sneaking into their world

I’ve found myself in a few situations in the last week or two that I’ve somehow felt that a teacher’s kid from Northampton shouldn’t really be.

I suppose it started last Wednesday, when I went to Parliament. Yes, Parliament. It’s an odd place, the palace of Westminster: normally so closed off to the likes of me, despite its ostensible purpose to represent and include me in politics. Every time I’ve been there I can’t help but feel I’m intruding somehow, like I’ve scammed my way in.

I’d been invited by the Teacher Support Network, who were having a reception there which had been sponsored by Barry Sheerman MP (the Ofsted-baiting chair of the Children, Schools and Families select committee). I’m not entirely sure what capacity I was there in – there were hardly any other teachers around, and my official school responsibility for Student Voice was rescinded this year – but once I was through security it didn’t really seem to matter. They just kept topping up my wine glass, and I got on pretty well with the staff of TSN who were lovely and brilliant and invited me to the pub afterwards and everything.

There were only two disheartening things about it: the first was the painfully cheesy responses that people had put up on a board in response to the question, ‘What Makes Teachers Great?’ 

It was all ‘because they shape the future’ and ‘they enlighten the next generation’ etc. – basically the kinds of things that are said by people who don’t really know what it is teachers actually do. (If they’d had some comments from real teachers on the board, they’d say things like ‘we keep turning up every day and somehow don’t kill anyone’; or ‘we’ve lucked our way into a job that lets us actually see our friends/kids sometimes…’)

The second disheartening thing was meeting Sheerman himself – he’s been a bit of a hero of mine, especially with his recent positions on Ofsted’s role in various things, and he gave a very passionate speech about how wonderful teachers are. But then he didn’t seem at all interested in talking to me – an actual teacher – when I tried to chat to him afterwards. The only glimmer of interest he showed was trying to get me to sort him out and invite to the school, which seemed blatantly to be so that he could get some photo taken with some kids. Politicians are dicks

It’s his loss; he had, in his speech, opened with a joke about a news story about himself that hardly anybody there would have seen. It bombed. If he’d asked me first, I could have given him a few tips on how to pick your topical gags for the right audiences. As it is, perhaps he’ll never quite know why the rest of his speech didn’t get the response he wanted…

After that, I had to go and do my own jokes at Scurvy Wednesdays. Well…I did two jokes and some drunken rambling, because after the wine reception and the pub afterwards, I was a bit drunk.

The oddest thing about it is that my Dad was there, with my stepmum and my sister and her husband, and that was about half the audience. And I think I may have done some stuff about Oedepus, but for obvious reasons I don’t remember it so well.

I shouldn’t be allowed to drink wine. 

And then, of course, a few days later I was drinking wine again, except at Oxford University. My friend Steve had invited me up for a Friday evening college dinner. He’s a lecturer there now, which meant we were sat at the top table of a great old hall with lots of esteemed academics all wearing gowns and being incredibly formal and old-fashioned and, well, Hogwarts-y. We ate something which was delicious and may have been duck, but it was kind of dark so it was hard to tell. But they did keep bringing me wine.

But then I found myself talking to other people around the table, including some Professor of Maths or other, who was very polite and pleasant and asked what I do, so I said, “In the daytime I work part-time as a sixth-form Philosophy teacher…”

But then I paused. It all seemed too formal for me to say I was a comedian in the evenings: comedy seemed frivolous in comparison with their very serious academic vocations. So I just said, “…and at night I do – other stuff.”

At which point Steve pointed out that I should just be honest because what I’d said sounded more sordid than what I really do, at which point the comedy bit of my brain just snapped into gear like a reflex and I said, quite loudly, “how sordid could it really be though? It’s not like I’m going to say, ‘Hello! I’m Charlie and in the evenings I let wealthy men fuck me in the ass!'”

And then there was a pause and Steve was glaring at me as if to say, sssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! And I suddenly snapped back into remembering where I was. And we both sat there for a few minutes wondering how many people had heard me. And not long after that, the provost at the head of the table stood, which meant that everyone else stood, and we filed out of the great hall, gowns billowing, and me with a very red face.

Honestly, sometimes I think I shouldn’t be allowed out, let alone into respectable society.