by the snap of the board.
Kneeling down to meet her at eye-level, I go in for the measured performance. Maybe more Jo in Fair City than Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, y’know.. subtle…
“Listen, love, just go along with it like you’re really enjoying it. And don’t question the overly formal way they address each other. It’s a bit weird alright. Like much of grown-up life for which you’re now in training. Sure, they’re doing an important job
up there on the cross and critical for your future; it means you’ll learn to read all the socialist pamphlet archives eventually. And whatever you do, give them the answers they want to hear, most of the time. But for God’s sake don’t set off the fire extinguisher, and don’t ever throw wet balls of toilet paper up onto the ceiling, or mitch. Or get caught mitching. And beware the head girls because they’re the ones most likely to conform and one day you’ll be eye-balling one of them from across the table, possibly on a seat with the capacity to accommodate a quarter of your arse, wondering where you know her from as you introduce your own child to her class. Grab all opportunities to learn and think critically, and don’t ever be afraid to form your own opinion, and if she has a problem with that, you just come to me..”
“CUT CUT CUT”
Was it the Cork accent? Not authentic enough? Come on Sigourney, that was a tour de force performance surely.
“She’s only three years old. It’s an induction to pre-school”
“Yeah, she’s like..three years old”
But this is all alien to me, Sigourney.
“That’s not very funny”
“Yeah, that’s like..not very funny”
I turn to her Da. Seriously, must you insist on lick-arsing all my guests?
Pirouetting on my heel, I take a moment to re-group by the sandpit and watch her join the others to feed fake plastic babies.
Sigourney remembered where she knew her daughter’s teacher from