ADRIENNE'S HIV BLOG – Hivine's Weblog

HIVINE is written by HIV positive women but still with a sense of humour

Radioactivists – Viv Lives 3

Viv Lives 3

Radiotherapists. Their job and mine.
Roger and the Lay Inspectors

I’m into week one of my daily radiotherapy treatments – there will be 20 sessions in total. Each time I go, I’m struck by the skill and the courage of the radiotherapists themselves. Their job is so technical and precise – imagine a millimetre wrong and they zap the wrong thing or if they time the treatment wrongly, they could overdose someone. They deal confidently and competently with highly technical equipment, lasers, complex calculations and goodness knows what else. Those treating me, mostly seem to be young, attractive women although this morning there was a young man who had cold hands (he had to encourage my ample flesh into the exact spot on the table). They have all been intensively trained and became qualified during a three year course at university and in hospital settings. When all the other students at university headed off for home or holidays at the end of each term, these trainee radiographers were then placed in hospitals to continue the learning. Those administering my therapy are lovely and kind. I expect I’ll know them pretty well by the end of it all. I know that I’d be overwhelmed with the responsibility of their job. I don’t think I’d sleep at night with the worry of it.

It’s got me thinking about my own career which did cause me the occasional sleepless night but for very different reasons than those outlined above. I was a teacher and for the last ten years of my career I was the Deputy Head of a comprehensive school. It was not one in a leafy suburb and it had more than its fair share of ‘challenging’ kids. We were always at the top of two league tables – the one for bad teeth and the one for free dinners.

Most State Schools were (and still are) required to provide the pupils with a daily act of worship. It is these ‘Assemblies’ or ‘Services’ that I’ve been thinking about because they were a source of considerable stress for those of us in charge of them but also a source of some hilarity too. Shepherding a couple of hundred adolescents into the hall in an orderly and quiet way took some doing. Persuading them to sing the chosen hymn with enthusiasm and energy was akin to dragging porridge uphill. Engaging their interest and attempting to mould their moral and spiritual outlook on life was pretty well bloody impossible but we tried. I will never forget a colleague – one of the old school- a cheerful, optimistic type but who tolerated no nonsense – who was taking a noisy assembly one morning and he bellowed at the top of his voice,

“You will sing this next hymn in complete silence!!”

The chairs we had in the hall were those that were made up of springy plastic coated coils of metal. When it came to saying prayers, it was easier to keep the hoards seated and ask them to bow their heads. (If they were asked to stand up it was another excuse for a lot of shuffling and talking and messing around). One morning when all heads were bowed in reverence and prayer, one hyperactive, wirey boy, whose name was Duane Jones decided to experiment by pushing his head through the bendy bars of the chair in front. We reached the final ‘Amen’ and they all raised their heads. All, that is except for Duane Jones who couldn’t extricate himself from the chair in front, the owner of which was struggling to sit upright on account of the head which was protruding through the back of his chair. The whole tone of the assembly was ruined as members of staff had to a) liberate Duane Jones’s head and b) hold back the other child who was all set for punching seven bells out of him.

Mary was an unfortunate child. She’d reached adolescence and was a bit of an outsider. She wasn’t pretty, was a bit plump and awkward, had a gruff, loud voice and few social graces. She tended to be a bit aggressive although she loved to please and had a lovely smile when you managed to praise her for something. Poor old Mary, however had started to show signs of epilepsy which certainly wasn’t helping the way she felt about herself. She had some awareness of when she was about to have one of her ‘turns’ and usually managed to let you know so we could take her to the medical room. In one assembly, she sat on the front row. Now on that particular occasion, the service was being taken by a colleague who always loathed and despised this aspect of his job. His own morals were a touch iffy to say the least and he had the grace to feel hypocritical about preaching to the kids. He certainly didn’t have time for God or religion in any shape or form. Singing hymns was his absolute nightmare so he perfected a technique of standing at the back of the hall until the hymn was finished and then walking very slowly to the front. Each slow step meant a few less seconds standing delivering his uncomfortable message. On this day, he’d reached the spot and had said his ‘Good Morning’ and was just about to launch into yet another secular homily about trees or badgers, when poor Mary, feeling a ‘turn’ coming on, leapt to her feet and announced clearly and loudly to the assembled throng,

“Oh fuck!”

Well! He’d lost it then hadn’t he? People talked about that service for a long time.

I had my own moments of infamy. Mine tended to happen at the end of the service when I was doing the ‘notices’. One morning I spoke severely to the Year 9 boys and told them that after a series of accidents, from now on they were forbidden from playing with their balls near the windows. Another day I told the Year Seven children that those who wanted them could collect their French letters from Mrs Roberts at break.

But the story that still makes me chuckle to this day is the one about Roger and the Lay Inspectors. Back in the time of Margaret Thatcher life was not pleasant for us teachers. She thought we were all a lot of scruffy, leftist incompetents. She loved policemen and showered them with money but us? She hated and despised us and decided that the answer was to have us inspected regularly by Ofsted. Working on the principle that everyone who has ever been to school is automatically an expert on education, she dreamt up the notion of including a ‘Lay Inspector’ in every inspection team. These were to be ordinary members of the public who had common sense and who would be able to sniff out a rotten teacher at 5 paces. HMI were given the task of training these Lay Inspectors and one day we had the call to say that as part of this training they were going to bring a whole bunch of about 20 trainees to spend two days in our school. Roger, also a Deputy Head, a no nonsense Yorkshire man who was a former Geography teacher (with leather elbow patches on his jacket and the statutory beard) realised that he would be due to take assembly when they were visiting. We pulled all the stops out making sure that everything would run smoothly. The chairs were all out ready with hymn books placed on them, the hymn had been chosen and Roger had planned his ‘sermon’

Everyone (Lay Inspectors included) was seated, the children under prior threat of total annihilation were calm and quiet. Roger greeted them and asked them to stand to sing the hymn. He announced the number of the hymn and everyone thumbed through the books to locate it as Jenny, the music teacher played the introduction on the piano. The trouble was, she played the music for a different hymn. The children looked puzzled, but Roger, being the fine upstanding leader that he was began to sing in his Yorkshire accent from the front, making the words from the hymn he’d announced, fit the tune that Jenny was playing. He was magnificent! He kept going at full belt despite the fact that children, staff and lay inspectors were looking bewildered. His tenacity was a sight to behold and to listen to. He made each one of those words fit the tune. He kept it up right up to the moment when he realised that he had some hallelujahs left but the music had all run out.

We were never told what the trainee Lay Inspectors thought of our school.

How different my chaotic working world was from that of my radiotherapists. I’m sure though they find stuff to keep them laughing. I’ll try asking them for some of their stories when I’ve got to know them a little better.

1 Comment»

  Samuel Gambaiani wrote @

Nice post! You truly have a wonderful way of writing which I find captivating! I will definitely be bookmarking you and returning to your blog. In fact, your post reminded me about a strange thing that happened to me the other day. I’ll tell you about that later…


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